African Marine MegaTransect Expedition
"To use scientific exploration and open access data to fast track the understanding of the social, economic and biological needs for the conservation and sustainable use of key marine resources associated with the coral reef ecosystem of East Africa."
Why the coral reefs of East Africa?
According to the United Nations Environmental Program, coral reefs are essential global life support systems. Along the east Coast of Africa lies one of the worlds most important coral reefs ecosystems. It represents the food lifeline to millions of people, yet we know very little and have focused hardly any attention to these reefs in comparison to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, or the coral reef triangle in the Pacific. The coral reef in East Africa, like many the word over is dying, but just how fast, and to what extent is largely unknown.
We do know the combination of key drives effecting coral reef survival
How will the African Marine MegaTransect work?
In oder to be effective, the African Marine MegaTransect Expedition is designed to create a database that is comparative to the database created in 2012/13 by the same team in order to calculate change in time. This is critical because we do not know how much time we have left before the coral reef can't sustain coastal communities anymore. In fact it is possible that we have already passed that stage.
The key message from this expedition in building scientific capacity and defining actionable management plans is COMPARATIVE DATA AND TRENDS associated that link into climate change models and discussions and takes into consideration social data. This is our goal, we will be more empowered with this data, it should have been done years ago, with all the aid money the various nations have received for marine resource management.
The African Marine MegaTransect has been broken down into 5-phases, which will be implemented from November 2017 - December 2018. These phases include:
- Pre-Expedition phase June 2018 - November 2018: This will include planning, logistics, permit applications, team development, technology training, data platform development and media campaigns.
- Sea going survey phase November 2018 - March 2019: Core data driven survey using various technologies to measure coral reef health and coral reef fish biomass, abundance, diversity and abundance (the key measurements needed for management and conservation).
- Land mission phase November 2018 - March 2019: To gather social data and also to sample commonly eaten fish in local fishing markets to determine fish toxicity due to plastic assimilation.
- Post-Expedition phase April 2019 - December 2019: Data analysis, open accessing the data and discoveries, writing policy recommendations, publishing scientific documentation, media campaigns, develop an MPA management/recovery strategy.
- Equipment purchase phase: Phase 5 is really about purchasing the right equipment, doing the necessary training and software checks. It is a continuous process.
What is the science telling us about the East African coral reefs?
A recent study indicates that coral reef ecosystem functionality decreases when the fishable biomass is less than 600 kg per hectare (kg/ha). The findings from the Moving Sushi East African Marine Transect in 2012 was concerning, in that all three countries, Tanzania, Mozambique and Kenya scored less that 600 kg/ha from the locations surveyed.
What is the science telling us about coral reefs globally?
What is the international community doing?
There are many conservation NGO's/organizations and governments all battling for funding all doing varying degrees of meaningful conservation interventions. The African Marine MegaTransect Expedition aims to incorporate all those working in the conservation field by open accessing data, methods, procedures etc. in order to build our cumulative capacity in driving policy forward and challenging poor governance. The outcomes of the expedition must through all end users have impact in ocean discussions and reef management plans. It is our way of saying lets work together and share our knowledge, as described in the SDGs. It is imperative if the coral reefs of East Africa and globally have any chance of recovery.
According to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the following targets are to be met:
- (14.1) By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds.
- (14.2) By 2020, sustainable manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems.
- (14.4) By 2020, minimize impacts of ocean acidification at all levels through scientific cooperation.
- (14.5) By 2020, Conserve at least 10% of coastal and marine areas, based on best available scientific information.
- (14.B) Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity in order to improve ocean health.
- (14.C) Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and their resources.
Key points to consider are:
SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE, RESEARCH CAPACITY AND DEVELOPMENT & BEST AVAILABLE SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION.
Data and how the expedition plans on being unique?
The African Marine MegaTransect will use MAPSTACKING technology developed for open accessing environmental data in a format that can grow and be manipulated indefinitely. Within the MAPSTACK the team will incorporate underwater Virtual Reality allowing anyone an "immersion experience" of key areas of the East African coral reef. This data visualization and presentation will be instrumental in providing visual evidence to African leaders who have not dived, who do not understand the biological context of destroyed reefs, and in this way the data can enhance more engaging management procedures.
Exploration has opened the door to new scientific discoveries. These discoveries of new landscapes and new organisms have captivated the world. By pushing the limits, exploration redefined society as we know it. Exploration is a tool whereby we can create knew knowledge independent of institutions, politics, agendas and egos. We are able to share with the world exploration though new technologies like Virtual Reality thereby building a relationship between the end user and the environment they are encountering. It by harnessing these tools and pushing exploration boundaries for the benefit of society and conservation that we as a team can be more powerful.