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The biodiversity in the coral triangle of Indonesia

Our blue planet has a surface area of 510 million square kilometres, about 71% (360 million square kilometres) is covered by water. The total area of the present coral reefs is 600,000 sq km, thus only about 0.17% of the world's oceans.

The importance of this small habitat is immense for the entire ecosystem of our earth. We'll find out, if there are no more coral reefs in our oceans.

Why could develop so many species in Indonesia?

  • Continental drift
  • Coral triangle of Indonesia

To explore this we go back 50 million years in the history of the earth.

According to scientists Papua New Guinea was still located very close to Australia and much more southern of the equator than today.
By the continental drift of the Indo-Australian plate, the Pacific Plate, the Eurasian plate and Philippine plate, the island groups of the Indo-Pacific merged and formed today’s Indonesia.

Right in the center and at the interface of the 4 continental plates West Papua with Raja Ampat is located.

Due to the shift of land masses many different species have been merged, which are isolated before. There developed a great biodiversity that is unique in the world, today's coral triangle of Indonesia.

This great biodiversity was not threatened by the last ice age, but probably more encouraged.

In the ice age a lot of water was bound on the polar ice caps and the sea levels lowered about 150 meters. New arisen land bridges between the islands separated large areas of water and isolated all species who living there. They had to adapt their living conditions and in process of time new species was created.
At the end of the ice age the sea level comes up again and conflated all different kinds in an amazing biodiversity.

Endemic Baggai-cardinal fish

Center of this biodiversity is Raja Ampat at the midpoint of the coral triangle of Indonesia, whose vertices are located near the Philippines in the north, at Bali in the southwest and at the Solomon Islands in the east.
This coral triangle is habitat of more than 75% of all known maritime species on Earth.
The diversity of species in the sea of Raja Ampat is just incredible, surpassing anything previously known. Researcher found in the past years more species only in the area of two football fields as in the entire Caribbean. Really unbelievable!

This is even more astounding, if we compare the biodiversity of the coral triangle in Indonesia and the Caribbean Sea. Because all found statements very different, I would like to indicate only approximate values.

  Caribbean Coral Triangle  
Number of coral species less than 100 more than 1000  
Number of fish species about 1400 about 3500-4000  

Threats to the coral reefs

Important mangrove habitat

This concentration of biodiversity is also called hotspot. And precisely these sensitive hot spots are particularly threatened by a variety of external influences, even though they are immensely important for the protection of coastlines and in particular for the whole fish stock, because the reefs and mangroves are nursery of most species.

Particularly the reefs are threatened by humans, either by industrial overfishing, fishing with dynamite or cyanide, aquarium fishing, eutrophication from industrial facilities, exploitation of mineral resources such as oil and gas, by general pollution of the mostly poor population living in these areas and also of tourists, who travel precisely to these far countries because of the wide biodiversity.

Due to the global warming and consequent global coral bleaching, the coral reefs are already threatened and also endangered by the growing and increasingly strong storms, which developed due to the high water temperature of the seas in scary way.

Already, 10-20 percent of all coral reefs are destroyed beyond repair, 75% of all exist reefs are strong threatened.

Many tourist areas advertise with intact coral reefs. However, we have seen reefs in such dive-sites that were dead by 100 percent. Really sad and a frightening scenery!

In opinion of many scientists, we have probably no more coral reefs in 2050. As long as we continue to exploit radically our oceans, slaughtering cruelly 100 million sharks each year only for their fins and still ignore our climate problem, there is no future anymore for our fantastic coral reefs.

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