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Komodo & East of Flores with Dr. Rodney Salm, 19th June to 3rd July 2018

Jan 6, 2018

Dear Friends of the Seven Seas and the Coral Triangle

In adventuring to out of the way places, it is always so uplifting to see the colors, textures and vibrancy of healthy coral communities. We can experience some of the very best of this vibrancy in the Lesser Sunda Islands, in the heart of the Coral Triangle, from Komodo National Park in the West, to the islands East of Flores and beyond.

The Seven Seas will be organizing an epic expedition to this area, combining the Komodo and East of Flores itineraries in a 14 night trip from June 19th to July 3rd 2018 (yes, this year!). We will be exploring and experiencing a great variety of reefs along the journey from West to East, across the gradient from the warm and clear waters of the Flores Sea in the North, to the cooler and nutrient rich waters of the Indian Ocean and Savu Sea in the South.

East of Flores

What will be making this trip extra special is the opportunity of discussing the effects of climate change on these reefs with Dr. Rod Salm, coral reef ecologist with 50 years’ experience in marine conservation. Rod will accompany this trip that will start in the islands of the Komodo National Park, cover sites and stops along the North coast of Flores and explore the archipelago of islands and reefs East of Flores. Rod will point out the aspects of resilience to climate change that are characteristics of these reefs in the center of the Lesser Sunda Islands. Come along to enjoy the reefs, diverse cultures, and extraordinary seascapes on this cruise. And for those who are willing, Rod will lead some diving exercises and related discussions pertaining to understanding the effects of climate change and resilience to impact exhibited by the reefs that we will be diving.

Rod’s comments from his last trip with the Seven Seas: “Our trips aboard the vessel with its helpful crew are always great; but for a longtime observer of corals and their survival or demise in the tropical seas of the world, I keep searching for and celebrating areas where the coral communities display resilience to the stresses affecting reefs elsewhere. These areas stoke my optimism and keep hope for reef survival alive.” In addition, Rod also likes to study reefs that clearly have had problems and then think about the reasons – is this caused by heat stress, acidification, crown of thorns starfish encroachment, destructive fishing or a combination of all of these possibilities… Or is it maybe something else altogether?

Participants’ thoughts and input will be most valuable and could potentially be used to improve future field assessments of reef health and resilience as affected by climate change and other contributing factors. Hope you will join us!

Rod and the Seven Seas Team.

Tentative Itinerary - CLICK HERE

June 19 – Embarkation Labuan Bajo
Getting settled, boat & dive briefings, cruise to Sabolan, check dive, meeting with stakeholders on the boat at Sabolan, possible beach excursion late afternoon. Focus for the dive will be on checking out gear and comfort zone, but if opportunity allows, we will point out some indicators of reef health and resilience to climate change. Later in the day, we will hear about the relevance of tourism management (dive practices and waste management) in and around a protected park, from some of the conservation groups working in this area.

June 20 – Rinca Loh Buaya
Visit Komodo National park station, meet the rangers, see the dragons. Onwards we go after that, to Tatawa Island for a dive or two. Both the Little and Big Tatawa Islands support good coral communities. However, these are vulnerable to periodic disturbances such as heat stress and bleaching linked to climate change and storm surges. Corals colonies have been damaged repeatedly but recover fast and remarkably well. We will check on their present condition and look for specific markers of coral community recovery.

June 21 – Explore Teluk Riung
Diving, over lunch cruise to Pasir Rita, diving again, and possible sand spit excursion in the late afternoon. Corals here have suffered extensive damage from destructive fishing practices. This is a good place to review the interaction of climate change impacts with those caused by people and discuss the importance of managing reefs for both. In this area, we will also hear from one of Indonesia’s larger conservation groups about their approach to integrate knowledge on impacts of climate change on marine and coastal ecosystems, to local conservation projects that were initiated for biodiversity preservation.

June 22 – Flores
Day trip to Kelimutu, three-colored lakes in dormant volcanic craters, lunch out, traditional market visit. We learn what these volcanic islands are like “on the inside”, in the heart of the Coral Triangle, lined up along the “Ring of Fire”.

June 23 – Flores
North of Maumere, diving at Gosong Boni atoll & Pomana Kecil. Gosong Boni is a typical Flores Sea atoll with the shallower portions of reef suffering some damage. Along the steep walls of the reefs, we will try to determine the relationship between human and climate change impacts at different depths, the vulnerability of atolls to sea level rise and the role of deeper habitats providing natural refuges for corals to spawn and repopulate the more vulnerable shallower habitats.

June 24 – North Adonara & Ipet
Diving and late afternoon sand spit excursion, watch flying fox exodus, possible visit to traditional fishing village. This area, especially Ipet Ridge, offers interesting insights into the impact of stress, due in all likelihood to heat, on coral health. The large old table corals here suffer an unusual amount of tumors, and a rapidly spreading white band disease that affects table corals (known as Acropora white syndrome). We will examine how the corals are coping and whether affected colonies are being replaced by new recruits to the community.

June 25 – North Lembata
Diving, mangrove snorkel at high tide, village visit. We will attempt to score the climate change resilience of coral communities here, looking at indicators of stress resistance and recovery. We will also snorkel around mangroves and discuss the characteristics of climate change resilience in these ecosystems. Here we may also learn about the importance of environmental education for coastal communities, using awareness boats and other non-conventional education tools.

June 26 – Alor, Pantar Strait, Reta
Diving, meet traditional ikat weavers, possibility to purchase traditional ikats, possible village trip, night dive. Babylon off Reta Island shows how resilient reefs can withstand considerable disturbance but still maintain their value to people and their ability to cope with climate change impacts.

June 27 – Alor, Kalabahi
Morning trip to Latafui for Abui mountain tribe cultural performance, possible stop at a local market & museum of 1000 Mokos, over lunch to Pura island for diving. Here we may learn about the potential impact of climate change on changing patterns in fish abundance and related fisheries.

June 28 – South Pantar, Beangabang
Diving, local village visit. This will give us our first cool water diving and we will look for interesting critters on the volcanic sand bottom. The temperature variation along the south side of these islands is greater than the north. We will deternine the main differences between these cool water communities and those in the north and whether we can detect any differences in response to climate change impacts.

June 29 – South Lembata, Lamalera
Early morning visit to traditional whaling village, afternoon diving South Lembata, possible village visit. These south facing, high energy, cooler water sites shape the structure and composition of coral communiities and sometimes inhibit the growth of corals altogether. We will investigate how and what happens to these coral communities under such conditions.

June 30 – Morning
Diving a small rocky islet off of South Lembata. Pulau Soangi provides another opportunity to view how cooler waters and high wave energy affects the structure and composition of benthic communities and corals in particular. We will also try to anticipate how climate change influences this. In the afternoon we cruise to Solor Island for a visit to Lamakera village, to learn about the work of the Misool Foundation’s Savu Sea Program. Established in East Flores in 2014, this program works with one of the largest manta hunting communities in the World. This program’s mission is to end the hunting and protect iconic marine life by empowering communities and governments through alternative employment, education and research. In 2014, the Indonesian government declared a nationwide ban on manta ray hunting in response to growing pressure from scientists and conservationists, as well as economic studies that demonstrated the worth of living manta rays to the Indonesian economy. That’s when a coalition of NGOs and passionate began to work with Lamakerans. Their goal was to end manta ray hunting in the region, redirect villagers’ focus to new sources of income, and create a model that could be used to transform the practices of other communities.

July 1 – Pulau Babi
Diving and possible village visit, with a late afternoon beach excursion. Coral communities here were heavily impacted by a 1992 earthquake and tsunami that actually caused the reef to crack and be split apart in places. In 2014 the table corals were recovering strongly, despite the 2010-2011 El Nino occurring in the Pacific and parts of Indonesia. We will investigate whether this strong recovery has continued or whether the El Niño event of 2014-2016 has set this recovery back.

July 2 – Flores
Possible last dive and visit to Watubelapi, a traditional ikat-weaving village. We will witness a cultural performance & demonstration of the entire ikat-making process. There will and opportunity to purchase high quality ikats, the local traditional fabric which makes for a great souvenir and item to remember our expedition.

July 3 – Maumere
Disembarkation & flight back to Bali.

Please contact us if you are interested in this trip.

About Dr. Rodney V. Salm

Senior Adviser Emeritus, Pacific Marine Program, The Nature Conservancy

Rod Salm

Rod was raised in Mozambique and has a Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University. He has 50 years’ experience working principally for WWF, IUCN, and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in international marine conservation and ecotourism. This work has taken him to remote parts of the Indian Ocean, Arabia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, the Arctic and Antarctic. Although now retired, Rod’s principal focus remains conserving coral reefs in the face of global change, including warming seas, ocean acidification, and escalating use and threats. He achieves this through his position as Senior Adviser Emeritus for TNC’s Pacific Division Marine Program and as a contributing member of the TNC Reef Resilience Network. Rod is the author of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas: A Guide for Planners and Managers. Published by IUCN in its third edition in 2000, this book serves as a widely consulted reference for researchers and experts on marine conservation. In 1999, Rod joined TNC to lead marine conservation in the Asia Pacific. His work had resilience to climate change as a principle focus and grew from the need for a field application response to coral bleaching in the western Pacific to a global program on coral reefs and resilience. In addition to development and stewardship of innovative science and management strategies for tropical marine ecosystems and species, Rod has played a strong role in training and mentoring conservation scientists from many countries and leading teams of citizen scientists to assess coral reef resilience as a contribution to local conservation efforts. Rod is based in Kailua, Hawaii.

Rod recording coral recovery

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