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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Research project: Galapagos Coral Monitoring - Dormant - Dormant

Currently Active: 

The northern islands of Wolf and Darwin form a distinct and isolated biogeographic zone in Galapagos that supports a high level of biodiversity, including priority conservation endemic corals and associated species, subject to extreme ‘natural’ climatic and anthropogenic pressures.

The coral species Gardineroseris planulata was thought to have gone extinct during the 1997-98 El Niño event, but was rediscovered by the project's recent diving expedition conducted in September 2005
Gardineroseris planulata


Challenges for Galapagos coral conservation lie in differentiating natural climatic variability from the compounding effects of greatly increased human activity in the coastal zone.

The Galapagos National Park Service has prioritised an appropriate baseline and time-series study as urgent, as are immediate mitigation strategies within the last remaining reef structures.


The overall aims of this project are to:

  • provide comprehensive taxonomic inventories of existing coral species and their distribution for dissemination via a field guide
  • evaluate reef community composition (including the possible description of new species) and dynamics - baseline information on coral reef condition, fish, algae and macro-invertebrates will be necessary to permit temporal comparison so climatic impacts and reef recovery can be measured and reported and we shall implement coral reef monitoring protocols adapted from the Atlantic and Gulf Reef Assessment (AGRA) protocol, a standardized rapid assessment technique for reef composition and impact evaluation
  • undertake a series of underwater surveys, procure materials and oversee the deployment of permanent fishing and dive-boat mooring sites - the mooring deployment will prevent further anchoring damage in the reef areas under the greatest stress

We are collaborating with Conservation International on this Darwin Initiative project, which will provide an exemplary model to be adapted and applied to the other five island sites, all which have coral reef habitats requiring impact reduction, baseline studies and monitoring programs.

Related research groups

Global Environmental Change and Earth Observation
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