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The island of New Guinea, lying directly north of Australia, is the second largest island in the world. It is comprised of two parts. The eastern half of the island is the independent country of Papua New Guinea, and the western half is the eastern-most province of the country of Indonesia. This province was previously called Irian Jaya and has now been renamed West Papua. Off the west coast of West Papua lie four major islands called Raja Ampat. (In the Bahasa Indonesia language, “Raja” means “king,” and “Ampat” means “four.”)

According to Conservation International and renowned marine biologist Dr. Gerry Allen (American born, naturalized Australian citizen, with his PhD in marine biology from the University of Hawaii),
the marine life diversity in this area is the largest on earth.


An area known as the “Coral Triangle,” composed of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste, is considered to be the heart of the world’s coral reef biodiversity; and the diversity of the incredible Raja Ampat coral reef ecosystem is far greater than any other area within the Coral Triangle.

The statistics are truly mind boggling, as the Raja Ampat area boasts an extraordinary
1,309 fish species, 537 coral species, and 699 mollusk species identified so far. Moreover, studies of the actual reef-building corals, known as “stony corals” (The biological order known as “Scleractinia”), reveal that the Raja Ampat area is home to an amazing 96% of the species of stony corals recorded in all of Indonesia and 75% of all species in the world!


These numbers are absolutely unparalleled anywhere, and it is not even close. National Geographic reported in April 2012 that initial studies revealed in excess of 450 species of reef-building corals in the Raja Ampat area, while the Caribbean, by contrast, holds fewer than 70 species of such reef-building animals!


Unfortunately, more than 80% of Indonesia’s reefs are assessed as threatened or “at risk,” largely from over-exploitation and global climate change, as reported in Reefs at Risk in Southeast Asia, a publication of the World Resources Institute.


The area’s extraordinarily high marine diversity is strongly influenced by the fact that it straddles the Indian and Pacific Oceans, so that both coral and fish larvae are easily shared between and released into the two oceans. Moreover, some experts believe that there is a partial ray of hope that results from the fact that the massive size and diversity of the coral reefs and the notably high sea surface temperatures suggest that these reefs may be relatively resistant to the threats of coral bleaching and disease, two of the primary threats to reef systems around the world.


But this ray of hope does net seem to apply to the threat posed by the increasing acidity of the world’s oceans that results from the dissolution of carbon dioxide in saltwater. In particular, it is important to understand that the ocean is the world’s largest “carbon sink,” absorbing more atmospheric carbon dioxide than even the world’s boreal forests and rainforests. In fact, the oceans of the world are presently absorbing a net two billion tons of carbon dioxide each year!


When carbon dioxide dissolves in the sea, a chemical reaction creates carbonic acid; and this increased acidity reduces the ability of corals and other marine calcifiers to form their skeletons and their shells. According to the Encyclopedia of Climate and Weather, as a result of this increasing acidification of the world’s seawater, “. . . reefs are expected to begin to crumble and disappear. . . .”


For more information on the extraordinary Indonesian coral reef ecosystems, see the discussion in this website under “Strange & wonderful underwater creatures, Alor, Indonesia."

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Sea Fan 2102

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Reef 2074

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Batfish & Jacks 1232

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Manta 1652

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Manta 1646

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Blue Ringed Octapus 0037

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Blue Ringed Octapus 009-0051

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Anemonefish 1292

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Anemonefish 1912

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Hawkfish 1128

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Cardinalfish 1762

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Nudibranch 1542

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Nudibranch 1729

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Nudibranch 0007

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Nudibranch 1148

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