Nieuws - 2 november 2011

Wageningen inspects coral on Saba Bank

The first expedition to 'our' coral reef off Saba has come to an end. Sixteen researchers from organizations such as Imares, Wageningen University and NIOZ (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research) spent a week studying the ecology of the Saba Bank.

'We looked at the coral cover, the health of the coral, the biomass and biodiversity of the fish species present, and the water's flow patterns', explains marine tropical ecologist Erik Meesters. 'We also used hydrophones to carry out acoustic studies of marine mammals such as whales.'
Some sound equipment was placed on the sea bed. This will be recording signals over a six-month period. Meesters: 'We want to make greater use of remote sensing. The Saba Bank is difficult to get at and the sea is rough there. Fortunately we didn't have any hurricanes. That season has just ended.'

The Saba Bank is an underwater atoll of 60 by 40 kilometres located south-west of Saba. The coral lies along the edge of the area. The Saba Bank has been part of the Netherlands since October 2010. According to Meesters, who initiated the expedition, the Saba Bank is unique because of the tremendous biodiversity. But he says much is still unknown. The idea is that the Saba expedition should change that.

This is the third time Meesters has been diving in the area but he is still unable to draw any conclusions. 'It was notable that we didn't see any sharks this time, and there was more algae growing. But that could just be seasonal effects.' All the data will be processed over the next few months. In the meantime the Imares researcher is busy setting up a much bigger expedition to the Caribbean, but that could still be a few years off yet.