Samoa – 2018
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Chris Sullivan, Staff Researcher
Lindsay Bonito, Staff Researcher
Nicole Pedersen, Staff Researcher
American Samoa Department of Marine & Wildlife Resources Coral Reef Advisory Group (DMWR/CRAG)
Alice Lawrence, Coral Reef Monitoring Fish Ecologist
In December 2018, the 100 Island Challenge team partnered with American Samoa Department of Marine & Wildlife Resources Coral Reef Advisory Group (DMWR/CRAG) to survey reefs around the islands of Upolu and Savai’i in Samoa. The team worked with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) to attain permits to conduct reef surveys in Samoa. Chris Sullivan and Nicole Pedersen conducted baseline assessments of the benthic community around Samoa, while Lindsay Bonito and partner Alice Lawrence collected fish abundance and biomass data in addition to benthic photoquadrat imagery. In total, fish counts were conducted at 24 sites, benthic photomosaics collected at 24 sites, and temperature loggers deployed at 8 sites around Uplou and Savai’i. One benthic mosaic site was conducted in the Asau Bay on Savai’i in collaboration with MAF to collect baseline data of sea cucumber abundance within a protected area.
In general, sites across Samoa showed signs of disturbance, likely due to the 2015 warm water event and subsequent storms. Despite experiencing an apparent decline in coral cover, the scientific team did see signs of recovery across most sites surveyed. The reefs had not yet shifted to a turf-dominated state; small coral colonies of various genera were present alongside and calcifying algae growing over recently dead coral. Along the northern coast of Upolu, there were a small number of sites that were buffered from the bleaching event and retained high coral cover, dominated by large plating and branching Acropora species. The scientific team will return to Samoa to repeat sampling at these 24 sites and recover deployed temperature loggers, with the goal of understanding shift in fish and benthic communities over time.