|Date||18 Apr 2017|
Even though there is an increasing interest in research on sponges, there are still few publications on the conservation strategies that include sponge biodiversity. Moreover, many countries are focusing their research activities on the biotechnological potential of sponges. However, little effort is being put towards identifying ways of maintaining and sustaining the long-time survival of sponge communities and exploited sponge species. This is also the case in Rodrigues Island, a leader in marine conservation in the Western Indian Ocean, where in the last ten years five MPAs have been established. The MPAs were identified through participatory processes by looking mainly at coral and fish diversity. Consequently, we are aiming at assessing the biodiversity of shallow water marine sponges found along the coral reefs of Rodrigues Island. This study on surveying sponge biodiversity forms part of a PhD project where biodiversity and genetic data of sponges in the region will be integrated into systematic conservation planning for identifying areas of high biodiversity value. The main contribution of this project is that the sponge biodiversity data will provide baseline information for the protection of sponges in the region.
Moreover, the MPAs will be assessed in terms of sponge biodiversity protection and recommendations will be given to the authorities for a better management and effective use of the MPAs in Rodrigues with regards to sponge biodiversity. Sponges play important roles in the various ecosystems in which they are living, such as bio-erosion, nutrient cycling, food source and primary production. In Rodrigues, turtles have often been observed feeding on sponges. Moreover, recent studies have shown the critical importance of sponges in coral reefs ecosystem and the strong relationship between corals and sponges As I have already established strong links with the Rodrigues Regional Assembly and previously worked on a systematic conservation plan for Rodrigues Island, the information from this sponge biodiversity survey can readily be integrated into the ongoing marine management and conservation on Rodrigues Island.
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