Our Planet Reviewed - Expedition Papua New-guinea



Walking the paths of the collectors of shells


“Atimo Vatae”. This Madagascan expression refers to the “Great South”... a region which has hardly anything to do with the clichés of tropical seas which are generally associated with the big island: here, the waters which are cold for part of the year and populated with brown algae and remind one rather of Brittany that the coasts of Mauritius!
Why then was this zone chosen although it is less rich in species when compared with the more northern waters? Because of the shell collectors. For about twenty years, they navigate the Southern coasts of the island and collect cone shells, volutes and other porcelains of minor depth (between 5 and 30m). And among all these families, often, new species can be found. However, in other regions of the Pacific, it is almost one century ago now that naturalists made these types of findings among the specimen which accumulate on the coast. This situation put Philippe Bouchet of the National Museum of Natural History thinking. He is of the opinion that these findings are only the tip of the iceberg: who knows what the researchers will discover among the families which do not arouse the interest of collectors, such as urchins, algae, crustaceans... And even if the number of species is lower than that of other ecosystems such as coral reefs, their uniqueness could still make them valuable: the members of the expedition hope that about half of the species they will collect will be endemic to the region.

Localization of the coastal missions in the cold waters of the South of Madagascar

Localization of the coastal missions in the cold waters of the South of Madagascar


The depths of the Mozambique Channel


With regard to Mozambique, the researchers are interested in a deeper zone, the bathyal zone. Thanks to cooperation with the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, some markings have already been made in depths between 100 and 1,800m. However, these research activities have to be deepened in order to get clearer view of the biodiversity of this part of the Mozambique Channel – a region which like many others in almost every part of the world is not spared the exhaustion of marine resources due to overfishing. Since the quantities of samples near the coasts are steadily decreasing, the researchers trawl in much deeper regions and devastate the ecosystems which have hardly been scientifically studied. According to the Institute of Research and Development, each year, deep-sea trawling destroys a surface which is fifty times larger than the surface destroyed by deforestation on the worlds ocean floors...