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The Impact Of Scuba Diving On Marine Biodiversity

1509 words - 7 pages

The impact of scuba diving on marine biodiversity especially the coral communities at the Two mile reef by Sodwana bay
Coral reefs are celebrated for their beauty, diversity, the enormous assemblage of life that they sustain and for providing of several vital services to society such as coastal defense, fisheries, ecotourism as well as products for construction and medicinal mixtures (Barker and Roberts, 2004). Regardless of their apparent value, universally the world over coral reefs are in decline due to a varied assortment of anthropogenic stresses such as scuba diving which will be the emphasis in this study (Barker and Roberts, 2004). The positive aspect of diving tourism is the ...view middle of the document...

, 2008). Due to recreational use the reefs have been zoned out based on the coral communities carrying capacity and susceptibility to damage (Muthiga et al., 2008). This study aims to determine if scuba diving negatively impacts coral reefs and their biodiversity.
This study focusses on the Two-Mile Reef (27031.2' S; 32041.3' E) of Sodwana bay. Ramsey and Mason (1990) observed that the Zululand coral reefs have a large size, varied reef fauna, topography, and is situated at an accessible geographical location. According to Ramsey and Mason (1990) the Two-Mile Reef is situated in 9 to 34 m of water, 1.3 km north-northeast of Jesser Point at Sodwana Bay in Zululand. Based on Crossland's (1948) intertidal study of Natal corals, it was found that the fauna was characteristic of a marginal belt and was characterized by the almost absolute absence of the great reef-builder Acropora. Lying parallel to the coast, the two-mile reef, consists of a thin layer of Indo-Pacific type corals which have colonized a submerged, late Pleistocene dune and reef-base. Guilcher (1988) reported that the Two-Mile Reef is a patch reef that is always submerged. The coral thickness reaches a maximum of 30 cm on the reef platform, but is thinner and patchily developed at the reef margin (Ramsay, 1988). Ramsey and Mason (1990) reported that the depth to which significant coral cover extends is 25 m since below this depth only scattered coral colonies exist, owing to the reduced light intensity at this depth. The continental shelf is narrow in northern Zululand, approximately 3 km wide with the Agulhas Current flowing close to shore. (Flemming, 1981; Martin and Flemming, 1986).Ramsey and Mason (1990) observed that the tidal range in the area aver-ages 2 m thereby characterizing the coast as micro tidal or low meso tidal. The coast is governed by tenacious high-energy waves and prevailing large-amplitude swells from the southeast, as indicated by the VOS (voluntary observing ships) data (Swart and Serdyn, 1981).
The distribution of Coral species is affected greatly by light exposure and light intensity as opposed to other abiotic factors (Mergner and Scheer, 1974). Corals are the dominant organisms on thriving coral reefs and defines the nature of the physiographic zones within the reef by their horizontal or vertical sequence resulting from the influence of changing abiotic factors (Mergner, 1971).Williams (1989) states that the alcyonarian contribution on Zululand reefs is dominated by the three genera Sinularia, Sarcophyton, and Lobophytum, with a relatively minor contribution being made by genera such as Dendronephthya, Nephthea, Alcyonium, Clavularia, Cladiella, Anthelia, Rumphella, Menella and Leptogorgia.
According to Tratalos and Austin (2001) corals, especially the scleractinian, which create the substratum and structural basis of coral reefs, are vulnerable to damage as a result of human recreational activities. These corals consist of a carbonate substructure which...

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