Written by Rahul
With global declines in the health of coral reefs only worsening and record breaking years for global ocean temperature
becoming more frequent in recent decades, there has not been a more crucial time to do anything we can to reduce the pressures faced by the countless polyps that make up these ecosystems. Scuba divers are the most frequent visitors of coral reefs but also can be the detrimental to some of these reefs, often in the form of the ever growing number of new divers. An answer to address such an issue may lie in a trend being seen in parts of the world in the form of ‘muck’ diving. ‘Muck’ refers to sub-aquatic ecosystems found in sandy and silty areas where a lack of structure has led to a very specified ecosystems, rich in rare species of invertebrates not found on the reef and uncommon vertebrates that feed in them.
As part of a new push in cataloging species abundance and diversity, research demands have driven the conservation team of New Heaven Reef Conservation Program to these muck sites, away from the reefs. One such study looks into sea horse abundance where the conservation team carry out fixed transects on sites where sea horses have been previously seen, most commonly, in muck habitats. Dives conducted so far have allowed for identification of species of many types of animals not previously seen on Koh Tao, and some cases very rarely if at all on the entire gulf of Thailand. From sea slugs, seahorses and soft corals to snake eels, sting rays and cephalopods, diversity of wildlife found on the muck may be the next big push for divers off our coral reefs for a while and into an even more alien world.
Rahul Mehrotra is a graduate in the field of conservation. He is an avid wildlife photographer and science enthusiast.