Mayotte is an island of 376 km² located in the Comoros archipelago in the Mozambique Channel, between the African continent and Madagascar. It has a lagoon of 1,100 km² which hosts a reef structure of 342 km². This structure and this lagoon give all the particularity of this island, being recognized worldwide as one of the most important ecosystems for its biodiversity in species (~ 25% of the global marine diversity). This ecosystem also provides many goods and services to the population such as a natural barrier limiting the effects of bad weather, a food resource, the development of leisure activities estimated at 28 million euros per year. However, this ecosystem is threatened by many anthropogenic constraints such as pollution, overfishing or mass tourism in a global context of climate change. The island was the subject of a biodiversity strategy led by the IUCN in 2013. This strategy has highlighted, particularly for coral reefs, a regular degradation of the environment for 20 years. This was confirmed by the red list of endangered species in France relating to reef-building corals in Mayotte. With a view to protecting Mayotte's coral reefs, the Deep Blue Exploration (DBE) association aims to create a station to study and monitor the reef biotope along the 0-120 m depth gradient, and to educate and raise awareness about the preservation of coral reefs.
Description of CORCOMA program
The CORCOMA program consists of the acquisition of new knowledge thus contributing to the sustainable preservation of biodiversity at the local level. In order to increase our knowledge of the reef ecosystem as a whole, the project aims to monitor the state of health of the Mahorese coral ecosystems, including more particularly a large “mesophotic” zone that is very little known, between 30 and 120 m. depth. We will set up a permanent monitoring station along a wide 0-120m depth gradient, completely new in the Indian Ocean, which will be monitored biannually (hot and humid seasons) and studied according to the following protocol:
- 3D habitat mapping to characterize benthic communities and their dynamics.
- recording of the main environmental parameters (eg temperature, light, nutrients, environmental diversity).
- labeling and micro-samples from key organisms (e.g. sponges, hard corals) to establish a molecular database - i.e. determination of early bioindicators of stress.
Moreover, knowledge is not, and should not, be the preserve of only a few. On the contrary, it is everyone's business and the dissemination and dissemination of the knowledge acquired to the general public, and especially to the younger generations, is of paramount importance if we are to succeed. This is the reason why the project also includes an awareness and education component. Integrating the preservation of coral reefs requires their knowledge and understanding on the part of their users. However, in Mayotte, the inhabitants are not very aware of the riches of their lagoon which culturally is a source of danger rather than wonder. It is therefore essential to raise awareness of the diversity and vital resources of coral ecosystems from an early age, in order to make immediate and future generations the actors of their protection (eco-citizenship). Thus the CORCOMA program aims to act in public awareness and education campaigns, socio-cultural activities, training and educational capacity building.
Responding to Sustainable Development Goals
The interdisciplinary science-education-civilians mobilization established for the design of the CORCOMA program will contribute to several of the Sustainable Development Goals (2030 international agenda, UN). Studying, training, collaborating and transmitting to innovate locally in strategies for the sustainable conservation of coral reefs and associated resources and ecological functions responds in particular to the SDGs:
#14 aquatic life
- #13 Fight against climate change
- #10 reduced inequalities (mixed school environment)
- #4 quality education
- #17 partnerships for the achievement of objectives.
The studies carried out during this project will serve as a support for future programs. The CORCOMA program is the starting point for a multiannual follow-up and it is strongly envisaged to prolong and extend the study stations (3 stations in total are planned for Mayotte) in the mesophotic zone with an educational program extended to d 'other levels of study (college and high school).
Between science and education, the CORCOMA program is designed according to an interdisciplinary approach in the service of better conservation of Mahoran coral reefs, a vital ecosystem but strongly threatened by climatic and human pressures.
Taking into account mesophotic populations for the preservation and resilience of the entire coral ecosystem becomes essential. Indeed, although surface coral reefs are very widely studied, very little knowledge is available beyond 30 m (logistical difficulties). However, mesophotic coral ecosystems arouse growing interest, being considered as potential refuges of unique biodiversity and / or source of repopulation for surface reefs. Monitoring the health of reefs along depth gradients will provide a better understanding of these refugia functions. Integrating the preservation of coral reefs requires their knowledge and understanding on the part of their users. However, in Mayotte, the inhabitants are not very aware of the riches of their lagoon which culturally is a source of danger rather than wonder. It is therefore essential to raise awareness of the diversity and vital resources of coral ecosystems from an early age, in order to make immediate and future generations the actors of their protection (eco-citizenship). Thus the CORCOMA program aims to act in public awareness and education campaigns, socio-cultural activities, training and educational capacity building.