The Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute (SDMRI) has recorded 62 new species and 77 new patch reef areas during a recent baseline study of biological resources in the Gulf of Mannar.
The study conducted as part of National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change shows the number of species recorded in the Gulf of Mannar has increased from 4,223 to 4,285.
“The north sector of Gulf of Mannar between Thoothukudi and Rameswaram is studied regularly, but the southern part between Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari has always been left out. The present study provides detailed baseline information on underwater biological diversity of Gulf of Mannar including the southern part,” said J.K. Patterson Edward, Director of the SDMRI.
While the northern part has small islets in a shallow water system, the southern part has greater depth, with rocky and sandy substrate housing unique communities — organisms that live on the bottom.
The study, held from May 2017 to March 2019, covered a coastal distance of 345 km starting from Kundukal (Rameswaram) in the north to Kanniyakumari in the south, and stretching 10 km into the sea.
It was done under the supervision of Environment and Forest Departments of Government of Tamil Nadu and NABARD.
The entire coastal region was divided into 10 major zones and further into various sub-zones for the purpose of study.
The 62 newly recorded species in the study include 14 species of hard corals (the number of coral species identified has increased from 117 to 131), 17 species of soft corals, 11 species of sponges, 16 species of mollusks and two species of seaweeds and fishes each. In addition, more than 50 unidentified species were observed, which are believed to be new to Gulf of Mannar.
Similarly, a total of 39 new seagrass patches have been identified covering an area of 8.51 sq.km.