[Science news] - Marine biodiversity

The Mozambique coastline is an important biogeographical transition zone between the subtropical coast of South Africa and the tropical Indo-Pacific region. It is one of the most biodiverse areas in the Indian Ocean, yet is one of the least explored by taxonomists.

Researchers from Meise Botanic Garden, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Royal Museum of Central Africa, and Ghent University travelled to southern Mozambique in April 2018. The expedition’s aim was to explore marine biodiversity, and to train Mozambican students in collecting and identifying marine organisms. The researchers focussed on two neglected taxonomic groups: marine macroalgae (seaweeds) and echinoderms (a group including starfish and sea urchins). We made extensive collections from intertidal and subtidal habitats, with samples of over 250 species of macroalgae. These include many new records for Mozambique, and several species new to science.

We made a remarkable discovery of kelp (large brown seaweeds) in deep waters. Kelp forests abound in cold, nutrient-rich waters, but are generally absent in the tropics. These newly discovered kelp beds also contain other seaweed species only known from cooler waters of South Africa. It is likely that southern Mozambique includes other unexplored marine ecosystems, which, given their location, could be critically endangered by climate change.

Contact information: Frederik Leliaert