Elysium Heart of the Coral Triangle
An expedition to celebrate and protect the heart of the coral triangle, 29th September -13th October 2018.
HEADER PHOTO: THE OCEAN AGENCY / XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY
The Coral Triangle is the epicentre of marine biodiversity. Stretching from the Philippines and Indonesia in the west to the Solomon Islands in the east, this vast region holds some of the most pristine habitat left in the world, yet like everywhere else, this region is also threatened.
The Elysium Project engages the world’s finest artists, photographers, scientists, musicians and writers to produce a benchmark record of the flora, fauna and vista of the heart of marine biodiversity in a perspective no-one has ever seen before.
ALOR, INDONESIA. CREDIT: ERIK LUKAS
This is the third Elysium Project, but the first in which fourth element has been involved. The first Elysium expedition travelled to the Antarctic in 2010, following the footsteps of Shackleton; the second in 2015 – Elysium Artists for the Arctic – was inspired by the adventures of Sir Hubert Wilkins, the Australian explorer who was the first to explore under the Arctic ice. 2018 sees the third Elysium Epic expedition, this time with 48 expedition members on a mission to the heart of the Coral Triangle.
Raja Ampat is on the list of so many of us as a place to visit and dive. The exceptional level of biodiversity here has been well-recognized since the 1850s when famed naturalist and evolutionary biologist Alfred Russel Wallace travelled through the Malay Archipelago (Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia) collecting specimens and studying natural history.
RAJA AMPAT, INDONESIA. CREDIT: YEN-YI LEE
But the region is in need of extensive protection. While the area has been previously stressed from overfishing and highly destructive fishing techniques, climate change is now the force capable of inflicting the most severe trauma on the Coral Triangle ecosystems. The effects of climate change in the form of rising water temperatures, sea levels and ocean acidity are distressing coral reef habitats with increasing mass coral bleaching and mortality occurrences.
Without action on climate change, scientists estimate that we could lose up to 70% of remaining coral reefs in the next 50 years. In addition, the ability of the region’s coastal environments to feed people will decline by 80%, and the livelihoods of around 100 million people will have been lost or severely impacted. Under the present trajectory of unfettered growth in greenhouse gas emissions, many parts of the Coral Triangle will be largely unliveable by the end of this century.
CREDIT: THE OCEAN AGENCY / XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY
A team of 48 selected members from 14 nations make up the new Elysium Epic expedition. The explorers will strive to create a comprehensive artistic portrait of the area, and document its current ecological status scientifically. The aim is to raise awareness of the plight of this crucial region, to inspire action to fight climate change, and to yield vital baseline data for measuring the future effects on the Coral Triangle.
Such a pristine environment is also under threat from a new challenge – the widely documented plastic problem and it is in this area that fourth element is most involved.
CREDIT: THE OCEAN AGENCY
Elysium Coral Triangle Microplastic Research with Principal Scientist Charlotte Young (University of Glasgow)
The principal objective of this research is to survey key areas of the Coral Triangle to assess microplastic pollution levelling a region which has previously been thought of as relatively unpolluted.
Part of the scientific data collection will involve sea surface sampling of microplastics at nine sites. Expedition members will deploy a manta net from the side of each of the three boats, in order to record levels of microplastics.
Fourth Element is primary sponsor for the plastic research which will provide high impact data on the extent of microplastic pollution in the Coral Triangle and establish a baseline for further research. The impact of this research could be ground-breaking and with the Coral Triangle being the biodiversity hotspot of the world, data collected in this region is invaluable and this project is just part of the ongoing research to monitor the effects of human activity in this region.