By Gianfranco Rossi, Reef Check Italia onlus
Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. You just need a diving mask to understand the value of this statement. Unfortunately, only few people realize that corals are not just one of the components of this extraordinary variety of life forms and colors, but are themselves the true essence of the reef.
In their absence, most of the organisms associated with them would disappear, resulting in a loss of invaluable proportion because millions of people would lose all the benefits related to the
presence of the reef. Food and sustenance would be lacking for the many people who rely on the reef for their survival. Also, the multi-million dollars of income, which every year large numbers
of tourists pour into the local coffers, would cease. The protection of the coast, in the face of natural phenomena like tsunamis or storms, would also fail. Unfortunately, it is only through
knowledge that the awareness of the value and absolute need to protect and conserve this natural heritage can be derived.
For this purpose, Reef Check Italia onlus and the research outpost "Coral Eye" in Bangka, North Sulawesi, Indonesia have
organized a field course on hard coral identification. Last year, ten Italian marine biologists participated in this first c
ourse specifically designed to train young specialists to promote, with the right skills, the value of coral reefs.
To perform this task a most appropriate location has been chosen, the island of Bangka located in the heart of the "Coral Triangle", the area with the largest number of species of coral reef builders. The equipped laboratory of the Coral Eye Center allows studying the samples of corals in a form not otherwise observable.
At the end of the course, participants are ready for field identification of corals. The identification is done directly in the field in a true natural laboratory, where finally everybody can discover the extraordinary diversity that characterizes coral reef builders.