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The Seashore of East Africa

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The Seashores and shallow seas of East Africa and the western Indian Ocean islands support an enormous diversity of life. The main coastal habitats are mangrove forests, sea grass beds and coral reefs, which vary in their structure and composition.In addition to the three main habitats, rocky shores, sand beaches, mud flats, lagoons and algal beds also support communities of species which contribute to the overall diversity of marine life in the region.   Though each of these habitats is comprised of specific assemblages of species, many animals typical of one habitat are dependent on adjacent habitats for one or more aspects of their survival for example. feeding or reproduction.  

In the face of warming ocean waters due to climate change, some coral reefs off East Africa are demonstrating unusual resiliency.   Throughout the world’s seas, rising surface temperatures make reefs susceptible to fatal “bleaching”— a sickness that occurs when coral species discharge the algae that live within their tissues.   Such closures allow the reef fish to thrive, and the fish, in turn, to keep the algae population in check. Without enough fish to feed on the algae, it would otherwise smother the corals.   Those sites without any specific management measures remain degraded; one site has experienced an explosion of sea urchins—pests that feed on corals.

After a 1998 bleaching event off Tanzania’s coast wiped out up to 45 percent of the region’s corals, they recovered rapidly. With all these problems threatening to deplete marine life, an organization, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) monitored these reefs, and continue to protect the corals by training park staff in protected areas. They attribute the reef recovery partly due to bans on commercial fishing, which allows the reef fish to thrive.

However, appropriate measures are yet to be taken to control the explosion of sea urchins or pests that feed on corals, as the wildlife conservationists uplift their efforts to protect endangered species and the habitats they depend on.

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