Today was a good data day for the lagoon team. We did not just do one lagoon site today, nor two or even three. We did four lagoon sites!!! The first lagoon we surveyed we were at a beach that was near a popular establishment called the Boat Shed. This lagoon site probably had the greatest biodiversity we’ve seen yet. This surprised me because there are a lot of people that use the lagoon in this vicinity. We saw a few species of sea cucumbers that we haven’t seen before. One was super long with brown bands on it (Synapta maculata). Another was purple with cream colored papillae (species identification TBD). Then Julie and I saw a ton of pale pink sea urchins (42 on one rock) in the last 200m transect (200m from shore). These were Echinometra mathaei (beige morph).
The next beach was right off the road from the golf course (the site we call Airport Terminal). This lagoon site was only 75 meters long before it hit the barrier reef (with the main crest at roughly 110 meters from the shore)…this one had a lot of big waves and intense surge. Our first transect was at 10 meters and so right in tight to the fringing intertidal rocks that buffer the water-sand interface at this spot. And were those rocks slippery! One of our team members (Amanda) had a bit of a slip there and cut her knee (no need for stitches or anything, we just washed it out and butterfly bandaged it up and she was good to go). So once that happened we all knew to be extra careful of those rocks. Along that transect we didn’t see a whole lot of invertebrate diversity. This was not surprising given all the wave action.
The third lagoon site we hit was what we are now calling (after the local’s name for the site) Base 1, close to the end of the runway and the site of both our first snorkel in Aitutaki and (two days later) our first night snorkel. This site also had a LOT of sea cucumbers. Mostly the smooth black ones (Holoturia atra) that have been abundant in most of our lagoon sites, but these were joined by a few other sea cucumbers. There were also a few bright blue sea stars there (Linckia laevigata) so that was nice.
We walked for a little while down the coast (towards Puffy’s/Pacific Resort) to get to a different different part of the lagoon. This lagoon site was very very shallow. We usually try to float over our transects, but that was impossible here so we just walked our survey transects. This lagoon was mostly our smooth black sea cucumbers (Holoturia atra)and only two sea stars (Linckia laevigata).
All in all a busy but successful day collecting invertebrate data in the lagoons of Aitutaki. Until next time blog world.
Hayden, Amanda, Julie, Meg