Projects

Mapping of oceanic and coastal environments of the Republic of Mauritius; Component - Ecological survey (incl. bleaching assessment) of nearshore waters of Mauritius

In Mauritius, coral reefs play a critical role in the socio-economic development of the island whereby healthy coral reefs significantly contribute to coastal protection, fisheries and tourism industries and also for the preservation of biodiversity.  Despite their importance, the reefs of Mauritius, like other reefs worldwide, are being impacted by climate change and other anthropogenic and natural disturbances.  To investigate the response of coral species to environmental stressors, the MOI initiated an ecological monitoring programme of the nearshore waters of Mauritius in 2010.  Permanent stations have been established inshore and offshore at different sites around the island where spatio-temporal data for biological and chemical parameters are regularly collected.  Long-term data collected through this study will help in (i) providing insight into ecological processes that underlie reef resilience, (ii) understanding human impacts on coral reef ecosystem, (iii) generating data for use in multidisciplinary coastal studies, (iv) providing a better understanding of climate change impacts on coral reef ecosystem on a short-term as well as on a long-term basis, and (vi) informed decision making to reverse the current trend in reef degradation.

Project objective(s):

  • To collect long term biological and physico-chemical data at selected sites around Mauritius.
  • To carry out surveys/bleaching surveys at selected sites around Mauritius.

Project team:

S.Bacha Gian, S.Curpen, Dr. D.Dumur-Neelayya, Dr Y.Neehaul, P.Oogarah, A.Nicolas G.Kalleechurn,C.Samyan, S.Sunassee

Biological Survey of Port Mathurin Harbour to Detect Introduced Species

Port Biological Baseline Survey is a multidisciplinary scientific survey conducted periodically to assess a port’s biological communities and ecology, with focus on the identity, distribution and abundance of Non-Indigenous Species (NIS), some of which may be ecologically damaging and invasive. The current grant aims at conducting the first port baseline survey of Port Mathurin, Rodrigues, so as to provide an inventory of the natural populations, including a catalogue of existing introduced species. This will contribute, for instance in the development of Ballast Water Management strategies and measures for our ports.

Objectives

  • To conduct and report on the port biological survey for marine invasive species in Port Mathurin, Rodrigues.
  • To conduct training and capacity building of RRA designated scientist/ technical counterparts in port baseline survey.
  • To conduct an awareness campaign with shipping, fisheries together and environmental community in Rodrigues.

Project team

P. Mussai, K. Ramdhony,  R. Sooroojebally , V. Ramchandur, B. Motah, S. Bacha Gian, C. Samyan, S. Sunassee

 

Ships’ Biofouling in Port Louis Harbour

Marine biofouling occurs mainly through attached or sessile marine species. Shipping has been identified as the major vector for the spread of invasive aquatic species on a global and regional scale and the resulting transfer and introduction of invasive aquatic species through ship’s biofouling threatens the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. In context and pertinent to the 2011 Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ship’s Biofouling to Minimize the Transfer of Invasive Aquatic Species, this project aims at developing a standardized template for hull inspection as a decision support tool and its application to survey invasive aquatic species related to biofouling.

Objectives

  • Development of standardized template for hull inspection (inspection and sampling)
  • Collection of data on selected vessels (in dry-dock and in-water) arriving in Port Louis harbour using developed standardized sampling methodology, to provide baseline information on the nature and extent of biofouling.
  • Description on the composition and patterns of biofouling on the selected vessels (in dry-dock and in-water)

Project team

P. Mussai, K. Ramdhony,  R. Sooroojebally , V. Ramchandur, B. Motah, C. Samyan, S. Sunassee

 

Assessment of living resources in the EEZ of Mauritius

Marine biodiversity is under constant stress from human activities and climate change, with a large number of species becoming extinct even before being documented. The marine ecosystem in Mauritius is no exception, as it faces continuous coastal habitat degradation and over-exploitation of its marine living resources. In this context, it is critical that the existing organisms present in the Mauritian waters are properly identified and inventoried using contemporary tools such as DNA-based techniques that have the advantage of being rapid, accurate and cost-effective in comparison with more conventional techniques.

The MOI is currently undertaking an assessment of marine living resources using both taxonomy and DNA-based technique. The project is in line with the Government programme 2015-2020 as well as with its Vision 2030, whereby protection and preservation of marine living resources is key to the establishment of a sustainable Ocean Economy. 

While the initial focus of the project has been on fish of commercial importance, the project is currently assessing sea cucumbers (holothurians) inhabiting the Mauritian waters. As an ongoing MOI’s project, the DNA-barcoding of other marine taxa (molluscs, crustaceans, corals) will be implemented. The data generated from the project is uploaded on the online Marine Diversity and genetic database of the MOI.

Objectives:

  • To undertake an inventory of marine living resources using taxonomy and DNA-based techniques.
  • To establish and populate an online marine living resources and genetic database.
  • To provide services to the seafood and aquaculture industries.
  • To publish posters and field guides (use by various stakeholders incl. aquaculture investors).

Project team

S. Curpen, Dr. D.Dumur-Neelayya, S. Bacha Gian, L. Harree-Somah, C.Samyan, S.Sunassee

Mapping of oceanic and coastal environments of the Republic of Mauritius; Component - Plankton assessments in the EEZ of Mauritius including outer islands (Seamounts and FADs)

It is well known that planktonic stages of most marine organisms are attracted and aggregate around solid objects in the ocean.  These may include submerged as well as floating objects such as seamounts and fish aggregating devices (FADs).  Presently, the Republic of Mauritius lacks data on plankton dynamics in its EEZ. Hence, the MOI has initiated a plankton study in the EEZ of the Republic of Mauritius.  The project which is in line with the Government’s Vision 2030 and MOI’s Strategic Plan 2016-2020, aims at determining and comparing plankton communities occurring at seamounts, FADs, outer islands and at earmarked aquaculture sites.  Collected plankton samples will be identified through microscopy complemented with a DNA-based approach.  Additional studies including (i) gene flow/genetic connectivity (if any) among sampling stations, and (ii) factors (physical and chemical) influencing the plankton distribution at sampling stations will also be undertaken.  Data generated through this study will help in (i) complementing the study on inventory of marine organisms in the EEZ of Mauritius, (ii) updating the database of Marine Organism with molecular and taxonomic data, and (iii) identifying possible planktonic organism with biotechnological applications for future exploitation.

Project team:

S. Bacha Gian, Dr. D.Dumur-Neelayya, S. Curpen, L. Harree-Somah, C.Samyan, S.Sunassee

Mapping of oceanic and coastal environments of the Republic of Mauritius: Component - Multidisciplinary survey of Agaléga islands

In view of risk and disaster management of the island of Agaléga, it is important to have a comprehensive survey that would enclose the marine and coastal features of the island.  In this regard, the MOI will undertake a comprehensive survey of the north and south islands of Agaléga in 2017.  Physical, chemical and biological data in terms of bathymetry, wave and tide regime, temperature and salinity, water current pattern, nutrient levels, pH, dissolved oxygen, mapping of habitats and its surrounding species and as well as coastal elevation will be collected at selected locations around the islands. All the data generated will be integrated in a GIS platform to be housed at MOI.  These data will be provided to potential investors for development of the marine sector in Agaléga, including aquaculture and port development.  Collected data will also be helpful in (i) the generation of a Tsunami inundation map for the Agaléga islands, (ii) identifying ocean/coastal hazard and hence provide possible mitigative measures, and (iii) providing a tool for sustainable marine planning and resource management applications.

 

Objectives:

Biological component

  • To characterise the biological attributes of Agaléga islands.
  • To carry out baseline surveys for collection of baseline ecological/biological oceanographic data including benthic assemblages/coverage, meio-faunal diversity in sediment, biological samples (for taxonomical and molecular identification), habitat mapping, coral species coverage, plankton diversity, micro-algal flora diversity

Project team:

S. Bacha Gian, Dr. D.Dumur-Neelayya, S. Curpen, O.Sadasing, L. Harree-Somah, C.Samyan, S.Sunassee

Chemical Oceanography

At present chemical data on the marine environment in Mauritius is scarce. Through this novel multi-disciplinary investigation, earmarked aquaculture sites are characterised to provide spatial and temporal data on the marine environment.    

Three significant factors are applied to produce undisputed and high quality data: (a) the design and performance of a sampling programme to be the most representative of the site under investigation; (b) the selection and use of suitable pre-treatment and storage procedures for samples to limit variations in concentrations and speciation prior to further treatment in the laboratory; and (c) the adoption of analytical protocols which enable measurements of appropriate precision while always taking account of the specific matrix of seawater.

Project Team:

Dr. Yashvin Neehaul, Preeti Oogarah, Geetika Kalleechurn

Community based coral culture in the Republic of Mauritius: “A sustainable business avenue for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).”

Over the past few years, the MOI has successfully developed and optimised locally adapted techniques for the mass culture of corals on-land (2008-2012) and at sea (2012-2014) for commercial ventures and conservation. Coral farming is an activity which is in line with Government intention of making marine resources one of the pillars of the Mauritian economy and could bring in foreign currency through (i) tourist spending for visiting demonstration farm and for purchase of souvenirs and high-end jewellery, (ii) export of ornamental corals for marine aquarium trade, (iii) enhancement of the natural coral environment in front of beach resorts through creation of coral gardens, and (iv) sustainability of the tourism industry through coral conservation initiatives.

In 2017, the MOI will initiate a community based coral culture project in the Republic of Mauritius.  This three year project primarily aims at training and capacity building of local communities and SMEs/private sector in basic coral biology/ecology, coral culture, transplantation and gardening techniques.  The project will be implemented at four locations around the island.  Main components of the project include (i) an awareness raising programme, (ii) registration of participants under a “Coral Farming Training Scheme”, (iii) set up of demonstration sea-based coral farms for culture of resilient and high value/ornamental corals, (iv) creation of demonstration coral gardens, and (v) training of registered participants in coral farm design, manufacture, set up, maintenance and management, as well as creation of coral gardens.

Project team:

S. Bacha Gian, Dr. D.Dumur-Neelayya, S. Curpen, O.Sadasing, L. Harree-Somah, C.Samyan, S.Sunassee.

Assessing the Submarine Groundwater Discharge Flux to Meet Potable Water Demand and Improve Domestic Water Supply in Coastal Regions

Water flows from the land to the sea in rivers – that is the classroom picture that seems too self-evident to question. But there is evidence that a comparable amount may flow underground directly into coastal waters

Thomas M. Church, Nature Vol. 380, 18 Apr 1996.

Water flows from land to the sea through rivers and via underground routes whereby groundwater enters the ocean from the seabed. Depending on the geological structures present, there is a mixing zone at the interface between sea water and fresh groundwater, that governs the physico-chemical parameters of the water. Essentially, groundwater discharge is rich in essential minerals such as zinc, copper and magnesium which are required for the thriving of various organisms in a near shore ecosystem.

In this study, the MOI has identified the major sites around Mauritius where groundwater enters the near shore lagoon. This investigation used satellite differential sea surface temperature imagery and in-situ measurement of naturally occurring radio-tracers to identify the major groundwater discharge sites. The quality and the flux of groundwater entering the lagoon of Trou aux Biches is under investigation.

Project Team: Dr. Yashvin Neehaul, Preeti Oogarah, Geetika Kalleechurn

Investigation of land sea interactions through groundwater discharge

Coastal oceans represent the major interface between humans and the marine environment, making coastal ecosystems the most heavily impacted by human activity through land-sea interactions. There is a general misconception that land-sea interactions involve uniquely flow of surface water to the ocean. Intertidal recirculation and submarine groundwater discharge are major routes for the transport of materials from land to the near shore marine environment, but are often neglected.

In the report entitled Water Quality Management of the Northern Aquifer of Mauritius from the Water Resources Unit and part of the UNDP funded, Integrated Water Resource and Wastewater Management in Atlantic and Indian Ocean SIDS/ Mauritius project, the main threats that may contaminate the Northern aquifer have been identified. A geo-referenced platform that includes all the areas with intensive agriculture, inappropriate sewage system and industrial zones has been setup. This GIS tool provides an excellent support in the identification of areas that pause a threat in the contamination of surface aquifers and directly the marine ecosystem. Moreover, the report recommends to:

  • Assess the interaction between groundwater, surface water and coastal ecosystems.
  • Determine whether groundwater is a pathway for seawater contamination, in order to avoid threats to the coral reef ecosystem and protect the vulnerable coastal lagoon.

Project Team:

Dr. Yashvin Neehaul, Preeti Oogarah, Geetika Kalleechurn

 

Evaluating the Anthropogenic Accumulation of Micro-Plastics across Mauritian Waters

The contemporary world has seen an increase in the use of petroleum based products, one of which is plastic. The durability of plastics, while a valuable commodity for societal purposes, has also led to high levels of plastic contamination in the environment. While the scale of the plastic production has expanded over the years, the effect of inappropriate disposal of plastic products on the environment has not been accounted for. Back in 2010, Jambeck et al. estimated an astonishing 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean. This value is expected to increase significantly in this century.

The resilience of plastics in the environment has led to the categorisation of plastics into two types: 1) macroplastic which constitute large plastic debris visible to the naked eye and; 2) micro plastics, commonly known as plastic debris of less than 5mm in diameter, constitute of both macroplastic that have been mechanically degraded over time and plastic particles of microscopic size typically used in cosmetics.

The aim of this project is to assess the amount and type of microplastic present in the waters of Mauritius. The data collected will then be used as: (1) a baseline indicator to monitor trends and patterns of microplastic accumulation in Mauritian waters; (2) for further studies on their impact on marine organisms upon ingestion and potential impacts on human beings based on the polymer content of the microplastic.

In this new project, the impact of both submarine groundwater discharge and intertidal recirculation on marine ecosystem will be investigated in the Northern part of Mauritius. This project will provide a temporal indicator of the recommended measures being implemented on land in the Water Quality Management of the Northern Aquifer of Mauritius by the WRU.

Project Team:

Dr. Yashvin Neehaul, Preeti Oogarah, Geetika Kalleechurn

Tsunami Preparedness Map

Within the framework of the setting of a tsunami early warning system for the Republic of Mauritius, the Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI) was mandated by the Prime Minister’s Office to develop a tsunami preparedness map to identify areas of the coastal zones that would be at risk in the event of a tsunami. In this context, the MOI worked on model estimating inundation due to a tsunami and developed a tsunami inundation map for Mauritius and Rodrigues. These maps have been used by the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management in their evacuation plan and will help to preserve and safeguard the life of people and economic assets. This project is being carried out by the MOI.

Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA)

The MOI is implementing a three-years' EU-funded project entitled Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) in collaboration with the African Union and the Commission de l'Ocean Indien. This project will focus on the “Marine and Coastal Management” theme and will deliver two Information Services on Marine Resources Management and Monitoring of Coastal Environment respectively.

The Earth Observation covering the area 10°N to 30°S / 30°E to 75°E and in-situ data provided by the MESA project can contribute to the sustainable development of Mauritius by providing information, measurements and quantification of natural or artificial phenomena. The synoptic view provided by satellite imagery offers technologically the most appropriate method for quick and reliable mapping and monitoring of various natural resources, both in space and time. The station installed at MOI provides regular information about the biological and physical state of the ocean. This data covers analysis of the current situation, forecasts of the situation a few days in advance and the provision of retrospective data records. The data include sea surface currents, sea surface temperature, salinity, sea level and chlorophyll-a. These support marine and maritime applications and related policies in the field of marine safety, fisheries, seasonal forecasting and the overall management of coastal zones. The data available can help Mauritian scientists better understand the ocean and regional seas.

  1.  Marine Resources Management

An accurate knowledge of potential fishing zones (PFZ) off lagoon has several applications:

  • It could be used to optimise fishing effort by sending fishing vessels in the richest zones.
  • A good knowledge of potential fishing areas could be used to improve fisheries management (both at national and regional level).
  • Control fishing grounds by sending patrol to potential and/or identified PFZ to control licences of fishing vessels operating in these waters.
  • Small scale fishing companies who have the means to go off lagoon could get advantage of PFZ maps to increase capture efficiency
  1.  Monitoring of Coastal Environment

The vulnerability of coastal zones depends on the geological substratum, elevation and local sea conditions. The combination of historical images (aerial photos) with satellite imagery and elevation data, allows building up coastal hazard maps related to coastal erosion, wave surge, tropical storm associated or not with predicted sea level rise. The MOI in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment will be elaborating a Coastal Vulnerability Index Map for Mauritius. This up to date map would provide the latest information that could be used by the Ministry of Environment for the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Policy and most importantly to take remedial actions.Development of the MESA project website. Website is available on the following link http://moi.govmu.org/mesa/

 

Bioprospecting of Mauritius Waters (Biological activities of marine natural substances from Mauritius Waters

The rich diversity of the Oceans offers important economic opportunities through the sustainable exploitation of our marine resources to develop drug leads for the pharmaceutical sector. Over the last five decades, a number of marine natural products have been exploited as new drugs especially in anti-cancer drug discovery (i.e. Yondelis®, Halaven® and Adcetris®). Mauritius has a rich and unique biodiversity of marine fauna and flora that offers a vast potential for discovering novel bioactive compounds. In that respect, the aim of this project is to investigate the biological activities of marine organisms to find natural products potent against human diseases. This research has identified various species of marine sponges, whose extracts have shown active properties against diseases such as Cancer, Alzheimer and Diabetes Mellitus. Currently, these active extracts are being purified to find bioactive substances, which can be developed into potent drugs.

This endeavour is in line with the mission statement of the Ministry to harness the potential of the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and to develop the Ocean Economy

Objectives

  • Inventory of marine sponges in the Mauritius Waters.
  • Investigating the biological properties of sponge extracts.
  • Isolation and characterization of bioactive compounds.

Project team: Avin Ramanjooloo, Preeti Oogarah

 

Study of Local Seismicity around Rodrigues–CIR Region Using Array Techniques (collaborative project with Frankfurt University)

Seismic activity around Rodrigues region has been a matter of concern for local population since long. Being at the distance of approximately 250km to the highly active Central Indian Ridge (CIR) it is always in danger of experiencing some ground shaking. Between 2009 and 2012 more than 40 events with magnitudes larger than 4.2 have been registered along Rodrigues–CIR region by the global seismographic networks. The largest magnitudes being 6.3 and 6.7 in August 2010 and July 2012, respectively. Since, earthquakes cannot be located reliably by one single seismic station. We intend to deploy a dense array of seismic stations on the island of Rodrigues and will employ array techniques for the detection and analysis of the seismicity of the region.