Title: conservation biology of black corals, Madagascar
Gilles Lepoint: Université de Liège, Laboratoire d’Océanologie – Centre MARE
Igor Eeckhaut: Université de Mons-Hainaut, Biology of Marine Organisms and Biomimetics
The general goal of this project is to fill numerous gaps in our understanding of black coral beds (Cnidaria, Hexacorallia, Antipatharia) (BCBs) settled in shallow waters along the Southern Malagasy coast. These habitats formed by black corals are presently heavily threatened both by illegal harvesting for jewellery and by fisheries (i.e. bottom trawling). Moreover, effect of global change (i.e. temperature raising and ocean acidification) on these corals is presently unknown. At least, sustainable exploitation of black corals for aquarium trade or jewellery could be possible through their aquaculture and farming (coralliculture), but socio-economic and practical possibilities of such aquaculture must be established.
The research project is divided into four work packages (WP): 1. To describe BCBs and their associated community, to assess their standing stock and their population genetics (WP1), 2. To assess the ecological functioning of BCB ecosystems (WP2), 3. To determine the effect of ocean warming and acidification on black coral metabolism, growth and mechanical properties (WP3), 4. To assess the practical andsocio-economic feasibility to cultivate black corals according to village aquaculture model (WP4).