World Oceans Day 2020

Taking action from the small coral reef island, Kikaijima!

We have started a new project to promote sustainability and care for coral reefs and our oceans.

Japan has beautiful coral reefs that extend latitudinally from the tip of Okinawa to the southern edge of Honshu, the main island of Japan. Kikaijima, or “Kikai Island,” is one of the Amami Islands located north of Okinawa and south of Kyushu. Kikaijima is a raised coral island, the land continuously expanding with the uplifting of coral reef terraces. The climate of Kikaijima borders between tropical and temperate ocean and is classified as a humid subtropical climate. The coral reef ecosystem responds sensitively to changes in the climate. Kikaijima is a small island without river discharge and runoff to disturb the reef environment, a common source of damage to coral. A healthy coral reef ecosystem has been maintained for a long time, making Kikajima one of the best locations to detect ecological shifts as a response to change in global climate and ocean environment in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.

The KIKAI Institute has created education programs about coral reefs and the beautiful nature of Kikaijima. Many children visit our island from all over the world to learn about coral reef research. We could not meet them this year due to COVID-19. Japanese coral reef researchers belonging to our institute started an online seminar (webinar) for school students in March 2020. Since then, over 200 children have joined us to learn about the science of coral reefs, animals that use coral reefs as their homes (such as reef fish, bivalves, etc.), carbon and nutrient cycles within coral reefs, and so on. These programs will continue at least until next March. We are eagerly waiting for these future scientists to work with us!

As a new project this year, we have started making an encyclopedia of symbiotic reef corals in Kikaijima. KIKAI Institute is working with the National Institute for Environmental Studies to conduct and support this project. The coral ecologist team, Prof. Hironobu Fukami, Prof. Naoko Isomura, Dr. Takuma Fujii, and Dr. Yuko Kitano, have started a field survey to collect coral specimens and DNA samples for species identification. The process of the making the encyclopedia is open and always available in our newsletter, so everyone can join in to provide editorial and financial support. Kikajima’s high school students have also joined to help us take photos of the beautiful, white coral skeletons for the encyclopedia.

We hope that the encyclopedia will be a letter to the future oceans and the people who take care of them. The last record of the number of reef coral species in the Amami Islands was done 25 years ago. We want to make a record of modern ecosystem conditions in our encyclopedia, and want to continue to update it in the coming decades and centuries. At the end of this project we want to send our encyclopedia to school libraries as a gift of education. We hope the next generation and many generations after that will be interested in coral reefs, and will continue to observe and conserve our wonderful home– the ocean. Please join us to support this project and preserve our precious ocean far into the future.

Please see more details on our website and in our newsletters:

Atsuko Yamazaki and Tsuyoshi Watanabe
KIKAI Institute for Coral Reef Sciences

Special thanks to Katrina Little.


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