An Inverted Pyramid (02/10)

When we think of coral reefs, the first one that probably comes to mind is the Great Barrier Reef. After all, it is the largest natural feature on Earth. It and other reefs are in danger because of the aquarium trade and overfishing with dynamite and cyanide. However there is a reef 1000 miles south of Hawaii that has remained pristine – Kingman Reef.

The Kingman Reef

The Kingman Reef

Kingman Reef is an uninhabited, mostly submerged atoll reef located nearly one thousand miles south of Hawaii. For centuries Kingman’s remote location has kept this vibrant underwater environment in a virtually pristine state.

Despite the outstanding health of the waters around Kingman Reef, a diver who peeks beneath the surface might be surprised. While the postcard image of a tropical atoll shows it surrounded by a sea thronging with colorful fish, there is considerably less visible activity around Kingman Reef.

Large predatory fish, primarily sharks and red snappers, are most in evidence; smaller prey fish, both herbivores and carnivores, spend little time out in the open, preferring to hide in the nooks and crannies of the corals. A team of researchers led by Enric Sala, a National Geographic emerging explorer, has determined that 85 percent of the fish biomass at Kingman is made up of top predators. This is dramatically different from the situation at Kiritimati, a populated island a few hundred miles away, where top predators make up just 15 percent of the fish biomass. Fishing and pollution have contributed to the degradation of the reefs around Kiritimati, and Sala and other ecologists are convinced that the unusual “inverted pyramid” of predators and prey at Kingman is evidence of its extraordinary health.

from National Geographic

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