Asian Diver (English)
HABITATS ARE THE KEY
Whenever I speak about seahorses to colleagues and students, I always lead with the line, “Save the habitats, save the seahorse”. Worldwide, many seahorse species are considered to be under threat through overexploitation for traditional medicines, the aquarium trade, for curios and through loss of essential habitats. It’s the loss of their habitats that is of most concern, as once a habitat is lost, such as a mangrove forest, it is almost impossible to bring it back.
A recent 2015 study in Australia proves how habitat loss can have a detrimental impact on local seahorse populations. A dive site known as the Seahorse Gardens had a large population of White’s seahorses, approximately 400 individuals, making it one of the largest known seahorse aggregation sites in the world. From 2010 to 2014, the site faced considerable human pressure from boats anchoring, faulty moorings and also a large sand movement event that smothered the habitats. By 2015, the preferred habitats of the seahorse had declined dramatically, soft corals by 96 percent and sponge gardens by 49 percent. As a result, the number of seahorses remaining on the site in 2015 was only a measly 10 individuals; a population decline of 97 percent over six years. A similar finding occurred at a site called Pipeline, where the seahorse population dropped by 83 percent over the same period, the area having suffered from a similar decline in their preferred habitats.
If we can conserve and protect the habitats that are important to the seahorses, numerous other species will benefit as well. Many other marine species rely on habitats such as seagrasses and coral reefs for feeding, hiding and breeding, and without these habitats the entire marine ecosystem will gradually collapse. Seahorses are charismatic, iconic, easily recognised and well liked. If we can use the seahorse to help promote the conservation of our marine habitats, then the whole marine environment will ultimately reap the benefits.
If we can conserve and protect the habitats that are important to the seahorses, numerous other species will benefit as well