- An expedition to Salas y Gómez and Easter islands was conducted to develop a comprehensive baseline of the nearshore marine ecosystem, to survey seamounts of the recently created Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park (MMHMP) – a no-take marine reserve of 150 000 km2 – and to compare these results with Easter Island where the marine ecosystem is similar but has no marine protection.
- Live coral cover was surprisingly high at both Easter Island (53%) and Salas y Gómez (44%), especially considering their sub-tropical location, high wave energy environments, and geographic isolation.
- Endemic and regionally-endemic species comprised 77% of the fish abundance at Easter Island and 73% at Salas y Gómez. Fish biomass at Salas y Gómez was relatively high (1.2 t ha-1) and included a large proportion of apex predators (43%), whereas at Easter Island it was almost three times lower (0.45 t ha-1) with large predators accounting for less than 2% of the biomass, despite good habitat quality.
- The large cohort of small sharks and the absence of larger sharks at Salas y Gómez suggest mesopredator release consistent with recent shark fishing. The fish fauna at the seamounts between Easter Island and Salas y Gómez, outside of MMHMP, harboured 46% endemic species, including a new species of damselfish (Chromis sp. nov.) and probably a new species of Chimaera (Hydrolagus). Numerous seamounts adjacent to Salas y Gómez are currently not included in the MMHMP.
- This expedition highlights the high biodiversity value of this remote part of the Pacific owing to the uniqueness (endemicity) of the fauna, large apex predator biomass, and geographic isolation.
Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.