The Solomon Islands are world famous for their abundance of coral reefs and a huge diversity of tropical fish and reef building coral species. Because of this, naturalists and reef diving enthusiasts have been visiting, diving, and documenting this corner of the Coral Triangle for decades, and this is especially true for coral aquarium pioneer Bruce Carlson and his wife Marj Awai.
One particularly luxurious location is a dive spot called Mbulo Canyons in the New Georgia island group was thoroughly documented using a composite of around 2000 photographs. Using sophisticated computer software, a three dimensional projection of this particular reef was created to enable fine scale analysis of the coral cover, resulting in a stunning and detailed record of the coral species, colonies, and even particular branches of corals!
Another dive site known as mirror pond at Mane Islands in the Russels group was, until very recently, in close proximity to an extremely large monospecific stand of blue Acropora yongei. While revisiting the field of blue coral in 2019 the team was disappointed to discover that the nearly 115 square meter field of blue staghorn coral was completely decimated by a strong storm, leaving a tangle of dead branches strewn all about.
Thankfully, the damage caused by a storm has less long term impact than a bleaching event might have, and plenty of live blue tips and frags remain to hopefully repopulate and rebuild this once glorious dive site. Using the newly developed monitoring tools and massively composited imaging techniques, it will be possible to quantify the rate at which this coral reef rebounds, and determine which corals take advantage of the new real estate opportunity created by the loss of the blue Acropora youngei.