Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and Sala y Gómez Island are Chile's only subtropical marine environments supporting reef-building corals. Little is known of the coral fauna and coral communities of Sala y Gómez Island. Information on Easter Island's coral fauna has increased slowly, from sporadic taxonomic studies in the early to late 1900s to a comprehensive reconnaissance of subtidal communities published in 1988. Eleven species of zooxanthellate corals are currently recognized and only two of these, Pocillopora verrucosa and Porites lobata, contribute significantly to the live substrate cover. Coral communities are prevalent around most island exposures, best developed from about 5-50 m depth, except for the southeastern shore which is frequently subject to strong wave assault. Unfortunately, little information is available for any resource species. Official statistics or estimates of population size, fishing effort or pressure have not been kept at the same pace as on mainland Chile because many of the harvested species are locally consumed and have not been declared fished resources. Corals themselves are either sold as whole bleached colonies or as carved statues, jewelry, and parts of other curios. Recently, the Chilean government has realized the importance of protecting these coral communities that contain a high percentage of endemic species. With the recent establishment of Chile's first three submarine parks at Easter island, this new level of governmental sanction, with increased public awareness and support, should help sustain the biodiversity and vitality of the island's unique coral communities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)