We have surveyed six sites to date, and we are starting to build a solid dataset from which we will analyse the relationships between coral and fish biodiversity and how they vary across habitats.
So far at exposed sites, I have found hard coral cover to be moderate to low (between 10% - 40%). As expected, this does not appear to adequately reflect the level of coral biodiversity, because I am finding a high number of coral species and it appears that a large proportion of the corals known to occur on the northern Great Barrier Reef are represented in the Lizard Island community.
Most coral species appear to occur in low numbers, but it is particularly interesting that some species that ordinarily occur in low numbers (such as Echinopora mammiformis and Acropora sarmentosa) are common here. Other notable observations in the coral community include a large number of juvenile coral recruits, and the finding of a large colony of Pectinia lactuca that is functioning as a nursery for Fungid (mushroom) corals.
In terms of the reef fish community, Mike and Dani report observing few large reef fish, pelagics or sharks, however they are recording an abundance of juveniles and small reef fish, especially in habitats where Acropora corals are present.
A strong wind warning has been issued so we intend to survey sheltered sites in the next few days so come back to find out what we discover next about the coral and fish diversity in the more protected parts of Lizard Island.