The World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island (LHI) has a highly distinctive marine fauna that includes 9 endemic fish and 47 endemic algae. LHI also contains the southern-most coral reef in the world. The corals of LHI have long been considered a depauperate subset of species also found in the tropics. However, our research has revealed that a high proportion of the coral species on LHI have yet to be described and are likely to be found nowhere else on earth making the LHI assemblage far more distinct than previously recognised. Our findings reveal the extraordinarily high conservation value of LHI and suggest that a mass bleaching event on LHI could lead to the first extinctions of scleractinian corals in the Anthropocene.
Professor Andrew Baird is a Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. He has broad interests in coral reef science. His current research focuses on the systematics and biogeography of reef-building corals.