THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Increasing human activity along the Kovalam-Adimalathura stretch of the southern coast has reportedly wiped out a thriving colony of underwater life forms in the past 10 months, according to a survey.
The ‘destruction’ of a colony of Sabellariidae, a type of tube worm, and bryozoans - a form of aquatic invertebrates - was discovered at a depth of 12-15 metres off Chowara near Vizhinjam by the Thiruvananthapuram-based research group Friends of Marine Life (FML).
Both colonies had existed on ‘Perumakkal’, a near-inshore underwater rocky reef which sits within 300 to 500 metres from the coast, FML convener Robert Panipilla said.
“We documented the life forms for the first time on February 13, 2015. A second survey was conducted on January 2, 2016. The destruction has occurred within the past ten-and-a-half months. It shows the need to map, document and monitor the rich biodiversity of near-shore underwater life,” Panipilla said. The site falls within the impact region of the upcoming Vizhinjam seaport project, where dredging started recently, he said.
Video footage taken by FML divers show that the colonies of Sabellariidae - the worms reside in ‘tubes’ constructed from sand - and the bryozoans covered an area some 300 metres long and 50 metres wide.
Footage from the first 2015 survey reveal a flourishing underwater colony, but footage from the recent examination show what resembles a ravaged battlefield. Not a common sight even otherwise, not much study has been done on Sabellariidae, according to Dr A Biju Kumar, associate professor and department head of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, Kerala University.
“Normally they are found in clear water in rocky areas at depths of 5-10 metres,” he said. Also, such colonies attract other life forms such as molluscs, sponges and fish.
“It is estimated that, of the 590-km Kerala coastline, 30 kms are ecologically sensitive from the angle of biodiversity. Of the 30 kms, 12 kms are in Thiruvananthapuram district. Of this seven kms fall with the Kovalam-Adimalathura region,’’ Panipilla said. ‘’The destruction need to be studied. We are ready to let any scientific community study the region. There is every need to conserve the biodiversity of this area,” he said.