NOAA's Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory's Pisces IV and Pisces V submersibles are a critical part of a broad effort to study coral ecosystems found in waters where sunlight penetration is low. In this photo, the Pisces V sets a site marker in a field of Leptoseris coral at 85 meters (279 feet), which helps scientists locate their study area on the next sub dive. With the release of a new research strategy, NOAA and partners have identified and prioritized critical research needs to set the stage for future studies about these ecosystems in Hawaii and around the world.
Not all light-depedendant corals, sponges, and algae make their homes in shallow waters near the beach. Some live comfortably in much deeper tropical waters. These coral communities thrive at depths between 30-150 meters (about 100-490 feet) where sunlight penetration is low.
Scientists know very little about these ecosystems, mainly because they can't be reached with conventional SCUBA gear.
Researchers are trying to fill this gap in knowledge through ongoing research to better understand the diversity and community structure of animals that live among these mesophotic coral ecosystems. This knowledge will also help resource managers protect these fragile resources.
With the recent completion of the Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems Research Strategy, there's now a plan to help get the job done more efficiently.
Scientists will use the new strategy to prioritize research efforts to create a baseline of information about these communities, including their locations, characteristics, perceived threats, condition, and the causes and consequences of that condition.
The strategy is based on the 2008 Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems Workshop hosted by the Perry Institute for Marine Science and organized by NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, and the U.S. Geological Survey.