Member Highlight: Mapping Deep Reefs Produces Valuable Data For Researchers, Conservationists

2017-05-09T14:21:03+00:00 May 9, 2017|
Several species of deep-sea corals form an underwater garden 165 m (540 ft) below the ocean's surface. (Credit: NOAA)

(Click to enlarge) Several species of deep-sea corals form an underwater garden 165 m (540 ft) below the ocean’s surface. (Credit: NOAA)

A study authored by University of Delaware Professor Art Trembanis and colleagues reveals new details about deep sea reefs — known as mesophotic reefs — near the island of Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean.Researchers believe data culled from the study can help local conservation efforts and aid in hazard risk management throughout the Caribbean.

(From Science Daily) — While coral reefs worldwide are in decline, the waters surrounding Bonaire comprise a marine park known as a scuba “diver’s paradise” because it contains some of the most well-preserved coral reefs in the Caribbean basin.

Trembanis and colleagues used autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) to map these deep sea reefs, situated 100 to over 500 feet (30 to over 150 meters) below the ocean surface, which are considered a lifeline for shallow reef recovery due to stressors like warming (bleaching), ocean acidification, over fishing and other deteriorations.

These deep reefs can be a substantive part of the coral reef ecosystem of any island, yet they remain largely unexplored because they generally are located beyond the capabilities of divers and are too expansive to be studied using submersibles.

The researchers hope the mapping effort, and the associated data, will help local conservation efforts.

“It’s hard to manage what you don’t see,” said Trembanis, an associate professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment’s School of Marine Science and Policy.

Using an AUV called a Teledyne Gavia, equipped with remote sensing, acoustic sonar systems and cameras, Trembanis and colleagues roughly mapped nearly two square kilometers of seafloor around the leeward (downwind) side of Bonaire.

The multinational team field project was part of a major National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ocean Exploration campaign. More than 20 scientists and engineers from across two continents and half a dozen countries participated in the project, including UD undergraduate students on study abroad.

The researchers first focused on identifying where these mesophotic reefs were located, then analyzed the data collected to characterize the depth, slope and surface roughness of the sea floor, creating an index of specific bottom types associated with these deeper reefs.


Read the full story here:–+ScienceDaily%29