Deep Coral Reefs Hold Promise for Shallower Degraded Reefs

A study of coral reefs found hundreds of feet underwater—known as mesophotic coral ecosystems—in the Hawaiian Archipelago revealed the most extensive deep reefs ever recorded. Researchers also found these deep reefs have more than twice as many fish species that are unique to Hawaii (43 percent) in comparison to shallow-water reefs (17 percent). In addition, some deep reefs within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument harbor the greatest number of unique regional fish species of any marine ecosystem on Earth.

These findings are helping scientists understand how mesophotic coral ecosystems might strengthen reef resilience—for example, by replenishing the same species that is under stress in shallow-water conditions. The study was supported in part by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program. (2017)

More Information: Deep Coral Reefs Home to Unique Species

Partners: Bishop Museum, Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, State of Hawaii, University of Hawaii, and NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument