[Coral-List] New UNEP Report on Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems

Kimberly Puglise - NOAA Federal kimberly.puglise at noaa.gov
Wed May 25 09:17:34 EDT 2016

Can Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems Serve as Lifeboats for Shallow Reefs?

On May 24, 2016, the United Nations Environment Programme released a new
report on mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) during a coral reef media
roundtable at the second session of the United Nations Environmental
Assembly (UNEA-2) in Nairobi, Kenya. The document, Mesophotic Coral
Ecosystems: A lifeboat for coral reefs?, edited by GRID-Arendal and NOAA,
represents contributions from 35 scientists. MCEs are light-dependent reefs
that exist from 30-40 m to a depth of up to 150 m in clear waters. The
shallow reefs from the surface to about 30-40 m are likened to the tip of
an iceberg; they are the more visible part of an extensive coral ecosystem.
MCEs are widespread and diverse; however, they remain largely unexplored.
As a result, MCEs are often not considered in marine spatial planning. The
goal of this report is to raise awareness among policy makers and resource
managers by providing an accessible summary on MCEs, including a discussion
of the ecosystem services they provide, the threats they face, and the gaps
in our understanding.

As to whether MCEs can serve as a source to restock or repopulate degraded
shallower reefs, it depends on the species involved. Sometimes, MCEs may
act as “lifeboats” for nearby, connected shallower reefs that are
experiencing degradation. In other cases, MCEs may be just as vulnerable as
shallower reefs to the range of human pressures exerted upon them.
Regardless, MCEs are worthy of protection in their own right, both for
their inherent biodiversity and for the wide range of ecosystem goods and
services they provide.

Citation: Baker, E.K., Puglise, K.A. and Harris, P.T. (Eds.). 2016.
Mesophotic coral ecosystems – A lifeboat for coral reefs? The United
Nations Environment Programme and GRID-Arendal, Nairobi and Arendal, 98 pp.

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