Researchers find deep-sea coral gardens off Western Australia

Researchers find deep-sea coral gardens off Western Australia

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An expedition to Western Australia's Bremer Canyon Marine Park has revealed rich and diverse ecosystems within the cold waters of the canyon.

Widely known as a biodiversity hotspot for marine animals, Australia’s Bremer Canyon Marine Park has been found to also host rich, diverse ecosystems within the canyon’s cold waters.

This discovery was made during a scientific expedition after researchers used a deep-sea remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to collect samples of deep-sea corals, associated fauna, seawater and geological samples from the abyssal depths to the continental shelf.

Led by the University of Western Australia (UWA), the research team used SuBastian, the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s ROV, to explore the Bremer, Leeuwin and Perth canyons, all of which have extensive fossil coral deposits. The Leeuwin canyon, in particular, is notable for its massive pedestal-like coral graveyard.

Dr Julie Trotter, Chief Scientist from UWA, said that the team had already made a number of remarkable discoveries from the canyon, adding that “the vertical cliffs and ridges support a stunning array of deep-sea corals that often host a range of organisms and form numerous mini-ecosystems.”

“A particular species of solitary cup coral was found during the expedition. This is significant because we are working on the same coral in the Ross Sea on the Antarctic shelf, in much colder waters,” said collaborator and co-Chief Scientist Dr Paolo Montagna from the Institute of Polar Sciences in Italy.

“This [is] an important connection between disparate sites across the Southern Ocean, which helps us trace changes in water masses forming around Antarctica and dispersing northward into the Indian and other oceans,” he added.

The discoveries are being added to a comprehensive package of biological, geological and bathymetric data. Such data about these deep-sea habitats are rare, and can help managers of the park and the broader community better understand and protect these ecosystems.

The Bremer Canyon faces the Southern Ocean in the Antarctic region, and thus holds much information about the recent and past histories of the region’s climate change and ocean conditions.

Schmidt Ocean Institute
Science Daily