Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Mesophotic (Past and present mesophotic coral ecosystems as a predictor for survival of coral reefs in an era of climate change)
Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-09-30
In this study period, I have been investigating the past and modern MCEs to compare the biodiversity, community composition and geochemical properties of shallow reefs and MCEs. In addition, I developed methods to study these challenging environments. The main goal was to discover community structure dynamics over space and time for improved prediction of the Deep Reef Refugia Hypothesis (DRRH) in an era of global climate change. The uniqueness and advantages of this study are largely achieved due to the combination of technology, geology, ecology and molecular approaches. Furthermore, presenting those results to the public via conferences, social media and press releases encourage acting of the general public in favor of these unexplored and understudied ecosystems.
The combination of the studies conducted in this project provides a major step forward towards recognizing selection forces that are shaping coral population structure and through this understanding the potential of MCEs in serving as “lifeboats” for the world’s coral reefs. Management decisions and conservation efforts could be done only with a sufficient amount of basic knowledge which does not exist in the case of mesophotic ecosystems, hence the overall objective of this project is to gain new knowledge and methodologies for the benefit of exploring and conserving the mesophotic ecosystems.
COVID19 restrictions delayed the planned sampling and the evolvement of the project especially in the current outgoing phase, hens I have requested an extension of the outgoing period to be able to complete necessary expeditions and laboratory analyses. A three-month extension of the outgoing phase was permitted as part of the time of the incoming phase period. I am very hoping that in the current situation I will be able to finalize the obligatory data collections of the outgoing phase.
The expected results of this project will provide a tool for identifying regional mesophotic reefs, as well as for understanding regional benthic cover characteristics and potential contributions to past and future geomorphology. Characterizing the spatial distribution of geomorphology features and associated benthic cover, and establishing a baseline for ecological productivity at mesophotic depths, also provides a basis for studies ranging from regional tectonics to future risk assessment of increasing anthropogenic stressors along with the total coral reef ecosystems (e.g. global warming, pollution, power and desalination plants, increased coastal development, etc.…).
The focus and implementation of this project are expected to build a baseline for future mesophotic research and conservation decisions for the benefit of coral reefs around the world and the human society depending on them.