Friday, February 18, 2011

Deep Corals of the Meso-American Barrier Reef

The Meso-American Barrier Reef is the world's second longest barrier reef, poised along a steep escarpment that descends abruptly into the bathyal zone on the western edge of the Caribbean Sea. The beauty of the shallow coral reefs has been appreciated since the Maya. In recent decades, shallow Caribbean reefs have been degraded, suffering insults from hurricanes, shoreline development, pollution, climate change, over fishing, a Diadema urchin die-off, sneakers on the beach, you name it.

The more we learn about deep corals, the more we're led to wonder about the fate of mesophotic coral ecosystems and the deep-sea coral reefs directly adjacent to the Meso-American Barrier Reef. Did they suffer, too, somehow? It stands to reason, but deep impacts are far out of sight, and out of mind. Besides, how can we know what's happening down there?

Typically scientists will lease a research vessel equipped with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) package for $50K+ a day. Tourist submersibles like Idabel and Substation Curacao let us explore deep habitat for a fraction of the usual cost. Watch this video to understand incredible visibility you can get from these tourist subs, and check out this rich and abundant deep coral habitat 300-700 meters deep, just a few miles offshore the Bay Island of Roatan, in Honduras. There's alot here to explore.