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Garden of soft corals discovered in the depths of Greenland

Scientists from University College London (UCL), the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (GINR) have discovered a deep-sea habitat for soft corals in western Greenland waters. This is the first such discovery identified in the area. The discovery of this unusual ecosystem was made possible with the help of
Published: July 7, 2020 - 00:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 20:15
Garden of soft corals discovered in the depths of Greenland

Scientists from University College London (UCL), the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (GINR) have discovered a deep-sea habitat for soft corals in western Greenland waters. This is the first such discovery identified in the area.

The discovery of this unusual ecosystem was made possible with the help of an innovative and not too expensive deep-sea video camera, built and deployed by the research team. The scientists hope that, thanks to their discovery, the 486 km² area will be recognised as a ‘vulnerable marine ecosystem’ under UN guidelines. This would protect it from deep-sea trawlers fishing in the area.

coral-garden-greenland-Paamiut-icebergs

“The deep sea is often overlooked in terms of exploration. In fact, we have better maps of the surface of Mars than of the deep sea,” said Stephen Long, a ZCL Geography researcher and ZSL researcher who was also the first author of the study. “Developing a low-cost tool that is capable of operating in the deep sea opens up new possibilities for our understanding and management of marine ecosystems. We will work with the Greenlandic government and the fishing industry to ensure that this fragile, complex and beautiful habitat is protected.”

A garden of soft corals has been discovered 500m below the water’s surface and contains lily pads, sponges, anemones, snakeheads, as well as a huge number of cauliflower corals and other organisms.

coral-garden-greenland-Northern-lights-Paamiut

“Coral gardens are characterised by collections of one or more species (usually non-reef-forming corals) that are found in a wide range of hard and soft bottom habitats, from rock to sand, and support a diversity of fauna,” said Dr Chris Yesson of ZSL.

The deep sea is the least understood area on Earth, even though it covers 65% of our planet. Until recently, little was known about Greenland’s deep-sea habitats, their nature, distribution and their impact on human activities.

“The seabed around Greenland is virtually unexplored, although we know that more than 2,000 different species inhabit it, thus contributing to complex and diverse habitats and the functioning of the marine ecosystem,” – Dr Martin Blicher of GINR said.

“Given that the ocean is the largest habitat on Earth and the one we know the least about, we believe it is critical to develop low-cost, accessible research tools,” Dr Yesson added. These tools can then be used to study, describe, inform and crucially – manage these resources.”

Source: oceanographicmagazine.com
Photo: Stephen Long, Mona Fuhrmann and ZSL / GINR, courtesy of University College London

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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