Deeper Reefs and Marine Protected Areas

Deeper coral reefs (30-300m) are found globally across the tropics and sub-tropics at a similar geographic scale to shallow reefs. They harbour unique biodiversity and provide essential goods and ecosystem services. With their connectivity to shallow reefs (0-30m), they could provide a critical refuge for corals affected by bleaching, acidification and other human impacts.

Currently it is not known what percentage of deeper reefs are actually protected globally. They are much less explored, due to cost, logistics and perception of fewer threats. Consequently, less data is available and rarely used to inform management and conservation. This results in most area-based management and specifically marine protected areas (MPAs) not including deeper reefs, and when they do, it tends to be incidental rather than the result of purposeful management.

To address these gaps, we are quantifying the inclusion of deeper reef habitats in existing MPA networks, and examining the process that has led to their inclusion or exclusion. By establishing a scientific rationale for including deeper reef habitats in MPA design, our goal is for deeper reefs to be protected.


Funded by the Garfield Weston Foundation