Discovering deep diversity
October 01, 2012
Scuba allows researchers to work down to 200 feet, rebreathers to 450 feet. Only submarines provide access to the deepest reef habitats
Scuba allows researchers to work down to 200 feet, rebreathers to 450 feet. Only submarines provide access to the deepest reef habitats. U.S. research using submarines to collect tropical N.W. Atlantic deep-reef fishes ended 20 years ago. SIís Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP), led by Carole Baldwin of the National Museum of Natural History, and funded by an SI Grand Challenges Award, has revived that effort. At Curacao in the southern Caribbean she and Ross Robertson (STRI) are using a submarine to catch fish down to 1,000 feet. Robertson says that such biodiversity assessment is a fundamental part of SIís mission, that the discovery of deep-fishes in 50 hectares around the subís home base has continued throughout dives done in 2011-12 (fig on the right), and that, amazingly, about 25% of the species collected so far are "new" to science. Baldwin and Robertson also aim to obtain baseline data allowing future study of how depth ranges of reef fishes respond to ocean warming.