Mesophotic coral reefs in the Indo-West Pacific, the most diverse coral reef region on earth, are among the least documented. This study provides the first detailed investigation of the diversity of Scleractinia and Octocorallia of the mesophotic Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Specimens were collected by 100-m rock dredge tows at 47–163 m depth on 23 sites in four regions (15.3°–19.7° latitude South). Twenty-nine hard coral species from 19 families were recorded, with the greatest diversity found at <60 m depth, and no specimen was found >102 m. Many of these species are also commonly observed at shallower depths, particularly in inshore areas. Twenty-seven octocoral genera were collected, 25 of which represented azooxanthellate genera. Generic richness of octocorals was highest at depths >60 m. Sixteen of the 25 azooxanthellate genera were either absent or very rare at <18 m, and only five azooxanthellate genera were common on both shallow and mesophotic reefs. Species-area models indicated that the total diversity of hard corals on the deep mesophotic reefs sampled during this study was ~84 species while octocorals were represented by ~37 genera; however, the wide 95% confidence limits indicates that more intensive sampling effort is required to improve the accuracy of these estimates. Nonetheless, these results show that the taxonomic richness, particularly of hard corals, on mesophotic reefs may be much higher than previously thought, a finding that has implications for the comprehensive and adequate protection of the full range of biodiversity of the GBR.
Australia - Great Barrier Reef
Dredging / trawling