22 Recent Discoveries of Extensive Cold-Water Coral Assemblages in Maltese Waters
Recent deep-water remotely operated vehicle surveys around the Maltese Islands resulted in the discovery of highly diverse habitats, including extensive hard bottom areas dominated by gorgonians and living cold-water corals with a rich variety of associated fauna. Black coral (Leiopathes glaberrima) forests were dominant at 200–400 m, whilst stony reef-forming corals (in particular Madrepora oculata) were most abundant in waters deeper than 500 m. The gorgonian Callogorgia verticillata was dominant in places over the entire depth range, but was particularly abundant at depths of 800–1000 m. Such cold-water coral assemblages are of high conservation interest, and offshore marine protected areas are urgently required in order to protect these very diverse, but highly vulnerable, deep-sea habitats.
KeywordsAlcyonacea Anthozoa Antipatharia Biodiversity Central Mediterranean Scleractinia Sicily channel
The LIFE BaĦAR for N2K Project is 50% co-financed by the EU LIFE+ Funding Programme (agreement number: LIFE12 NAT/MT/000845) and implemented by Malta’s Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), the University of Malta, Fundacion Oceana, the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change (MSDEC), and the Department for Fisheries and Aquaculture within MSDEC. We thank the ERA – Environment Protection Directorate and the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure – Continental Shelf Department for granting permits to undertake this work.
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