Mesophotic Marine Animal Forests: Unravelling their ecological and biological significance and need of conservation actions

Mesophotic Marine Animal Forests: Unravelling their ecological and biological significance and need of conservation actions

UNDER THE POLE is an underwater exploration program which combines scientific research, innovation and public awareness, to promote better knowledge and conservation of the oceans. UNDER THE POLE organizes innovative scientific diving expeditions in areas difficult to access. Armed with its experience in deep scientific diving and ambitions for improving the scientific knowledge base for more effective conservation, UNDER THE POLE initiates the research program DEEPLIFE • 2021-2030, dedicated to the study of marine animal forests (MAFs) of the oceans down to 200 m.

MAFs have been recently recognized as Vulnerable Marine Habitats by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) requiring urgent management, conservation and restoration actions. The mesophotic zone (30-200m depth) offers optimal conditions for MAF development, but specific diving techniques are needed to approach this zone. DEEPLIFE brings together the scientific expertise of an international consortium and the exploration expertise of the UNDER THE POLE team, with a sailboat equipped for scientific research and a crew of scientific divers expert in deep diving.

DEEPLIFE is a 10-year project, which will apply a holistic approach quantifying MAF functions, biodiversity and vulnerability with standardized protocols along a latitudinal and depth gradient on MAFs from polar to tropical regions and from shallow (0-30 m) to mesophotic (40-200 m) depths. That information will inform management and conservation plans. DEEPLIFE has been endorsed as a project forming part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development:

Several members of the COST MAF WORLD are involved in the DEEPLIFE program, including one of the scientific co-director of this program (Lorenzo Bramanti, CNRS/LECOB). Scientists benefit from the logistical, technical and organizational means of UNDER THE POLE, as well as communication and awareness raising actions, in order to deploy an ambitious and large-scale approach necessary to understand and preserve MAFs.

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