Research 5: Ecology of mesophotic reefs

Mesophotic reefs tend to occur at depths greater than 50 m in tropical areas.  These depths are harder to access using conventional scuba and so these habitats remain understudied.  However, by using technical dive techniques (mixed gases, staged decompression) a greater number of scientists are working on mesophotic reefs and revealing just how important these habitats may be.  We are using a combination of acoustic telemetry, stable isotopes, and mixed gas diving, to investigate how top predators (sharks and Jacks) use mesophotic reefs and what role they may play in structuring the communities.  This work is being conducted at the remote and uninhabited Pearl and Hermes atoll, which is part of the Northwestern Hawaiian Island chain.

Collaborators: Dr Carl Meyer (University of Hawaii), Dr Randy Kosaki (NOAA), Dr Brian Popp (University of Hawaii).

Publications:

Papastamatiou Y, Meyer C, Kosaki R, Wallsgrove N, Popp B. 2014. Movements and foraging by top predators associated with mesophotic coral reefs and their linking of ecological habitats. Marine Ecology Progress Series. In Press

Wagner D, Papastamatiou Y., Kosaki R., Gleason K., McFall G., Boland R., Pyle R., Toonen R. 2011. New records of commercially valuable black corals (Cnidaria: Antipatharia) from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands at mesophotic depths. Pacific Science. 65(2): 249-255

A school of giant trevally swim past during decompression. Photo: Y.Papastamatiou

Exploring a reef at 70 m depth off of Pearl and Hermes Atoll. Photo: K. Gleason (NOAA)