Scientists have discovered stunning "gardens" of deep-sea corals in the mysterious Bremer Canyon Marine Park off south-western Australia during an oceanographic expedition.
Led by researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA), these discoveries were made possible by the Schmidt Ocean Institute's (SOI) deep-sea remotely operated vehicle, SuBastian, which is capable of sampling depths to 4,500 meters.
The team strategically collected deep-sea corals, associated fauna, seawater, and geological samples from the abyssal depths (almost 4,000 meters) to the continental shelf (almost 200 meters).
"We have already made a number of remarkable discoveries from the Bremer Canyon," said Julie Trotter, the Chief Scientist from UWA who led the expedition.
"The vertical cliffs and ridges support a stunning array of deep-sea corals that often host a range of organisms and form numerous mini-ecosystems," Trotter said.
The new discoveries will be integrated
These new discoveries are being integrated into a comprehensive package of biological, geological, and bathymetric data.
Such rare records of these deep-sea habitats are a new and very important contribution to the Marine Parks, which will help managers as well as the broader community to better understand and protect these previously unknown ecosystems, Schmidt Ocean Institute said in a statement on Friday.
The deeper waters in the three oceans that surround Australia, including the world's largest barrier reef and submarine canyons, are largely unexplored.
The expedition explored the Bremer, Leeuwin and Perth canyons, all of which have extensive fossil coral deposits, with the Leeuwin especially notable for a massive pedestal-like coral graveyard.
"This has global implications given these waters originate from around Antarctica which feed all of the major oceans and regulate our climate system," said Professor Malcolm McCulloch from UWA.
Facing the Southern Ocean, the Bremer Canyon provides important information on the recent and past histories of climate change and ocean conditions in this region, as well as global scale events.