Coral reefs may find refuge in deeper waters as ecosystems in these parts of the ocean were found to help manage problems of bleaching, a new report has stated.

The report, prepared by the United Nations, provides a ray of sunshine to people currently supervising programs to alleviate the impacts of bleaching on the world's coral reefs.

Coral bleaching has tremendously affected the Great Barrier Reef alongside other coral systems in the world. This is because of the persistent increases in climate temperatures, made worse by noteworthy El Niño events during the summer.

Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems: Lifeboat

The new report focused on the Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems (MCEs), which are intermediate-depth reefs found 40 to 150 meters (131 to 492 feet) below the surface. The authors particularly wanted to find out the role of MCEs in maintaining the integrity of shallower reefs.

Despite the massive spread and wide diversity of MCEs, these systems are significantly left unexplored in many parts of the globe. Aside from that, legislators and resource supervisors are left with very little information about the importance and valuable details about MCEs. With this, MCEs are rarely included in conservation planning schemes, zoning and other policy-making activities.

The objective of the report is to raise awareness about the value of MCEs to lawmakers and other concerned authorities by giving reachable and concise information about MCEs. The summary includes an explanation of the role of MCEs in saving coral species under threat, the hazards they are prone to and the misunderstandings that people commonly have about them.

The Value Of MCEs

The report looked into the possibility of MCEs serving as a refuge for species that settle in shallower reef ecosystems, as well as their ability to provide the stock necessary to re-establish coral population if shallower ecosystems continue to degrade.

"It may be that the cooler, deeper water in MCEs could be more hospitable to many species than the warmer surface water," says Elaine Baker, one of the 35 authors of the report and the director of the University of Sydney's Marine Studies Institute. She adds that MCEs are less exposed to waves and turbulence, so it is possible that they offer more stable surroundings in which to restore corals. Baker, who also who holds the inaugural UNESCO Chair in Marine Science at the University, acknowledges that more research is needed to confirm the exact role of MCEs in reef preservation.

The report incorporated data in the fields of biology, geology, distribution, society and economy relevant to the MCEs to test their possible flexibility. Some were found to be immune from the most severe marine warming, while others are just as susceptible as other ecosystems found in the shallower areas of the water, rendering them unacceptable as coral "lifeboats."

The U.N. report is available (PDF) at the University of Sydney's website.

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