MCP is currently developing methods to explore and continuously monitor mesophotic reefs. Mesophotic reefs are reefs deeper than 30 meters that have organisms which are typically found in the shallows, including light-dependent corals. These reefs remain largely unexplored and under-researched due to their inaccessibility as they are found at depths beyond the limits of recreational diving. It is thought that mesophotic reefs could provide refuge for shallow water species – something that is important to explore as shallow water reefs are increasingly placed under greater pressures from factors such as climate change and overfishing.
MCP is looking at different methods to discover and effectively explore and document life on the upper mesophotic reefs (30-50m) along the South Negros coastline through the use of technical divers using open circuit systems and enriched air. There are many extra demands associated with working at depth, namely the strict time schedules one must adhere to in order to safely complete decompression stops. The limited bottom time, along with the added equipment associated with technical diving, makes completing surveys challenging. MCP are testing modified versions of the methods we use to survey fish and benthic life in the shallows that allows enough time for surveys to be completed at depth and so that the mesophotic data is easily comparable to its shallow counterpart. MCP hopes to develop these methods so that future trained volunteers can continually monitor our sites and collect this much needed data on mesophotic reefs.
We are also investigating the advantages and disadvantages of using divers to collect data at depth as opposed to automated data collection (i.e. through video and photo) at depth and post-dive analysis. We aim to develop the most efficient and appropriate way to collect accurate and reliable data at these depths.