SAIAB News » Deep Secrets: Cruise News
The ACEP Deep Secrets cruise aboard the Department of Environment’s Research Vessel Algoa is currently underway! The month long Deep Secrets Cruise (26 Sept. 26-25 Oct 25 2016) aims to develop an understanding of shelf edge and slope ecosystems and their geological and oceanographic drivers to support improved integrated ecosystem based management in multiple sectors in South Africa.
The cruise is a project of the multi-disciplinary African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme through a joint initiative with the Oceans and Coast Branch of the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Science and Technology facilitated through the Presidential Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy Laboratory. The expedition is led by the Principal Investigator Dr Kerry Sink, a scientist at the South African National Biodiversity Institute.
Key goals of the expedition are to
(1) develop oceanographic and biological offshore research capacity
(2) provide the first visual surveys of deep water habitats in South Africa’s Agulhas ecoregion, including coral mounds and possible methane seeps
(3) build a knowledge base to support management of the outer shelf and upper slope including the declaration and expansion of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and
(4) examine seabed communities in heavily, lightly and untrawled habitats.
The project team includes researchers and technicians from 8 South African institutions and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and also supports the Women in Ocean Marine Science and Management Mentoring Group. Data and sample collection are facilitated by a towed camera, drop camera and epibenthic sled, grab, CTD casts (measures water temperature, oxygen and salinity at different depths) and an echosounder to map the seabed and look for gas bubbles. Thus far 29 stations have revealed a suite of hard ground, coral rubble, coral mound, sandy, gravel and other ecosystem type. Highlights include
• The deepest exploration by visual tools in South Africa with first images from 1035m!
• Documentation of South Africa’s first deep-water coral habitats, with a mix of live scleractinian corals, octocorals, stylasterine corals, sponges, bryozoans and tunicates.
• First images from four of the new Proposed Phakisa MPAs
• First survey of hard ground and gravel habitats
• High diversity of crustaceans and polychaetes in coral rubble
• Findings of fish larvae and eggs associated with the octocoral Thouarella sp.
Experienced deepsea collaborator Professor Lisa Levin is giving a series of at sea deep-sea lectures covering methane seeps, climate change, benthic macrofauna and the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative.
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