Deep Forests

Principal Investigator: Dr K Sink, South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)

The Deep Forests Project, which builds on three previous ACEP projects, focuses on the taxonomy, phylogeny, habitat, ecology and benefits of deep coral and seaweed habitats in South Africa.

Novel aspects include the piloting of a new backscatter-based method in seafloor mapping of submerged Cape Fold Mountains, predictive habitat modelling for coral, first targeted collections of unidentified cnidaria and algae, a microbial and bio-discovery component, testing of new deep water BRUVs and a first analysis of the potential impacts of the inshore trawl fishery.

This multi-disciplinary project aims to build capacity in and contribute to knowledge covering priority marine ecosystems and habitat forming species with a key contribution to local and international barcoding initiatives. The project includes 14 institutions and will establish new research relationships and international collaborations. Results will inform and be accessible through online global and national biodiversity datasets, and be applied in the National Biodiversity Assessment, Marine Spatial Planning (including the delineation of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas), and fisheries monitoring and eco-certification.

First offshore research opportunities will be provided for Walter Sisulu University and training is planned in the fields of invertebrate biology, coral taxonomy, statistical analyses, ecosystem classification and description, cold water coral ecology, scientific writing, grant writing and project management.

In line with the current focus on the blue economy, the project includes a benefits component that examines the potential benefits of focus taxa in terms of traditional use, drug discovery and fisheries ecosystem services.

A documentary will profile research results, emerging marine scientists and form the core of the science engagement strategy.