ISLAMABAD         -       The soft coral garden is the first habitat of this kind to have been identified and assessed in west Greenland waters. The study has direct implications for the management of economically important deep-sea trawl fisheries, which are immediately adjacent to the habitat. The researchers hope that a 486 km2 area will be recognized as a ‘Vulnerable Marine Ecosystem’ under UN guidelines, to ensure that it is protected. The soft coral garden discovered by the team exists in near total darkness, 500m below the surface at a pressure 50 times greater than at sea-level. This delicate and diverse habitat features abundant cauliflower corals as well as feather stars, sponges, anemones, brittle stars, hydrozoans bryozoans and other organisms.

Dr. Chris Yesson (ZSL), last author on the study, said “Coral gardens are characterized by collections of one or more species (typically of non-reef forming coral), that sit on a wide range of hard and soft bottom habitats, from rock to sand, and support a diversity of fauna.