Taiwan, the largest continental island located at the Japan-Philippine archipelago, provides home for relatively high marine biodiversity in the West Pacific. Tropical and subtropical coral ecosystems are well developed around Taiwan except on the west coast of the island where sand and mud beaches are major substrates due to the rivers running east-western wards into the Taiwan Strait. Based on the species diversity and community structure, the shallow water coral ecosystems (i.e., euphotics) displayed a unique latitudinal gradient from tropical coral reefs in the south towards non-reefal communities in the north. However, local anthropogenic disturbances such as overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution, with the synergetic effect of climate change, have caused degradation of these coral ecosystems and jeopardize their functional services. On the contrary, the coral communities existing below the limits of recreational diving (i.e below 30 meters in depth) and also called Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems (MCEs), are unexplored in Taiwan. In order to investigate the biodiversity and the coral community of Taiwanese mesophotic habitats, a scientific technical diving operation was established in 2014 by the funding from the Biodiversity Research Centre, Academia Sinica (BRCAS) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). Open circuit diving, close circuit rebreather diving, and trimixing diving training were offered on the Green Island Marine Research Station (GIMRS), a facility belong to the BRCAS. Two postdocs and two PhD-level graduate students are trained to explore the mesophotic coral reef between 45 to 60 meter around Green Island. Our preliminary results have revealed an unexpected diversity in the mesophotic zone around Green Island with 55 scleractinian coral species recorded up to date. Among them, at least five are new recorded species to the Taiwanese coral fauna. We also performed a survey of the mesophotic benthic communities around Green Island, which will constitute the first description of the mesophotic benthic community from Taiwan. Finally, we collected scleractinian coral samples from two generalist species found from shallow to mesophotic habitats for the connectivity aspects. Overall, this project will provide the first assessment of Taiwanese mesophotic benthic communities and document their importance for their management and conservation.
The Omics in the Ocean – The 7th International Symposium for Marine Biology and Biotechnology