The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is one of the world’s best-known reef systems, however its deep reef and canyon ecosystems are largely a mystery. ROV SuBastian will collect samples, sediment cores, and high-resolution imagery of deep canyons and reefs that extend down to 2,500m. ROV SuBastian will also be outfitted with a high-resolution camera from JAMSTEC to image plankton throughout the water column.
An important goal of the expedition is to study the mesophotic and deeper reefs in the region. This work will highlight the importance of high-relief features globally for marine biodiversity conservation and provide a template for a survey approach to effectively inform management of high-value, remote areas. These deeper reefs may play a key role by providing a refuge for surface and other marine species that are negatively affected by climate change. Identifying the role of deeper reefs is crucial as bleaching events in the GBR and surrounding surface reefs are increasing as the ocean warms.
The expedition will create a rich dataset of seafloor biological and geophysical data enabling researchers to understand the habitat provided by large-scale seabed features in the region. The expedition will provide key insights that will determine if various geologic features host different biological communities, and if there are species endemic to the region. Furthermore, the information resulting from the expedition will greatly improve knowledge of these highly-valued ecosystems and is essential for their responsible management and protection.