New study highlights unique biodiversity and ecological functioning of deep reefs

The new study, recently published in the journal, Science of the Total Environment, led by scientists from the University of Oxford, Nekton, and the Western Indian Ocean (WIO), discovered biological communities including fish, coral, sponges and algae that are entirely unique to deep reefs in the Seychelles.

Dr Paris Stefanoudis, Post-doctoral Researcher at Department of Biology, University of Oxford and Nekton, reported:

“The unique functional diversity characteristics of deep reef communities, indicated that deep reef communities respond differently to disturbance events including temperature rise, invasive species or habitat destruction compared to shallow reefs, and that response can sometimes vary between fish and benthos ”

Turtle glides over deep reef in seychelles

A photo of the edge of a deep-see reef. C: Nekton

Previous research by the team has revealed that very few deep reefs have any form of protection, despite having a larger geographic footprint to shallow reefs, and are facing a multitude of threats that are set only to escalate in the near future. In combination, these studies have clear implications for conservation and management.

Dr Lucy Woodall, Associate Professor at University of Exeter and Nekton Principal Scientist explains:

“Providing information on how reef ecosystem functioning changes across depth and showing the clear difference between shallow and deep reefs, indicates that deep reefs – that are traditionally ignored in conservation planning - would likely benefit from targeted marine management and planning activities”.


This is a first from the under-explored Western Indian Ocean region, and the study also provides the foundation on which similar studies can build in the future regionally and globally.

Dr Melita Samoilys, Co-Director of CORDIO East Africa, adds:

“The baseline information on the biodiversity, trait composition and functioning of Seychelles' deep reefs that we provide in this study is one of the handful of studies to do so from the Western Indian Ocean, whose deep reefs are particularly poorly described.”

The full paper can be read here in the journal Science of the Total Environment: