Investigating mesophotic coral ecosystems in the waters surrounding the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) is the purpose of a National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science-supported research mission. Mesophotic coral ecosystems – ‘meso’ for middle and ‘photic’ for light – are the deepest of the light-dependent coral reefs and are found at depths of 50-100 m (100-330 feet) in the U.S. Caribbean.
These largely unexplored mesophotic coral ecosystems may serve as sources to reseed or replenish degraded shallow-water coral reef species. The mission investigates mesophotic coral ecosystems found in the Mona Passage, off eastern Puerto Rico, and off the USVI islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix, aboard the M/V Spree from April 15 to May 5, 2011. The participants are scientists and students from the University of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Coral Reef Institute in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
This research mission is complementary to the NCCOSDeep-Coral Reef Ecosystems Studies Program.