University of Oxford researchers have contributed to a study which found that very few deep reefs have any form of protection, despite facing a multitude of threats.  With the UN Biodiversity Conference COP15 currently underway, the researchers call on policy makers to put in place specific actions and targets to protect these biodiversity hotspots.

As world leaders, government negotiators, scientists and conservationists gather at the UN Biodiversity Conference, COP15, to agree to halt and reverse nature loss, an international team of marine scientists and conservationists have made an impassioned plea for the urgent conservation of deep reefs.

Their calls are based on a new study, recently published in the journal Conservation Letters, led by scientists from the University of Oxford, Nekton (a not-for-profit research institute), and the Western Indian Ocean. This confirms for the first time that deep reef habitats, notably in the Western Indian Ocean, are largely unprotected despite being under threat from a multitude of stressors, including overfishing, pollution, climate change and, in the near future, seabed mining.

Deep reefs (found below 30 m) provide essential ecosystem services for climate change resilience, ocean health, and food security whilst also acting as a refugia for organisms threatened in shallow water, including commercially important species. Despite this, deep reefs are barely protected, even though they have a larger geographic footprint than shallow reef systems. Furthermore, the scarcity of fish in shallow waters combined with modern deep sea fishing technologies is resulting in deep reefs being increasingly exploited by coastal communities who need fish for their food security.

Read the full article about protecting coral reefs at Environmental News Network.