Title:
Exploring the Mesophotic Zone of Cyprus UK Overseas Territories (Mesophos)

Duration:
1 year (April 2024 – March 2025)

Partners:
Blue Marine Foundation (BMF)

Funded by:
Darwin Plus, Biodiversity Challenge Funds

Scientific advisors:
Jason M. Hall-Spencer

Project Description:

The Mesophos project aims to significantly enhance our scientific understanding and conservation of the mesophotic ecosystems within the Cyprus UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs), which span depths between 50 to 200 meters. These critical ecosystems, characterized by their intermediate light penetration and significant biodiversity, remain relatively under-researched and poorly understood.

Utilizing advanced remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), the Mesophos initiative will conduct mapping and ecological assessment of these zones. The project focuses on key marine communities, notably corals, sponges, and maerl beds, which are pivotal for the ecological health and resilience of marine systems. These ecosystems are essential for the survival of numerous marine species and act as indicators of environmental changes, thus necessitating detailed study and understanding. The Mesophos project employs a multi-disciplinary approach:

  • ROV surveys: Mapping and ecological assessment using ROVs equipped with cameras and environmental sensors to accurately characterize the mesophotic zones.
  • Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) surveys: Collaborative engagements with local fishing communities and managers/authorities (Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, and Sovereign Base Areas Administration) to gather historical and current ecological data, integrating these insights with scientific findings to inform habitat assessments.
  • Data collection and analysis: Systematic collection of data focusing on benthic communities, followed by statistical and spatial analysis to identify ecological patterns, species distribution, and habitat health.

The insights gained from the Mesophos project will guide the formulation of ecological maps, encompassing biodiversity indices and habitat condition metrics. The results will inform strategic management actions aimed at conserving these fragile habitats. This holistic approach aims to create a sustainable balance between local community interests and environmental conservation needs, fostering long-term ecological and socio-economic benefits.

We depend on your contributions to detect and map these essential habitats. If you have any relevant information, please share it with us at info@merresearch.com.

 

The project is funded by the UK Government through DARWIN PLUS (Reference: DPL00075)