Deep-sea corals create the most important biologically-structured habitats in the deep sea, and support ecosystems of astonishing variety and biodiversity. They are also among the slowest growing and longest-lived animals in the ocean, with longevities of hundreds to thousands of years. These characteristics make deep-sea corals vulnerable to climate change and human activities that damage the seafloor or alter the surrounding environment. As a result, corals have become central to national and international deep-sea conservation efforts.

This report reviews how research over the last two decades is improving our understanding of the biology and ecology of deep-sea corals and the ecosystems they support in New Zealand waters and adjacent regions in the South Pacific. Written by the leading experts in the field, it captures the richness of New Zealand’s deep-sea coral species. The report also describes how researchers are combining mapping and oceanographic studies with new scientific approaches, such as population genetics and predictive habitat modelling, to understand where corals occur and how they are likely to respond to impacts ranging from deep-sea mining to ocean acidification.

Building on this scientific research, New Zealand has been at the forefront of efforts to conserve deep-sea corals. It was the first country to officially identify major groups of deep-sea corals as protected species, and also been an international leader in protecting major portions of the nation’s exclusive economic zone from impacts of bottom trawling. The report provides a brief overview of threats and New Zealand’s forward-looking framework for management. It also provides the first compilation of information on deep-sea corals from Antarctica’s Ross Sea and the larger South Pacific Regional Fishery Management Organization region. This publication, which is available online, sets the stage for future research and conservation and will serve as an important reference for years to come.

Tracey, D.M. & Hjorvarsdottir, F. (eds, comps) (2019). The State of Knowledge of Deep-Sea Corals in the New Zealand Region. NIWA Science and Technology Series Number 84. 140 p.