Black coral has been traditionally collected in the Sea of Cortez to make jewellery, a practice that eventually led to its over-exploitation and the current need for it to be protected. In an effort to learn more about the population status of black coral (Antipathes galapagensis) and determine how best to conserve and restore it, we are working with Dr Antonella Lavorato in collaboration with the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur, in La Paz. Dr Lavorato was the first locally-based researcher to receive one of our scholarships.
Antonella’s interest is to study these deep coral ecosystems with a specific focus on black corals, because they are important engineer species in cold and deep water ecosystems. These black coral forests serve the same function as coral reefs do in warm shallow waters, creating three-dimensional living space for a diverse variety of marine life and serving as nurseries and refuges for many juvenile fish species. In addition to evaluating the current conditions of black coral populations around the Espiritu Santo Archipelago and providing management tools for these ecosystems, Dr Lavorato’s research will establish a species baseline and critical point of reference for black coral in the Tropical Eastern Pacific.