Deep-sea sponge grounds: Reservoirs of biodiversity (2010)

Author: Hogg, M.M., Tendal, O.S., Conway, K.W., Pomponi, S.A., Van Soest, R.W.M., Gutt, J., Krautter, M., Roberts, J.M.
Date Published: January 2010
ISBN: 978-92-807-3081-4
Deep-sea sponge grounds

Biodiversity Series 32

This report draws together scientific understanding of deep-water sponge grounds alongside the threats they face and ways in which they can be conserved. Beginning with a summary of research approaches, sponge biology and biodiversity, the report also gives up-to-date case studies of particular deep-water sponge habitats from around the world. These include the spectacular giant glass sponge reefs of British Columbia – a relic of the time of the dinosaurs – and the diverse sponge kingdom of Antarctica. Long-overlooked, recent research now shows that deep-water sponge grounds form complex, slow-growing and long-lived habitats in many parts of the global ocean. As well as forming local biodiversity centres, deep-water sponges are also storehouses of novel chemical compounds, some of which show promise in the fight against cancer and other diseases.

Despite their inherent and biotechnological value, deep-water sponge grounds have been damaged by bottom fishing. This report considers the international policy context in which deep-water sponge grounds can be conserved and concludes with a series of expert recommendations for conservation managers and international policy makers. The recommendations set out a series of actions so that these vulnerable marine ecosystems can be conserved for future generations.