Do you know what a coral is? Surely, you do, and I’m sure you know just how important their reefs are to marine biodiversity, as well as how climate change is negatively impacting them. Now, did you know what a sea pen was before reading this page, or what its importance was?
When we hear the word coral we imagine reef-forming stony corals, limited to tropical, shallow regions of the world’s ocean. We would generally not start thinking about other types of corals, such as the soft corals (Octocorallia) which include gorgonians and sea pens. Despite their global distribution from the ocean’s depths to its shallow waters, from the tropics to its polar caps, these soft corals remain understudied and less well known. By being aware of the existence and importance of other types of corals, such as the sea pen, the public can gain a greater understanding of the ocean, the biogenic habitats within, and the importance of even seemingly unimportant animals in maintaining its biodiversity. This is particularly the case for Gibraltarians, since the study focused on a particular species in its coastal waters and can help increase interest in local sea pen meadows for divers and environmental policymakers. To help increase the public’s knowledge on local sea pens, a factsheet was created and distributed as part of this MSc project.