About the book
This book will summarize the current status of research on major sessile taxa which belong to the Cnidaria phylum and able to form bioconstructions and/or forests on both hard and soft sea bottoms (i.e., sessile Hydrozoa and/or Anthozoa such as Antipatharia, Alcyonacea, Pennatulacea and Scleractinia). In particular, the book will address gaps in coral research and studied taxa. The so called “animal forest” provides several ecosystem services such as food, protection, and nursery for the associated fauna. It plays an important role in local hydrodynamics and biogeochemical cycles near the sea floor and also acts as a carbon sink. Animal forests are highly productive ecosystems and contribute to biosphere health. During the last decades increasing evidence of importance of these peculiar assemblages emerged, and at the same time drastic changes in marine ecosystems occurred due to human-induced impacts, especially on benthic ecosystems. In fact, due to a diverse number of natural and anthropogenic stressors, corals from shallow to deepest waters have shown a severe decline over the past few decades, showing a dramatic loss of biomass and biodiversity all over the world. An increasing scientific and management interest, in particular on mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) and cold water corals (CWCs) is expressed in the last decades. Despite the growing evidence of their importance, scientific knowledge on deeper communities is still in its early stages. This book proposes to analyze several aspects regarding distribution, complexity, ecology, biodiversity, connectivity, species interactions, community organization, and impact on coral assemblages following a pattern of depth, starting from shallow water, passing through mesophotic, and up to the deepest ones, distinguishing between hard and soft substrates, and presenting the most recent discoveries of coral presence in the deepest waters. Moreover, the history of research in the field, describing different approaches needed to study corals in shallow and deep sea can be presented. Considering the vulnerability to several anthropic stressors, a part of the book should address the status of conservation of coral forests and needed information on implementation of sustainable management measures.