The COMARGE project came up with the acknowledgement that the biodiversity of continental margins can neither be assessed nor understood without considering their structural and functional complexity. During the past few decades, our understanding of deep continental-margin habitats has changed more than for any other large area of Earth. Higher resolution bathymetry and increased bottom sampling revealed that areas once envisioned as monotonous landscapes have a high degree of complexity and diversity. The great variety of geological and hydrological settings on continental slopes produces many different habitats. Continental margins are both very complex and active regions ecologically, geologically, chemically, and hydrodynamically. Fundamental patterns of species distribution first observed and explained in the context of monotonous slopes had to be re-evaluated in light of the newly recognized heterogeneity.
The COMARGE science plan was discussed and finalized during a community workshop held in 2006. Three main questions have been identified as major unknowns regarding continental margin ecology: