Project Title: AKCSI Project 2: Investigations of predicted high diversity-high abundance coral and sponge areas in the Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska and implementation of tools and groundtruthing for predictive modeling
Project Summary

The objective of this work will be to:

  1. Develop and parameterize a model to predict coral and sponge presence using existing data on a 1 km by 1 km grid in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. 
  2. This initial model will then guide fieldwork to consist of a systematic underwater video survey of areas of predicted high abundance and diversity to ground-truth the model. 
  3. This survey will collect additional environmental variables useful for predicting coral and sponge abundance. 
  4. Finally, the new data will be incorporated into the existing model to provide a more accurate model-based description of spatial distribution of the presence, diversity and abundance of sponges and corals in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. 
Anticipated Management Application(s)

Effective management of deep coral and sponge ecosystems in Alaska requires knowledge of where these organisms occur and where they are absent. Effective management also requires knowledge of areas of high diversity and high abundance. The immensity of Alaska’s marine waters necessitates the development of predictive models to best determine where sponges and corals are located, since not every site can be explored given our available time and resources. Therefore a systematic and analytical approach to determining where coral and sponge ecosystems are present is needed. This approach needs to accurately predict the presence or absence of corals and sponges, the diversity of the community and the abundance of the organisms. Although preliminary modeling and data-mining has proved useful for generating a starting point for these analyses, data to support and groundtruth a systematic approach is not currently available for most areas of Alaska. In FY12-14 a major component of fieldwork will be to attack this glaring informational need.

The fieldwork that will be conducted in FY12-14 will be designed to provide an assessment of the distribution of coral and sponge on a region-wide scale for the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. We currently have a distribution model for coral and sponge that primarily utilizes data from bottom trawl surveys in these two areas. The predictor variables are limited to variables collected during the survey and gross bathymetric features (although some FY11-12 DSCRTP funded proposals are improving the data set). What is largely missing from these analyses are data from untrawlable regions. For these areas there is no data on the presence of corals and sponges (with the exception of a very limited number of study sites, which have been explored using underwater video, ROV, or HOVs). We know that rocky untrawlable regions are the exact habitat where coral and sponge may be most abundant and diverse, since most of these species require hard substrate for attachment. 

Location(s):
  •  None Defined.
Point of Contact: Office of the Point of Contact:
  • NMFS AFSC
Project Title: AKCSI Project 2: Investigations of predicted high diversity-high abundance coral and sponge areas in the Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska and implementation of tools and groundtruthing for predictive modeling
Methods/Approach

The objective of this work will be to:

  1. Develop and parameterize a model to predict coral and sponge presence using existing data on a 1 km by 1 km grid in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands (this effort is mostly completed). The model will provide a basis for examining where corals and sponges are most abundant and diverse in the existing data. It will also point out the areas where corals and sponges are likely to be present in high diversity or abundance, but where no information exists. 
  2. This initial model will then guide fieldwork to consist of a systematic underwater video survey of areas of predicted high abundance and diversity to ground-truth the model. 
  3. This survey will also collect additional environmental variables useful for predicting coral and sponge abundance (such as seafloor hardness measures, temperature, O2 and pH data, etc.). 
  4. Finally, the new data will be incorporated into the existing model to provide a more accurate model-based description of spatial distribution of the presence, diversity and abundance of sponges and corals in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. In turn these distributions will be used to guide management actions, through uses such as determining where predicted high abundance of coral and sponge overlaps with existing commercial fishery activity.

The fieldwork will be conducted over 15 days in each year. In the Aleutian Islands, each year will address a different region (i.e. FY12 fieldwork will be conducted in the central Aleutian Islands, FY13 fieldwork will be conducted in the eastern Aleutian Islands, and FY14 fieldwork will be conducted in the western Aleutian Islands). The work will be coordinated with existing vessel charters at the AFSC (such as the bottom trawl survey vessels to minimize the mobilization and transit costs to the study areas). A modified version of an existing stereo-video drop camera system will be used as the primary tool for determining the presence or absence of sponges and corals, the species identification and the abundance.

The fieldwork for the Gulf of Alaska portion of this project will be combined with “Project 1. Habitat Areas of Particular Concern in the Gulf of Alaska” and will utilize data on the distribution of corals and sponges collected during this fieldwork.

Project Results and Management Outcomes  None Defined
Project Title: AKCSI Project 2: Investigations of predicted high diversity-high abundance coral and sponge areas in the Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska and implementation of tools and groundtruthing for predictive modeling
Internal References:
  •  None Defined
 
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