Field Initiative Title: Pacific Islands Deep-Sea Coral and Sponge Initiative (PICSI)

The Pacific Islands Deep-Sea Coral and Sponge Initiative (PICSI) will map and characterize deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems in select areas of Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Islands through systematic field surveys that utilize bathymetry and other seascape features to prioritize survey locations. A particular focus of this effort will be to determine depth limits and distribution gradients of deep-sea coral and sponge communities, and if topographically induced acceleration of bottom currents is a major driver of community location. If the opportunity and vessel capability arises, the PICSI will also incorporate projects that examine the biology and ecology of deep-sea corals and sponges, and will set up a series of sampling stations in known locations with deep-sea corals and sponges in order to determine ages, growth rates, fecundities and reproductive rates of these organisms, as well as prevalent environmental parameters that characterize these assemblages. These projects will also include collections of specimens that will be used to resolve questions on the taxonomy and genetic connectivity of deep-sea corals and sponges at different locations of the Pacific Islands Region. Finally, the PISCI will support efforts to determine the length of time that deep-sea coral and sponge communities need in order to recover from anthropogenic and natural disturbances. Throughout this project, we hope to (1) advance NOAA’s Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program priorities, (2) develop long-term collaborative relationships between scientists from different offices, and (3) advance our knowledge of deep-sea corals and sponges in the U.S. Pacific Islands in order to improve the management of these important resources. 

Fiscal Funding:
  • FY 2015 @ $825,000

  • Western Pacific Council
  •  None Defined.
Point of Contact: Office of the Point of Contact:
Participating Offices:
Field Initiative Title: Pacific Islands Deep-Sea Coral and Sponge Initiative (PICSI)

This project is to conduct an extensive review of existing deep-sea coral and sponge data obtained from Hawaii and the US Pacific Islands in order to build a working database of known species and depth ranges.  In addition to being a planning tool for the overall project, the ultimate destination of the records will be the DSCRTP National Database to supplement material that has already been incorporated and to provide as complete a dataset as possible for the US Pacific.  The most potentially useful types of existing data include archived video records from submersible and ROV dives, museum database records of specimens collected from deep water in the U.S. Pacific, and water quality data from CTD casts.

Conduct multibeam mapping and use the mapping data to determine the best sites to place diving assets to investigate the deep-sea biological communities. 

Conduct visual surveys to locate and characterise deep-sea coral communities in the marine national monuments and American Samoa.

Determine the population connectivity of Antipathes griggi across small and large scales, and utilizing historical and new data to model the population demographics and distribution. 

The objective of this project is twofold: (1) to characterize the growth rates and minimum size of reproductive maturity of the three commercially valuable Hawaiian black coral species (Antipathes griggi, A. grandis and Myriopathes cf. ulex) in Hawaii, and (2) to conduct a taxonomic survey of black coral populations accessible through mixed-gas technical diving off American Samoa.

Each lava flow represents a severe but localized disturbance event that created fresh substrata and restarted the ecological clock on community succession of the deep-water coral communities. This project will compare communities on successively older lava flows to each other and to "undisturbed" control communities adjacent to each flow (usually of much older age), to reconstruct patterns and timelines of community succession.

The Geologist Seamounts are a ring of ancient volcanoes, estimated to be approximately 80 million years old, within 100 miles southwest of the Big Island of Hawaii. Only three of the 12 major seamounts comprising this ring have ever been visited, two of which by only single, relatively short submersible dives back in 1996. We predict that dense communities of corals and sponges will be found on some of these seamounts, but not on others, and the reason is due to differences in their shapes and orientations relative to the direction of the M2 tide.  We propose to explore for the first time ever three ridge-type seamounts, Swordfish, Ellis, and McCall, during 3 separate cruises in years 2015-2017.

Environmental data loggers have been opportunistically deployed and collected on Pisces submersible dives over the last few years such that an acoustic current meter and 9 flow meters with thermographs, which are all still on the bottom waiting for recovery. This project will recover these instruments and their data to create a coordinated approach to documented environmental differences at known sites.

Conduct multibeam and backscatter surveys during ancillary missions on board NOAA Ship Hi‘ialakai in American Samoa, Pacific Remote Islands, Hawaiian Islands, and the Mariana Archipelago.