Field Initiative Title: Southeast Deep Coral Initiative (SEDCI): exploring deep-sea coral ecosystems off the Southeast U.S.
Abstract

Project Status:  

This project began in 2016 and will run through 2019.

In 2016, NOAA’s Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program started a four-year initiative to study deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems off the Southeast United States. The initiative is a cross-line office effort that includes scientists from NOS, NMFS, OAR and NESDIS, and works in close collaboration with federal and academic partners to collect scientific information needed to manage deep-sea corals throughout the Southeast U.S. Region.

Why We Care:

Deep-sea corals, also known as cold-water corals, are corals that do not rely on sunlight, and therefore are typically found in deeper waters (>50 m). Deep-sea corals occur in all oceans, and under favorable conditions, form dense aggregations that create habitat for a myriad of species. These ecosystems are some of the richest and most diverse in the deep sea, yet they are often overlooked by managers, scientists and the general public, who may be unaware that rich and diverse communities can thrive in deep waters under the right conditions. While deep-sea coral ecosystems are out of sight and out of mind to most, they are not immune to anthropogenic impacts, as deep-sea trawling, oil and gas exploration, submarine cable laying and ocean acidification threaten these systems much more than their shallow-water counterparts. Deep-water corals are particularly vulnerable to such impacts, because they are typically slow growing and long lived (on the orders of centuries to millennia), and as a result require very long timescales to recover from disturbances. The objective of SEDCI is to study deep-sea coral ecosystems throughout the Southeast United States in order to further the management, conservation and protection of these important deep-water ecosystems.

Left: A dense aggregation of the deep-sea coral Lophelia pertusa at 500 m in the Gulf of Mexico (credit: Lophelia II Reefs, Rigs, and Wrecks, NOAA-OER-BOEM). Right: Deep-water black coral Leiopathes glaberrima in the Caribbean Sea. Individuals of this species have been dated to be over 2,000 years old, making them some of the longest-living marine species on Earth (credit: Ocean  Exploration Trust).

What We Are Doing:

SEDCI conducts multiple research expeditions each year, which survey deep-sea coral ecosystems using ships, deep-sea submersibles and other equipment. Additionally, SEDCI conducts complementary research projects focused on seafloor mapping, species identification, habitat suitability monitoring, environmental monitoring and data mining. These efforts will provide important baseline information that is needed to support management efforts of deep-sea coral ecosystems throughout the Southeast United States.

Benefits/Impact of our Work:

The priorities of SEDCI were developed in consultation with fishery management councils, national marine sanctuaries and other resource managers of the Southeast United States, including partners from the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). There are several proposals for the establishment of new managed areas in deep waters of the Southeast United States, including proposed expansions of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, potential new habitat areas of particular concern in the Gulf of Mexico, and new special management zones in the U.S. South Atlantic. SEDCI expeditions will survey many of these proposed managed areas in 2016-2019, and thereby provide important information that is needed to evaluate these proposals.

Regions of Study:  

SEDCI focuses on studying deep-sea (>50 m) coral ecosystems throughout the Southeast U.S., a region including the U.S. federal waters of the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Bight. This area corresponds to the cumulative extent of the jurisdictions of three fishery management councils, including the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils (CFMC, GMFMC, SAFMC). Furthermore, this area includes numerous areas where deep-water corals are protected, including three national marine sanctuaries, and various other marine protected areas. SEDCI focuses on surveying deep waters in and around these areas in order to support management efforts.

Primary Contacts:  

Daniel Wagner, NCCOS (daniel.wagner@noaa.gov)
Peter Etnoyer, NCCOS (peter.etnoyer@noaa.gov)
Tom Hourigan, DSCRTP (tom.hourigan@noaa.gov)  
Heather Coleman, DSCRTP (heather.coleman@noaa.gov)



Fiscal Funding:
  •  None Defined.

 
Region(s):
  • South Atlantic Council
  • Gulf of Mexico Council
  • Caribbean Council
Location(s):
  • Cape Hatteras
  • Flower Garden Banks
Map showing the three geographic regions where the Southeast Deep Coral Initiative (SEDCI) will operate in 2016-2019. Areas where deep-sea corals are protected through fishing restrictions are shown in orange (credit: NOAA).
Point of Contact: Office of the Point of Contact:
  • NOS NCCOS
Participating Offices:
  • NMFS NEFSC NSL
  • NMFS SEFSC
  • NOS FGBNMS
  • NOS NCCOS CCEHBR
  • NOS NCCOS CCMA
  • OAR OER

Presentations and Outreach Materials: Overview presentation of the Southeast Deep Coral Initiative

Presentations and Outreach Materials: Deep-sea coral images from the Southeast U.S. Region

Presentations and Outreach Materials: Deep-sea fish photos from Southeast U.S. Region

Presentations and Outreach Materials: Deep-sea sponge photos from Southeast U.S. Region

News and Feature Stories: Multiple expeditions to explore and map deep-sea coral ecosystems in the Southeast United States in 2017. Deep-Sea Life, issue 9. May 2017.

News and Feature Stories: NOAA multi-year effort to study deep-sea corals in the Southeast US. OAR Hub News Story. April 21, 2017.

News and Feature Stories: Southeast Deep Coral Initiative: NOAA multi-year effort to study deep-sea corals. NCCOS News Story. April 6, 2017.

News and Feature Stories: Deep-Sea Coral Initiative in the Southeast: first-year successes. NOS Weekly Update. January 12, 2017.

News and Feature Stories: Successful first year of NOAA’s Deep-Sea Coral Initiative in the Southeast. NCCOS News Story. January 12, 2017.

News and Feature Stories: New NOAA four-year research initiative to study deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems in the Southeast United States. Deep-Sea Life, issue 8. November 2016.

News and Feature Stories: NCCOS to lead deep-sea coral research initiative in Southeast US. NCCOS News Story. September 20, 2016.

SEDCI Operation Area
Map showing the three geographic regions where the Southeast Deep Coral Initiative (SEDCI) will operate in 2016-2019. Areas where deep-sea corals are protected through fishing restrictions are shown in orange (credit: NOAA).

Lophelia

Black Coral
Field Initiative Title: Southeast Deep Coral Initiative (SEDCI): exploring deep-sea coral ecosystems off the Southeast U.S.
There are no projects defined at this time.