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

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. This project began in 2016 and will run through 2019.

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: Thorny tinselfish swimming above a dense aggregation of deep-sea corals at 496 m on the West Florida Slope in an area that is currently being considered for the establishment of a new habitat of particular concern by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. The community was surveyed using ROV Odysseus during a 2017 SEDCI-supported expedition aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster (credit: NOAA-Pelagic Research Services).
Right: A dense community of black corals and crinoids at 122 m depth on Elvers Bank in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico in an area that is currently being considered for expansion of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. The community was surveyed using ROV Mohawk during a 2017 SEDCI-supported expedition aboard R/V Manta (credit: NOAA-FGBNMS/UNCW-UVP).

What We Are Doing:

SEDCI conducts multiple research expeditions each year, which survey deep-sea coral ecosystems using ships, 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:  

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



Fiscal Funding:
  • FY 2016 @ $402,000
  • FY 2017 @ $720,000
Total Funding:

$1,122,000

 
Region(s):
  • South Atlantic Council
  • Gulf of Mexico Council
  • Caribbean Council
Location(s):
  • Flower Garden Banks
  • North Carolina Canyons
  • Oculina Bank
  • Puerto Rico
  • West Florida Slope
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:
  • NESDIS NCEI
  • NMFS NEFSC NSL
  • NMFS SEFSC
  • NOS FGBNMS
  • NOS NCCOS CCEHBR
  • NOS NCCOS CCMA
  • OAR OER
Field Initiative Title: Southeast Deep Coral Initiative (SEDCI): exploring deep-sea coral ecosystems off the Southeast U.S.
Internal References:
 
Backlinks:

Presentations and Outreach Materials: Deep-sea corals of the Southeast U.S.: insights from NOAA’s National Database of Deep-Sea Coral & Sponges. Poster presentation. 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting. Portland, Oregon
Hourigan, T.F. *, McGuinn, R.P., Etnoyer, P.J., Wagner, D., Dornback, L.M., Poti, M.D., Coleman, H.M.

Overview of the Southeast Deep Coral Initiative (SEDCI)
Primary Overview of the Initiative ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

VIDEO: Living in the dark: expedition in search of deep-sea corals
Video courtesy of Ralf Meyer, Green Fire Productions

VIDEO: Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary R/V Manta 2017 expedition
Video courtesy of Eric Glidden, Undersea Vehicle Program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SPECIES PHOTOS: Deep-sea coral images from the Southeast U.S. Region

SPECIES PHOTOS: Deep-sea fish photos from Southeast U.S. Region

SPECIES PHOTOS: Deep-sea sponge photos from Southeast U.S. Region
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

FEATURE STORY: NOAA broadcasts live exploration of deep-sea habitats in Gulf of Mexico
NOS Weekly News Story. April 19, 2018

FEATURE STORY: NOAA begins mission to explore deep-sea habitats in Gulf of Mexico
NCCOS News Story. April 12, 2018

FEATURE STORY: NCCOS research featured at Ocean Sciences Meeting
NCCOS News Story. February 27, 2018

FEATURE STORY: NCCOS Charleston supports deep-sea telepresence explorations by NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
NCCOS News Story. December 21, 2017

FEATURE STORY: Successful second year of NOAA initiative to study deep-sea corals in the U.S. Southeast
OAR Hub News Story. November 29, 2017

FEATURE STORY: NOAA’s deep-sea coral study in U.S. Southeast completes second year
NCCOS News Story. November 28, 2017

FEATURE STORY: NCCOS Hosts Deep-Sea Coral Identification Workshop
NCCOS News Story. August 10, 2017

FEATURE STORY: Taxonomic guide of Bermuda’s black corals published
NCCOS News Story. November 13, 2017

FEATURE STORY: Southeast Deep Coral Initiative: successful second year of deep-sea coral explorations off the Southeast United States
Deep-Sea Life, issue 10. November 2017

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

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

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

FEATURE STORY: Deep-Sea Coral Initiative in the Southeast: first-year successes
NOS Weekly Update. January 12, 2017.

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

FEATURE STORY: 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.

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.

PC-1605: August 24-September 4, 2016   Chief Scientist: Martha Nizinski

NF-1708: August 13-31, 2017  Chief Scientist: Peter Etnoyer (Leg 1: August 13-24) and Daniel Wagner (Leg 2: August 27-31)

PC-1704: August 28-September 8, 2017   Chief Scientist: Martha Nizinski

DFH-32 and 33: September 21-October 1, 2017   Chief Scientist: Emma Hickerson

EX1803: April 11-May 3, 2018)  Science Leads: Adam Skarke and Daniel Wagner