Project Title: Relating Distribution and Abundance of Deep-sea Coral Communities to Habitats using Predictive Models and Broad-scale Seafloor Maps
Goal or Purpose

To relate abundance of deep-sea coral communities (DSC) to habitats using predictive models and broad-scale seafloor maps.

Anticipated Management Application(s)

The development of habitat-based predictive models of DSC distribution and abundance will assist scientists in locating and characterizing DSC ecosystems, and in understanding the biology and ecology of these communities in southern California. Habitat-based predictive models of DSC will assist researchers and managers in understanding habitat requirements of DSC, and in prioritizing areas for future field research and possible protection.

Fiscal Funding:
  • FY 2011 @ $49,800

 
Region(s):
  •  None Defined.
Location(s):
  • Southern California Bight
Location of some of the data sources for the initial modeling effort (Footprint and Piggy Banks in the Footprint EFH area of the Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary). Seafloor map is hill-shaded bathymetry derived from a high-resolution multibeam survey conducted by G. Cochrane (USGS Western Region Coastal and Marine Division). Credit: NOAA Fisheries SWFSC
Project Type:
  • Habitat Suitability Modeling
Point of Contact: Office of the Point of Contact:
  • NMFS SWFSC
Team Members:
  • David Huff david.huff@noaa.gov
Project Title: Relating Distribution and Abundance of Deep-sea Coral Communities to Habitats using Predictive Models and Broad-scale Seafloor Maps
Methods/Approach

Statistical models are being developed to predict densities of some members of DSC off southern California. A variety of models will be considered, and will be based on a number of associated habitat variables (e.g., depth, substratum type, temperature) and abundance data of DSC taxa quantified from visual surveys. Model predictions will be validated using additional datasets not used in the original model development. Model output will be coupled with seafloor habitat maps in a geographical information systems (GIS) environment to predict DSC distribution and abundance on a broader scale. The strong affinities that many DSC have to specific habitat characteristics result in patchy spatial distributions of their abundances. Coverage of habitat maps at resolutions useful to predict DSC occurrence and extrapolate them over broad areas of the seafloor has been limited. Most recently, coastwide seafloor habitat maps of substratum type and depth of varying levels of accuracy and resolution have been developed for assessment of west coast groundfish essential fish habitat; parts of these maps have been improved particularly off California with high-resolution multibeam acoustic data and interpreted habitats.

A post-doctoral scholar (David Huff) has been identified to work on this project and has been contracted through University of California Santa Cruz. A database has been compiled to support our objective of developing statistical models that predict densities of DSC. Several metrics from in-situ data will be used in the predictive modeling, including depth, temperature, sediment types, habitat patch heterogeneity, and DSC counts, density, and sizes. The contracted researcher will use these data to develop and evaluate the models, apply results to broad-based distributional maps of benthic habitats, and to interpret ecological significance of results.

Project Results and Management Outcomes
  • Results of this study are published in a paper titled "Environmental factors that influence the distribution, size, and biotic relationships of the Christmas tree coral Antipathes dendrochristos in the Southern California Bight"
  • Our analysis revealed that high surface primary productivity in combination with depth and January currents are important predictors of Christmas tree coral density. Higher coral density coincided with greater chlorophyll persistence and optimal depths near 400 m. Surface productivity increasingly was associated with Christmas tree corals at shallower depths. Our results supported the hypothesis that ocean currents affect coral density via larval dispersal mechanisms. The selected coral size models responded to similar covariates, corroborating coral density results. Fish and invertebrate ordinations indicated that Christmas tree corals were widely distributed across environmental gradients and that Christmas tree corals co-occurred with several demersal fish and invertebrates. Several predicted coral hotspots remain unprotected from fishing, particularly in areas adjacent to highly populated portions of the Southern California Bight. These regions should be targeted by future studies to confirm the presence of Christmas tree coral communities and to evaluate their vulnerability.
Project Title: Relating Distribution and Abundance of Deep-sea Coral Communities to Habitats using Predictive Models and Broad-scale Seafloor Maps
Internal References:
  •  None Defined
 
Backlinks:

FY11_04_image.jpg
Location of some of the data sources for the initial modeling effort (Footprint and Piggy Banks in the Footprint EFH area of the Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary). Seafloor map is hill-shaded bathymetry derived from a high-resolution multibeam survey conducted by G. Cochrane (USGS Western Region Coastal and Marine Division). Credit: NOAA Fisheries SWFSC