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Distribution of Deep-Water Corals along the North American Continental Margins: Relationships with Environmental Factors

31 Dec 2006

Despite the increasing attention to assemblages of deep-water corals in the past decade, much of this research has been focused on documenting and enumerating associated fauna. However, an understanding of the distribution of most species of coral and the ecological processes associated with these assemblages is still lacking. In this study, we qualitatively and quantitatively described the habitats of two families of deep-water corals in relation to six oceanographic factors (depth, slope, temperature, current, chlorophyll a concentration and substrate) on the Pacific and Atlantic Continental Margins of North America (PCM and ACM study areas, respectively). This study focused primarily on the distributions of Primnoidae and Paragorgiidae because of the large number of documented occurrences. For each environmental factor, deep-water coral locations were compared to the surrounding environment using χ2 tests. On both continental margins, coral locations were found to be not randomly distributed within the study areas, but were within specific ranges for most environmental factors. In the PCM study area, Paragorgiidae and Primnoidae locations were found in areas with slopes ranging from 0° to 10.0°, temperature from −2.0 to 11.0°C and currents from 0 to 143cms−1. In the ACM study area, Paragorgiidae and Primnoidae locations were found in areas with slopes ranging from 0° to 1.4°, temperature ranging from 0 to 11.0°C and currents ranging from 0 to 207cms−1. Although the patterns in habitat characteristics were similar, differences existed between families with respect to particular environmental factors. In both study areas, most environmental parameters in locations where corals occurred were significantly different from the average values of these parameters as determined with χ2 tests (p0.05) except for substrate in Paragorgiidae locations and depth in Primnoidae locations on the PCM. This is the first study to show coral distributional patterns at the continental shelf/slope scale.

Status: Completed

Type: Staff Publications

Author: Tanya Bryan, Anna Metaxas

Year of publication: 2006

Publisher: Oceanographic Research Papers

Tags: coral reefs North America water

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