, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 361-367
Date: 27 Feb 2010

Mesophotic coral ecosystems in the Hawaiian Archipelago

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Abstract

Efforts to map coral reef ecosystems in the Hawaiian Archipelago using optical imagery have revealed the presence of numerous scleractinian, zoothanthellate coral reefs at depths of 30–130+ m, most of which were previously undiscovered. Such coral reefs and their associated communities have been recently defined as mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs). Several types of MCEs are found in Hawai‘i, each of which dominates a different depth range and is characterized by a unique pattern of coral community structure and colony morphology. Although MCEs are documented near both ends of the archipelago and on many of the islands in between, the maximum depth and prevalence of MCEs in Hawai‘i were found to decline with increasing latitude. The Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) had significantly deeper and greater percentages of scleractinian coral, and peaks in cover of both scleractinian corals and macroalgae occurred within depth bins 20 m deeper than in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). Across the archipelago, as depth increased the combined percentage of living cover of mega benthic taxa declined sharply with increasing depth below 70 m, despite the widespread availability of hard substrate.

Communicated by Guest Editor Dr. John Marr