Report

Coral Reefs

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 361-367

Mesophotic coral ecosystems in the Hawaiian Archipelago

  • J. RooneyAffiliated withPacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, University Hawai‘i and NOAA, NMFS Email author 
  • , E. DonhamAffiliated withPacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, University Hawai‘i and NOAA, NMFS
  • , A. MontgomeryAffiliated withDivision of Aquatic Resources, Department of Land and Natural Resources
  • , H. SpaldingAffiliated withBotany Department, University of Hawai‘i Manoa
  • , F. ParrishAffiliated withPacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, NOAA, NMFS
  • , R. BolandAffiliated withPacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, NOAA, NMFS
  • , D. FennerAffiliated withDepartment of Marine and Wildlife Resources
  • , J. GoveAffiliated withPacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, University Hawai‘i and NOAA, NMFS
  • , O. VetterAffiliated withPacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, University Hawai‘i and NOAA, NMFS

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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.

Keywords

Mesophotic coral ecosystem Hawai‘i Main Hawaiian Islands Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral morphology Coral distribution