Coral Reefs

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 329-345

First online:

Geomorphology of mesophotic coral ecosystems: current perspectives on morphology, distribution, and mapping strategies

  • S. D. LockerAffiliated withCollege of Marine Science, University of South Florida Email author 
  • , R. A. ArmstrongAffiliated withDepartment of Marine Sciences, University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez
  • , T. A. BattistaAffiliated withNOAA/NOS/CCMA Biogeography Branch
  • , J. J. RooneyAffiliated withJoint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, University Hawaii and NOAA, NMFS, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center
  • , C. ShermanAffiliated withDepartment of Marine Sciences, University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez
  • , D. G. ZawadaAffiliated withSt. Petersburg Coastal Marine Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


This paper presents a general review of the distribution of mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) in relationship to geomorphology in US waters. It was specifically concerned with the depth range of 30–100 m, where more than 186,000 km2 of potential seafloor area was identified within the US Gulf of Mexico/Florida, Caribbean, and main Hawaiian Islands. The geomorphology of MCEs was largely inherited from a variety of pre-existing structures of highly diverse origins, which, in combination with environmental stress and physical controls, restrict the distribution of MCEs. Sea-level history, along with depositional and erosional processes, played an integral role in formation of MCE settings. However, mapping the distribution of both potential MCE topography/substrate and existing MCE habitat is only beginning. Mapping techniques pertinent to understanding morphology and MCE distributions are discussed throughout this paper. Future investigations need to consider more cost-effective and remote methods (such as autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and acoustics) in order to assess the distribution and extent of MCE habitat. Some understanding of the history of known MCEs through coring studies would help understand their initiation and response to environmental change over time, essential for assessing how they may be impacted by future environmental change.


Mesophotic Coral Geomorphology US Waters