Comparison of deep-water coral reefs and lithoherms off southeastern USA
- Cite this article as:
- Reed, J.K. Hydrobiologia (2002) 471: 57. doi:10.1023/A:1016593018389
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Two types of deep-water coral bioherms occur off the coast of southeastern United States: Oculina and Lophelia/Enallopsammia. The deep-water Oculina bioherms form an extensive reef system at depths of 70–100 m along the shelf edge off central eastern Florida. These reefs are comprised of numerous pinnacles and ridges, 3–35 m in height. Each pinnacle is a bank of unconsolidated sediment and coral debris that is capped on the slopes and crest with living and dead colonies of Oculina varicosa, the ivory tree coral. In comparison, deep-water reefs of Lophelia pertusa and Enallopsammia profunda corals occur at depths of 500–850 m (maximum 150-m relief) along the base of the Florida-Hatteras slope in the Straits of Florida. On the western edge of the Blake Plateau off South Carolina and Georgia, 54-m high banks of Enallopsammia and Lophelia occur at depths of 490–550 m, whereas on the eastern edge of the plateau the reefs form structures 146 m in height and at depths of 640–869 m. The geomorphology and functional structure of both the Oculina and Lophelia reefs are similar. North of Little Bahama Bank, at depths of 1000–1300 m, a region of bioherms is dominated by the coral Solenosmilia sp.; Lophelia is reportedly absent. This paper summarizes 25 years of submersible studies on the deep-water Oculina reefs, describes submersible reconnaissance of deep-water Lophelia reefs off the southeastern United States, and contrasts these types of bioherms with the deep-water lithoherms in the Straits of Florida west of the Bahamas.