Marine Biology

, Volume 144, Issue 6, pp 1223–1238 | Cite as

Distribution of deep-water gorgonian corals in relation to benthic habitat features in the Northeast Channel (Atlantic Canada)

  • Pål B. Mortensen
  • Lene Buhl-Mortensen
Research Article


The distribution and abundance of deep-water gorgonian corals were investigated along 52 transects at 183–498 m depth in the Northeast Channel, between Georges Bank and Browns Bank in the northwest Atlantic, using a remotely operated vehicle and a towed video-camera system. Three species (Paragorgia arborea, Primnoa resedaeformis, and Acanthogorgia armata) were observed. Primnoa occurred on 35 transects below 196 m depth, with highest local abundance in stands of 104 colonies per 100 m2. Paragorgia was present on 21 transects deeper than 235 m, with highest local abundance of 49 colonies per 100 m2. Acanthogorgia was observed at only four transects between 231 m and 364 m, with a local maximum abundance of 199 colonies per 100 m2. The maximum abundance averaged for whole transects was 19.2 and 6.2 colonies per 100 m2 for Primnoa and Paragorgia, respectively. The corals were more common in the outer part of the channel along the shelf break and slope than on the shelf in the inner part. All three species showed a patchy distribution with no signs of competitive exclusion at any spatial scale. Transects with high abundance of corals were characterised by depths greater than 400 m, maximum temperatures less than 9.2°C, and a relatively high percentage coverage of cobble and boulder (more than 19% and 6%, respectively). High temperatures probably control the upper depth limit of the corals, and Primnoa seems to tolerate slightly higher temperatures than Paragorgia. Abundance of both species was negatively correlated with average temperature and positively with cobbles. Together, temperature, percentage cobble and salinity accounted for 38% of the variance of Primnoa. The comparable figure for Paragorgia was 15%. The observed distribution indicated that the abundance of coral is controlled by additional factors such as larger-scaled topographic features governing the current regimes and thus also the supply of food and larvae.


Video Sequence Percentage Cover Cobble Shelf Break Coral Coloni 
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This study was funded by the Environmental Studies Research Fund (ESRF), and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) of Canada. We thank Don Gordon and Anna Metaxas for organising the cruises. The ROPOS team, and the crew onboard C.C.G.S. Hudson and C.C.G.S. Martha Black were very helpful in arranging for the sampling and video recording at sea. Thanks to Dave M. McKeown for invaluable help in processing the navigation data for the Campod. We thank Ken Paul of the Canadian Hydrographic Service for providing the multi-beam bathymetric data of the Northeast Channel and Stan Johnson of the Oceans and Coastal Management Division for producing the general bathymetric map. Thanks to Don Gordon, Barry Hargrave and Shelley Armsworthy for help with the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Marine ResearchBergenNorway

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