Coral Reefs

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 361–367 | Cite as

Mesophotic coral ecosystems in the Hawaiian Archipelago

  • J. RooneyEmail author
  • E. Donham
  • A. Montgomery
  • H. Spalding
  • F. Parrish
  • R. Boland
  • D. Fenner
  • J. Gove
  • O. Vetter


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.


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



This research was made possible by grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coral Reef Conservation Program to the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. Additional support was provided by the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program to the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. Submersible support was provided by NOAA Undersea Research Program’s Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory under award NA05OAR4301108. The assistance of Scott Ferguson, Rusty Brainard and the staff of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division and the officers and crew of the NOAA ships O.E. Sette and Hi‘ialakai are gratefully acknowledged. Steve Coles of Bishop Museum provided taxonomic identification of coral samples. Frances Lichowski assisted with the preparation of Figures. Several anonymous reviewers made numerous suggestions to improve this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Rooney
    • 1
    Email author
  • E. Donham
    • 1
  • A. Montgomery
    • 2
  • H. Spalding
    • 3
  • F. Parrish
    • 4
  • R. Boland
    • 4
  • D. Fenner
    • 5
  • J. Gove
    • 1
  • O. Vetter
    • 1
  1. 1.Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric ResearchUniversity Hawai‘i and NOAA, NMFSHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Division of Aquatic Resources, Department of Land and Natural ResourcesHonoluluUSA
  3. 3.Botany DepartmentUniversity of Hawai‘i ManoaHonoluluUSA
  4. 4.Pacific Islands Fisheries Science CenterNOAA, NMFSHonoluluUSA
  5. 5.Department of Marine and Wildlife ResourcesPago PagoAmerican Samoa

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