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Deep-Sea Coral Community Research off California

Project Goal

To describe habitat-specific patterns in the distribution of invertebrates, that provide structure to seafloor communities on the continental shelf off southern California.

Geographic Location

Santa Barbara Channel, Southern CA


Presence or absence information for benthic macro-invertebrates, such as deep-sea corals, and associated habitat (i.e., location, sediment type, and depth) were collected within the Santa Barbara Channel off southern California using a towed camera sled. From the surveys, models were developed to predict the probability of occurrence of five commonly observed taxa (cup corals, hydroids, short and tall sea pens, and brittle stars in the sediment). The models were coupled with a seafloor character map of depth and sediment types to produce predictive maps of probability of occurrence of these taxa.


Field surveys along northern California were completed in summer 2010. The seafloor in state waters from the Oregon/California border to San Francisco Bay was mapped and ground truthed. Probability maps of distribution of benthic taxa in southern California state waters are completed.

Importance to Management

The combination of high-resolution seafloor character maps and predictive models of invertebrate distributions will aid managers in identifying habitats of particular concern and areas with vulnerable corals. Our models will be useful for marine spatial planning and ecosystem-based management as well as for assessing the effectiveness of essential fish habitat closures and other marine protected areas.


More on this project and the associated CA Seafloor Mapping Program can be found at:
(see specifically section on Data Collection/Ground-truthing).

NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center Habitat Ecology Team Homepage: http://swfsc.noaa.gov/HabitatEcology/

Fiscal Year 2009 Funding


Point of Contact

Mary Yoklavich, Mary.Yoklavich@noaa.gov