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Assessing Deep-Sea Coral Communities from Archived Video Surveys off California

Project Goal

To quantify deep-sea corals and sponges (DSC) from archived video transects conducted from a manned submersible on rocky banks off southern California. These data are being integrated into an existing geospatial database, which represents DSC in a diverse array of demersal habitats off southern California.

Geographic Location

Southern California Bight


DSCs are quantified from archived video dives that were conducted using a manned submersible and non-extractive survey methods, on several rocky banks throughout the Southern California Bight from 2001 to 2008. Corals and sponges are being identified to the lowest possible taxonomic level and counted along 15-minute transects. Size and other attributes of these organisms are being recorded. All data are being entered into a geo-referenced, relational database, which already includes information about associated habitats (depth, temperature, bottom types), groundfishes, and transect locations.


This project is nearing completion. Thus far, 15 transects have been reviewed from 10 dive sites in water depths from 50 to 350 meters. One site in particular was home to very high densities and diversity of corals. A total of 11,719 corals from at least 20 taxa have been enumerated. Various types of sea fans were among the most abundant corals, including gold corals, purple gorgonians, and Swiftia species. Cup corals, including substantial colonies of Lophelia pertusa, also were relatively abundant. 2,862 sponges from at least 18 taxa in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors were observed. The most abundant sponges were foliose, vase, shelf, upright flat, and barrel sponges. Sponges were classified by general morphology because species identification generally requires examination of spicules from collected specimens.

Importance to Management

These data can be used in characterizations of DSC distribution and abundance throughout the Southern California Bight. This information will represent the baseline for future evaluation of change to these communities. These data will contribute to the Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Programís national data management efforts and to the development of predictive models of DSC distribution in southern California. These data have been provided to the West Coast Groundfish Essential Fish Habitat Review Committee, and also will contribute to the 2012 Status Report on Deep-sea Corals. These data will be used to improve our understanding of distribution, abundance, and hot spots of deep-sea coral, which in turn will be used to improve DSC conservation and management.


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

Fiscal Year 2010 Funding


Point of Contact

Mary Yoklavich, Mary.Yoklavich@noaa.gov

Two types of sea fans: single red stalk with white polyps (Swiftia type) and red multi-branching with yellow polyps (Swiftia pacifica), and large peach-colored cup corals on rock at 238-meter depth off southern California. Paired lasers (red dots) are 20 cm apart.

Credit: NOAA Fisheries SWFSC