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Predictive Models and Distribution Maps of Deep-Sea Corals off California

Project Goal

To develop predictive models based on presence/absence data of deep-sea corals and associated information on location, depth, and substratum type, and then produce maps of deep-sea coral distribution in coastal waters off California (to 3 miles offshore) by coupling model outputs with broad-scale, high-resolution maps of depth and substratum types.

Geographic Location



Comprehensive data sets that include 17,866 geo-referenced samples of more than 76,000 organisms in 70 taxonomic categories and associated habitat information from visual surveys within California State waters will be used to develop predictive models of the probability of occurrence of the most frequently observed deep-sea corals. Model output will be coupled with broad-scale seafloor character maps, interpreted from high resolution seafloor maps of bathymetry and backscatter from multibeam acoustic surveys, to develop predictive probability maps of occurrence for selected deep-sea coral taxa. The predictive accuracy of the best-fit models will be assessed.

Importance to Management

The development of habitat-based predictive models of deep-sea coral distribution will assist in locating and characterizing deep-sea coral communities, and in understanding the biology and ecology of these communities throughout California. Results from this modeling effort will have direct applications to coastal and marine spatial management in addressing such needs as monitoring the effectiveness of newly implemented marine protected areas and identification of areas of potential impact to deep-sea corals. Additionally, development of models of co-occurring species and associated habitats will have application to ecosystem-based management, providing information needed to manage a more complete benthic ecosystem.

Fiscal Year 2013 Funding


Point of Contact

Mary Yoklavich, Mary.Yoklavich@noaa.gov