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Expanding our view of the cold-water coral niche and accounting of the ecosystem services of the reef habitat

November 9, 2023

Coral reefs are iconic ecosystems that support diverse, productive communities in both shallow and deep waters. However, our incomplete knowledge of cold-water coral (CWC) niche space limits our understanding of their distribution and precludes a complete accounting of the ecosystem services they provide. Here, we present the results of recent surveys of the CWC mound province on the Blake Plateau off the U.S. east coast, an area of intense human activity including fisheries and naval operations, and potentially energy and mineral extraction. At one site, CWC mounds are arranged in lines that total over 150 km in length, making this one of the largest reef complexes discovered in the deep ocean. This site experiences rapid and extreme shifts in temperature between 4.3 and 10.7 °C, and currents approaching 1 m s−1. Carbon is transported to depth by mesopelagic micronekton and nutrient cycling on the reef results in some of the highest nitrate concentrations recorded in the region. Predictive models reveal expanded areas of highly suitable habitat that currently remain unexplored. Multidisciplinary exploration of this new site has expanded understanding of the cold-water coral niche, improved our accounting of the ecosystem services of the reef habitat, and emphasizes the importance of properly managing these systems.

Publication Year 2023
Title Expanding our view of the cold-water coral niche and accounting of the ecosystem services of the reef habitat
DOI 10.1038/s41598-023-45559-5
Authors Erik E. Cordes, Amanda Demopoulos, Andrew J. Davies, Ryan Gasbarro, Alexandria C. Rhoads, Elizabeth Loebeker, Derek Sowers, Jason Chaytor, Cheryl Morrison, Alexis M. Weinnig, Sandra Brooke, Jay J. Lunden, Furu Mienis, Samantha B. Joye, Andrea M. Quattrini, Tracey T. Sutton, Catherine S. McFadden, Jill Bourque, Jennifer McClain Counts, Brian D. Andrews, Melissa J. Betters, Peter J. Etnoyer, Gary A. Wolff, Bernie B. Bernard, James M. Brooks, Michael K. Rasser, Caitlin Adams
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Scientific Reports
Index ID 70250250
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center