Diversity And Abundance Of Deep-Water Coral Mounds In The Straits Of Florida: A Result of Adaptability To Local Environments?
To improve the understanding of the Florida-Bahamas deep-water coral mound ecosystem, Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) surveys were conducted on five coral mound fields throughout the Straits of Florida (three sites at the base of slope of Great Bahama Bank (GBB), one in the middle of the Straits (MS) and one at the base of the Miami Terrace (MT)) in water depths of 590 to 860 m. The AUV provides high-resolution bathymetric maps, sub-bottom profiles and oceanographic data. The AUV survey sites were subsequently groundtruthed via sample collection and video transects, using the Johnson Sealink submersible. Contrary to previous surveys, we found a high diversity in coral mound morphology between sites separated by 15 to 80 km. The MT site is characterized by sinusoidal coral mound ridges, while the MS site contains densely clustered small coral mounds. Meanwhile, mounds of the GBB region are better developed, with some individual mounds reaching up to 90 m in height. Benthic coverage of live corals also differs between sites; the GBB sites are characterized by mounds densely covered by large thickets of live corals, while small thickets of mostly dead corals dominate the MT and MS sites. Several environmental factors may explain these differences. For example, bottom current patterns change between sites. The MT and the MS sites have a unidirectional regime (southward or northward flow, respectively), whereas the GBB sites have a tidal current regime. Sedimentation patterns as depicted by sub-bottom profiles also vary between the sites; coral mounds in the GBB area appear to receive higher sediment input, which can significantly enhance mound growth rates as the reef framework baffles and traps mobile sediments. However, coral mounds that cannot keep-up with the sedimentation rate are buried. Therefore, in the high sedimentation areas of GBB, flourishing live coral mounds are limited to elevated positions (i.e. plateaus, ridges crests) where sediment accumulation is lessened. Corals in these raised locations also benefit from increased exposure to nutrient-rich tidal currents, supporting a denser live coral coverage. Sub-bottom profiles of the MT site show undulating coral ridges developed on top of a relatively flat sub-surface, indicating that antecedent topography is not the only factor determining mound distribution. The integrated AUV data suggest that variable environmental factors, such as sedimentation and current patterns, contribute to the high diversity between coral mound sites of the Straits of Florida. Environmental conditions change over distances of only a few kilometers creating localized and diverse deep-water coral habitats. The deepwater fauna adapts to the local oceanographic and geological conditions. This results in an unexpectedly high abundance of deep-water coral communities with diverse expressions.
AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts
- Pub Date:
- December 2007
- 0419 Biomineralization;
- 0424 Biosignatures and proxies;
- 0448 Geomicrobiology;
- 0463 Microbe/mineral interactions;
- 4900 PALEOCEANOGRAPHY (0473;