Deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems are common in deep waters worldwide. These systems include key biogenic (coral & sponge) habitats that are slow growing and highly vulnerable to human disturbance. Deep water corals are common on Sur Ridge and Davidson Seamount, within 150 km of Moss Landing, and readily accessible using our ships and submersibles. 

We have established a deep-sea coral and sponge community observatory at Sur Ridge that includes a suite of measurements and observations. Oceanographic conditions are monitored using current meters and profiling sensors. The input of organic material that feeds deep corals is measured with sediment traps. Centuries-old coral colonies are mapped and observed repeatedly to monitor growth, epibionts, predators and mortality. Time-lapse cameras are used to monitor daily to seasonal variation in coral behavior in relation to oceanographic factors, as well as changes in various animals that use sponge and corals as habitat.

The success of deep-sea corals is linked to oceanographic patterns and biological interactions. Sur Ridge coral communities are diverse, and dominated by bubblegum corals (Paragorgia arborea) and bamboo corals (Isidella sp., and Keratoisis sp.). Seasonal as well as daily changes in food levels and ocean currents are linked to coral feeding.  Predation also appears to play an important role in their recruitment and survival. In addition, long-term, climate-related changes in oxygen and pH may emerge as key factors influencing their survival.

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Low Altitude Survey System



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