Spatial distributions, environmental drivers and co-existence patterns of key cold-water corals in the deep sea of the Azores (NE Atlantic)

Type Article
Date 2023-07
Language English
Author(s) Taranto Gerald HechterORCID1, 2, González-Irusta José-Manuel1, 2, 3, Dominguez-Carrió Carlos1, 2, Pham Christopher K.1, 2, Tempera FernandoORCID1, 4, Ramos Manuela1, 2, Gonçalves Guilherme1, 2, Carreiro-Silva Marina1, 2, Morato Telmo1, 2
Affiliation(s) 1 : Instituto de Investigação em Ciências do Mar – Okeanos, Universidade dos Açores, Horta, Portugal
2 : IMAR Instituto do Mar, Universidade dos Açores, Horta, Portugal
3 : Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centro Oceanográfico de Santander, 39080, Santander, Spain
4 : IFREMER, RBE/STH/LBH, Centre de Bretagne, Plouzané, France
Source Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers (0967-0637) (Elsevier BV), 2023-07 , Vol. 197 , P. 104028 (21p.)
DOI 10.1016/j.dsr.2023.104028
Keyword(s) Azores, Cold-water corals, Deep sea, Foundation species, Vulnerable marine ecosystems, Water masses

Habitat-forming cold-water corals (CWCs) represent a key component of deep-sea benthic communities and a priority target for conservation. Although research efforts have been mounting to try and identify the drivers of CWC distributions, progress has been limited by the scarcity of ecological data. The present work employs habitat suitability models (HSMs) to estimate spatial distributions, environmental drivers and co-existence patterns of 14 habitat-forming CWCs in the Azores, an area considered a hotspot of coral diversity in the Atlantic. The modelled CWCs showed a strong bathymetric zonation, which seems to be determined by the vertical stratification of water masses in the region. In particular, the modelled CWCs can be clustered in four groups named after the isopycnal (vertical) layers in which Atlantic water masses are organized: species restricted to upper water masses, species extending down from upper water masses, species restricted to intermediate water masses and species extending up from deep water masses. Horizontal patterns further indicate that the Azores Current and different production regimes north and south of the archipelago likely influence the distribution of CWCs in sub-surface waters. Such results have important implications for the regional management of deep-sea benthic communities and, in particular, for the design of representative networks of protected areas. The combined habitat of all modelled species covered only 11%. Given that they all possess the characteristics of benthic foundation organisms and represent indicator taxa of vulnerable marine ecosystems all the modelled species should be viewed as important targets for conservation. The lace coral Errina dabneyi deserves particular attention since this species appears to be endemic to the Azores and has a very limited estimated distribution.

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Taranto Gerald Hechter, González-Irusta José-Manuel, Dominguez-Carrió Carlos, Pham Christopher K., Tempera Fernando, Ramos Manuela, Gonçalves Guilherme, Carreiro-Silva Marina, Morato Telmo (2023). Spatial distributions, environmental drivers and co-existence patterns of key cold-water corals in the deep sea of the Azores (NE Atlantic). Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 197, 104028 (21p.). Publisher's official version : , Open Access version :