Project Description

Mesophotic Coral Reef Ecosystems

Great white sharks seen on the 2019 MPA Cruise- courtesy of UNCW-UVP.

CIOERT conducts research on mesophotic reef ecosystems in the southeastern United States, the Gulf of Mexico, and the southwest Florida shelf. These projects integrate broad surveys that characterize large-scale dimensions of reef habitat with detailed site studies to understand how individual reefs function. Large-scale studies include topics such as biodiversity and biogeography, geomorphology and structure, and genetic connectivity among reefs. Site-specific studies include connectivity between mesophotic and shallow reefs, coral dynamics and life histories, the effects of anthropogenic stress and climate change, and collecting data for fisheries and reef habitat management.

Accomplishments include:

  • Immediately following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, CIOERT deployed the R/V Seward Johnson and the Johnson-Sea-Link II to establish baseline data for coral health at mesophotic and deep coral reefs sites outside the area directly impacted by the spill, from the Florida Keys to the Panhandle.
  • The shallowest known Lophelia ecosystem in the U.S. was discovered at ~200 m off Jacksonville, FL; the southern-most living deep-water Lophelia reef in continental U.S. waters was discovered at 500 m off the Florida Keys; and a new Lophelia reef was discovered in SE Gulf of Mexico.
  • New deep coral sites with abundant commercially-important fish species were discovered along the East Coast of Florida. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council recommended expansion of the Oculina Habitat Area of Particular Concern based on these discoveries.
  • Photographic surveys at the Pulley Ridge deep reef habitat on the SW Florida shelf indicate a drastic loss in coral cover over the past 10 years, as well as an increase in coralline and leafy algal species.
  • Genetic characterization of mesophotic reefs throughout the Gulf of Mexico and tropical western Atlantic show that assemblages at Pulley Ridge are different from the related assemblages at Flower Garden Banks and the Dry Tortugas.

Mesophotic Coral Reef Ecosystems

Mesophotic coral reef ecosystems (MCEs) are light-dependent benthic communities that occur deeper than shallow reefs and typically range from depths of 30 m to the bottom of the photic zone, which may extend to >150 m in some regions. MCEs represent in part an extension of shallow-water coral reef ecosystems and support a diverse assemblage of habitat-building taxa, including corals, sponges and algae, and associated commercial and recreational fisheries (Reed, González-Díaz, Busutil 2018).

Shelf-Edge MPA’s

Our Mesophotic Coral Reef Ecosystems Projects are is a collaboration between Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and NOAA Fisheries, Panama City Lab.

Assessment

The main focus for the CIOERT Mesophotic Coral Reefs Ecosystem Program is the Southeast Shelf-Edge MPAs. These Marine Protected areas are located along the southeastern coast of the US from North Carolina to the Straights of Florida. The multi-year collaboration between the CIOERT and NOAA Fisheries, Panama City Lab, started in 2012 and will be continued until at least the summer of 2020.

This program surveys inside and outside the Marine Protected Areas to assess their health, usefulness, success and changes over time. We utilize the University of North Carolina’s Undersea Vehicles Program’s Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs).

2019 MPA Cruise Highlight Video; courtesy of Eric Glidden, UNCW-UVP.

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Cruises:

  • 2012 – NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 12-03; UNCW-USVP Super Phantom ROV; July 6-19, 2012
  • 2013 – NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 13-03; UNCW-USVP Super Phantom ROV; July 2-11, 2013
  • 2014 – NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 14-08; UNCW-USVP Super Phantom ROV; July 18-27, 2014
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2012-2014 Publications:

  • Reed JK, Harter S, Farrington S, David A. 2013. South Atlantic MPAs and deepwater coral HAPCs: Characterization of Benthic Habitat and Biota; NOAA Ship Pisces 2012 cruise. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 144. p. 410. Download
  • Farrington S, Reed JK, Harter S, David A. 2014. South Atlantic MPAs and deepwater coral HAPCs: Characterization of Benthic Habitat and Biota; NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 13-03. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 153. p. 310. Download
  • Reed JK, Harter S, Farrington S, David A. 2015. South Atlantic MPAs and deepwater coral HAPCs: Characterization of benthic habitat, benthic macrobiota, and fish communities; NOAA Ship Nancy Foster 2014 cruise. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 159. p. 257. Download
  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A. 2015. South Atlantic MPAs and deepwater coral HAPCs: characterization of fish communities, benthic habitat, and benthic macrobiota. Final report for 2012-2014 NOAA cruises; a NOAA CIOERT report. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 160. p. 75. Download
  • Harter S, David A, Reed JK, Farrington S. 2013. Semi-annual report. South Atlantic shelf-edge MPAs and deep-water coral HAPCs. Summary of accomplishments, April 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 145. p. 5. Download
  • Harter S, David A, Reed JK, Farrington S. 2014a. Semi-annual report. South Atlantic shelf-edge MPAs and deep-water coral HAPCs. Summary of accomplishments, April 1, 2014 to September 30, 2014. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 153. p. 5. Download
  • Harter S, David A, Reed JK, Farrington S. 2014b. Semi-annual report. South Atlantic shelf-edge MPAs and deep-water coral HAPCs. Summary of accomplishments, Oct. 1, 2013 to March 31 2014. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 146. p. 4. Download

Cruises:

  • 2015- NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 15-02; UNCW Mohawk ROV; June 18-29, 2015
  • 2016- NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 16-02; UNCW Mohawk ROV; June 7-22, 2016
  • 2017- NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 17-02; UNCW Mohawk ROV; June 20- July 5, 2017
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2015-2017 Publications:

  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A. 2016. NOAA CIOERT cruise report South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: characterization of benthic habitat and biota NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 15-02. UNCW Mohawk ROV June 18-29, 2015, NOAA CIOERT Cruise Report. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Technical Report Number. p. 202. Download
  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A. 2017. NOAA CIOERT cruise report South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: characterization of benthic habitat and biota NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 16-02 UNCW Mohawk ROV June 7-22, 2016, NOAA CIOERT Cruise Report. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Technical Report Number 181. p. 270  Download
  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A, Drummond F. 2017. South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: Characterization of benthic habitat and biota. NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 17-02. NOAA CIOERT Cruise Report. p. 341. Download
  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A. 2018. South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: Characterization of Fish Communities, Benthic Habitat, and Benthic Macrobiota Final Report for 2015-2017 NOAA Ship Pisces Cruises (15-02, 16-20, 17-02). Harbor Branch Oceanographic Technical Report Number 186. p. 97. Download
  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A. 2018. NOAA CIOERT cruise report South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: characterization of benthic habitat and biota NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 17-02 UNCW Mohawk ROV June 17-July 05, 2017, NOAA CIOERT Cruise Report. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Technical Report Number 186. Download

Cruises:

  • 2018- NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 18-02; UNCW Mohawk ROV; May 12-24, 2018
  • 2019- NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 19-02; UNCW Mohawk ROV; June 7-20, 2019
  • 2020- Delayed to 2021
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2018-2020 Publications:

  • Harter S, David A, Reed JK, Farrington S, Drummond F. 2019a. NOAA CIOERT cruise report South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: characterization of benthic habitat and biota NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 18-02 UNCW Mohawk ROV May 12-24, 2018, NOAA CIOERT Cruise Report. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Technical Report Number 188. Download

  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A. 2019b. South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: Characterization of Benthic Habitat and Biota. NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 19-02. NOAA CIOERT Cruise Report. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Technical Report Number 193. p. 388. Download

NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Panama City, Florida, USA

  • Stacey Harter, Chief Scientist
  • Andrew David
  • Felicia Drummond

Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University

  • John K. Reed
  • Stephanie Farrington

University of Miami, Miami, FL

  • Captain and Crew of R/V F.G. Walton Smith

University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Undersea Vehicle Program (UNCW-UVP)

  • Lance Horn
  • Glen Taylor
  • Jason White
  • Eric Glidden

Book Chapter

  • Hourigan TF, Reed J, Pomponi S, Ross S, David A, Harter S. 2017. State of deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems of the Southeast United States.  Chapter 13. In: Hourigan T, Etnoyer P, Cairns S, editors. The State of Deep-Sea Coral and Sponge Ecosystems of the United States NOAA Memorandum. Silver Spring, MD. p. 60. Link
  • Reed JK, Harter S, Farrington S, David A. 2014. Characterization and interrelationships of deepwater coral/sponge habitats and fish communities off Florida, USA. In: Bortone S, editor. Coral Habitat and Fish Interrelationships. New York, USA: CRC Press. p. 49-80. Link

Multibeam Data

  • Harter S. 2012. Multibeam collected during NOAA Ship Pisces 2012 cruise [12-01]. [Multibeam]. In: NOAA, editor.
  • Harter S. 2014. Multibeam collected during NOAA Ship Nancy Foster 2014 cruise [NF-14-08]. [Multibeam]. In: NOAA, editor.
  • Harter S. 2016. Multibeam collected during NOAA Ship Pisces 2016 cruise [16-02]. [Multibeam]. In: NOAA, editor.

Reports

  • Díaz MC, Farrington S, Pomponi SA, Reed JK. 2020. Morphological diagnoses of sponges collected at Shelf-edge MPAs from eastern Florida to North Carolina, between depths of 51 and 150 m, during CIOERT expeditions (2018-2019). Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University. p. 13. Download
  • Farrington S, Reed JK, Harter S, David A. 2014. South Atlantic MPAs and deepwater coral HAPCs: Characterization of Benthic Habitat and Biota; NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 13-03. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 153. p. 310. Download.
  • Harter S, David A, Reed JK, Farrington S. 2013. Semi-annual report. South Atlantic shelf-edge MPAs and deep-water coral HAPCs. Summary of accomplishments, April 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 145. p. 5. Download
  • Harter S, David A, Reed JK, Farrington S. 2014a. Semi-annual report. South Atlantic shelf-edge MPAs and deep-water coral HAPCs. Summary of accomplishments, April 1, 2014 to September 30, 2014. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 153. p. 5. Download.
  • Harter S, David A, Reed JK, Farrington S. 2014b. Semi-annual report. South Atlantic shelf-edge MPAs and deep-water coral HAPCs. Summary of accomplishments, Oct. 1, 2013 to March 31 2014. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 146. p. 4. Download.
  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A. 2015. South Atlantic MPAs and deepwater coral HAPCs: characterization of fish communities, benthic habitat, and benthic macrobiota. Final report for 2012-2014 NOAA cruises; a NOAA CIOERT report. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 160. p. 75. Download.
  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A. 2016. NOAA CIOERT cruise report South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: characterization of benthic habitat and biota NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 15-02. UNCW Mohawk ROV June 18-29, 2015, NOAA CIOERT Cruise Report. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Technical Report Number. p. 202. Download.
  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A. 2017a. NOAA CIOERT cruise report South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: characterization of benthic habitat and biota NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 16-02 UNCW Mohawk ROV June 7-22, 2016, NOAA CIOERT Cruise Report. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Technical Report Number 181. p. 270 Download.
  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A. 2018a. NOAA CIOERT cruise report South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: characterization of benthic habitat and biota NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 17-02 UNCW Mohawk ROV June 17-July 05, 2017, NOAA CIOERT Cruise Report. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Technical Report Number 185. Download.
  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A. 2018b. South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: Characterization of Fish Communities, Benthic Habitat, and Benthic Macrobiota Final Report for 2015-2017 NOAA Ship Pisces Cruises (15-02, 16-20, 17-02). Harbor Branch Oceanographic Technical Report Number 186. p. 97. Download.
  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A, Drummond F. 2017b. South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: Characterization of benthic habitat and biota. NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 17-02. NOAA CIOERT Cruise Report. p. 341. Download.
  • Reed JK, Harter S, Farrington S, David A. 2013. South Atlantic MPAs and deepwater coral HAPCs: Characterization of Benthic Habitat and Biota; NOAA Ship Pisces 2012 cruise. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 144. p. 410. Download.
  • Reed JK, Harter S, Farrington S, David A. 2015. South Atlantic MPAs and deepwater coral HAPCs: Characterization of benthic habitat, benthic macrobiota, and fish communities; NOAA Ship Nancy Foster 2014 cruise. No. HBOI Technical Report No. 159. p. 257. Download.
  • Harter S, David A, Reed JK, Farrington S, Drummond F. 2019a. NOAA CIOERT cruise report South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: characterization of benthic habitat and biota NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 18-02 UNCW Mohawk ROV May 12-24, 2018, NOAA CIOERT Cruise Report. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Technical Report Number 188. Download
  • Harter S, Reed JK, Farrington S, David A. 2019b. South Atlantic MPAs and Oculina HAPC: Characterization of Benthic Habitat and Biota. NOAA Ship Pisces Cruise 19-02. NOAA CIOERT Cruise Report. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Technical Report Number 193. p. 388. Download

Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (CRCP Fishery Management Council Coral Reef Conservation Cooperative Agreements- Grant #: NA11NMF4410061). We also acknowledge the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER Grant #: NA09OAR4320073), the NOAA Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program (DSCRTP), and the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations
(OMAO) which provided support for ship time.

We thank the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology (CIOERT) at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University (HBOI-FAU), and the Robertson Coral Reef Research and Conservation Program at HBOI. The crews of the NOAA Ship Pisces and UNCW ROV are especially thanked for their support and efforts which made this cruise a success.