Subtropical reefs are predicted to be dynamic areas of change under increased global sea-surface temperature warming. A critical knowledge gap exists for deeper, mesophotic corals in these higher latitude settings, where little is known about their spatial and depth distributions. At the latitudinal limits of coral reef growth in the Pacific Ocean, abundant mesophotic corals were revealed on the shelf surrounding the subtropical, mid-ocean island of Balls Pyramid. Our study extends these findings to the nearby Lord Howe Island shelf to assess mesophotic coral cover and explore spatial patterns in mesophotic benthic communities around these World Heritage, marine park protected islands. Underwater towed video data collected around Lord Howe Island (24 sites) were combined with existing benthic data from the Balls Pyramid shelf. Results showed that similar habitats occurred across both shelves, with communities varying between inner-, mid- and outer-shelf zones. Corals were most prevalent on the Balls Pyramid mid shelf, with selected locations around the Lord Howe Island mid shelf reporting similar cover (maximum site-average cover of 24%). The benthic data presented in this study provides important baseline information for monitoring coral cover and detecting potential shifts in community composition under ongoing climate change.
Publication Details Citation
Linklater, M., Jordan, A., Carroll, A. G., Neilson, J. M., Gudge, S., Brooke, B. P., Nichol, S. L., Hamylton, S., & Woodroffe, C. D. (2019). Mesophotic corals on the subtropical shelves of Lord Howe Island and Balls Pyramid, south-western Pacific Ocean. Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health - Papers: Part B. https://doi.org/10.1071/MF18151. Retrieved from https://ro.uow.edu.au/smhpapers1/431