Latest In Series Of Investigations Of Au’au Channel Completed

Written by on September 29, 2009 in Marine Life

Plate coral and macroalgal community at 78m depth offshore off west Maui, as viewed from the submersible Pisces IV - NOAA's PIFSC

NOAA scientists and colleagues from the State of Hawaii and the University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) have concluded a survey of a large mesophotic reef complex to better understand the biodiversity, ecology, and function of deep reef ecosystems during a seven-day research cruise in late July in the Au’au Channel between the Hawaiian Islands of Maui and Lanai.

A team of 6 scientists departed on the NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai – which means “embracing pathways to the sea” – home ported in Honolulu and well suited for both deep sea and shallow water dive projects.  The expedition was led by Dr. Frank Parrish of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) and is part of a broad-ranging but tightly integrated series of investigations of the Au’au Channel planned for 2008 to 2010.

During the cruise, the Hi’ialakai has conducted systematic surveys of the seafloor and its inhabitants using towed remote cameras and support scuba-diving scientists who investigate the coral beds and characterize the habitat and assemblage of fishes.  Arrays of oceanographic instruments placed at the study site a year ago have been recovered, data stored in them downloaded, and the arrays redeployed.

Raymond Boland, a research biologist with the PIFSC said in an interview:

“This habitat was an interesting place to be, there are areas covered 100 percent in coral, others with a mixture of coral and algae and then others only with algae.  It was fascinating to me because depending on the coverage, there were totally different fish to see.”

PIFSC research biologist Raymond Boland swims over a mixed reef at 228 feet  -  Credit: NOAA's PIFSC

PIFSC research biologist Raymond Boland swims over a mixed reef at 228 feet – Credit: NOAA’s PIFSC

The deep reef complex was detected a couple of years ago by staff of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, State of Hawaii, during surveys using a remote camera to look for black coral.  Found between depths of 245-275 feet (75–85 meters), these corals constitute some of the deepest hermatypic reefs in the nation.

Before this trip, in spring of 2009, the NOAA submersible Pisces IV was used to explore the deep reef site and collect biological specimens for research.  Pisces IV was operated by the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) at the University of Hawaii.

Collected on this trip were specimens of coral and black coral found in the deep that photosynthesize to identify them and study their genetics.

The deep coral ecosystem research is part of a 3-year regional multi-agency project supported by the NOAA National Center for Coastal and Ocean Science.

Compiled of NOAA materials, courtesy of NOAA Fisheries.

Leptoseris bed at 275 feet  -  Credit:  NOAA's PIFSC

Leptoseris bed at 275 feet – Credit: NOAA’s PIFSC

Copyright ©  2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Celia is Director of Business Operations for OceanLines LLC and is a frequent contributor to both OceanLines and Marine Science Today. She is a certified diver and her favorite topic is marine biology, especially stories about whales. .

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