PIFSC Cruise Studies Mesophotic Corals in the Au'au Channel
In August, PIFSC researchers from the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division and Ecosystem and Oceanography Division studied deepwater, light-dependent, coral reefs in the Au'au Channel between Maui and Lana'i in the main Hawaiian Islands. Large colonies of these mesophotic reef-building corals extend to depths greater than 130 m. Together with communities of algae and sponges, they form important habitat for reef fish and can serve as refugia for shallow water fish species. During an 8-day cruise aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette, the scientists completed 29 tows with a camera sled to map the distribution and composition of benthic communities and associated reef fish populations. Data on ocean temperature, salinity, light penetration and other physical characteristics of the environment were also collected. The expedition was part of a 3-year collaboration between PIFSC, the Bishop Museum, the University of Hawaii, and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and is funded by NOAA's Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies Program. The research improves understanding of these little-known biological communities and supports NOAA's goal of conserving valuable coral reef ecosystems.