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4-14 Leptoseris and Hawaiis deep water corals reefs Samuel Kahng1

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4-14 Leptoseris and Hawaiis deep water corals reefs Samuel Kahng1

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									4-14

Leptoseris and Hawaii’s deep water corals reefs
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Samuel Kahng , James Maragos , Eric Hochberg , Andrew Rossiter , Robert Bidigare
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 Hawaii Pacific University, Kaneohe, HI, United States, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
                             3
Honolulu, HI, United States, Hawaii Intitute of Marine Biology, Kaneohe, HI, United States,
4                                                5
 Waikiki Aquairum, Honolulu, HI, United States, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, United
States

Despite its ecological importance, the photosynthetic deep reef below 50 m is poorly
understood. Most coral reef research is performed within recreational SCUBA diving depths.
However, zooxanthellate scleractinian corals build reefs far deeper in clear, oligotrophic
waters. In Hawaii, photosynthetic corals have been observed growing in situ down to 153 m
off the Big Island. Around most of the Main Hawaiian Islands, there is extensive deep reef
habitat associated with the insular shelves which extend laterally several km offshore to
depths of 100-120 m where they are typically bordered by steep fossil carbonate slopes. In
2001-2006, HURL deep-water surveys in Hawaii revealed that the dominant shallow-water
scleractinians (i.e., Porites, Montipora, and Pocillopora) were rare below 60 m. However,
zooxanthellate scleractinians of the genus Leptoseris were abundant between 60-120 m. In
many areas, coral cover exceeded 50% providing complex habitat for an abundance of reef
fish and invertebrates. To date, taxonomic analysis has identified Leptoseris hawaiiensis,
Leptoseris yabei, and at least two undescribed, congeneric species. Research conducted with
the Waikiki Aquarium suggests that the coral growth rates are comparable to shallow-water
corals but light absorption capabilities are much higher higher. Leptoseris spp. thrive in low
light as obligate autotrophs. Further research into Leptoseris physiology and ecology is
needed to properly manage these important habitat builders. Examining Leptoseris growing at
deep water environmental extremes (i.e., low light, temperature, and saturation state) will also
provide insight on how reef building corals may react to changes in climate and optical water
quality.

								
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