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4-14 Leptoseris and Hawaiis deep water corals reefs Samuel Kahng1
4-14 Leptoseris and Hawaii’s deep water corals reefs 1 2 3 4 5 Samuel Kahng , James Maragos , Eric Hochberg , Andrew Rossiter , Robert Bidigare 1 2 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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