Guinotte JM, Davies AJ

Regional scale habitat suitability models provide finer scale resolution and more focused predictions of where organisms may occur. Previous modelling approaches have focused primarily on local and/or global scales, while regional scale models have been relatively few. In this study, regional scale predictive habitat models are presented for deep-sea corals for the U.S. West Coast (California, Oregon and Washington). Model results are intended to aid in future research or mapping efforts and to assess potential coral habitat suitability both within and outside existing bottom trawl closures (i.e. Essential Fish Habitat (EFH)) and identify suitable habitat within U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries (NMS). Deep-sea coral habitat suitability was modelled at 500 m×500 m spatial resolution using a range of physical, chemical and environmental variables known or thought to influence the distribution of deep-sea corals. Using a spatial partitioning cross-validation approach, maximum entropy models identified slope, temperature, salinity and depth as important predictors for most deep-sea coral taxa. Large areas of highly suitable deep-sea coral habitat were predicted both within and outside of existing bottom trawl closures and NMS boundaries. Predicted habitat suitability over regional scales are not currently able to identify coral areas with pin point accuracy and probably overpredict actual coral distribution due to model limitations and unincorporated variables (i.e. data on distribution of hard substrate) that are known to limit their distribution. Predicted habitat results should be used in conjunction with multibeam bathymetry, geological mapping and other tools to guide future research efforts to areas with the highest probability of harboring deep-sea corals. Field validation of predicted habitat is needed to quantify model accuracy, particularly in areas that have not been sampled.

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Full citation

Guinotte JM, Davies AJ (2014) Predicted Deep-Sea Coral Habitat Suitability for the U.S. West Coast. PLoS ONE 9(4): e93918.