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Predictive Habitat Model for Deep Gorgonians Needs Better Resolution: Reply to Etnoyer & Morgan (2007)

04 Jun 2007

Etnoyer & Morgan (2007, this volume) state that our recent study (Bryan & Metaxas 2007) is ‘causing concern among scientists and conservationists in the USA’. This was certainly not our intent. In fact, in the last paragraph of our study we acknowledge that ‘the need to protect deep-water coral from human influences has become more obvious’ and suggest that without the right tools ‘corals may remain unknown and unprotected’. It is most important to note that ours and Etnoyer and Morgan’s motivations are the same: a better understanding of coral distributions and the factors that regulate them, to more effectively manage these organisms.

Our study focused on using Ecological Niche Factor Analysis (ENFA)/Biomapper to predict locations of suitable (rather than unsuitable) habitat for Paragorgiidae and Primnoidae and ‘to attempt to locate previously unknown areas of potentially high coral abundance, based on the suitability of the habitat’ (see ‘Introduction’, Bryan & Metaxas 2007). In our results, we suggest that, in the Alaskan region, suitable habitat for both Paragorgia and Primnoa was found throughout the Aleutian Islands and on many seamounts, and we agree with Heifetz (2002). For the BC-CA region, we proposed that suitable habitat for both families occurs along the shelf break and on seamounts, a suggestion also made in Etnoyer & Morgan (2005) and Morgan et al. (2005). On the generated habitat suitability maps, we only showed suitable and unsuitable habitat, defined most conservatively because of the coarse resolution of the data (see ‘Methods’, Bryan & Metaxas 2007). Because of this coarse distinction that did not allow for the quantification of relative ‘unsuitability’, we only focused our presentation on suitable habitat. We never argued that continental shelves are not suitable habitat for coral (see Fig. 3 of Bryan & Metaxas 2007 for data); however, we did argue that the shelf break and seamounts are.

Status: Completed

Type: Staff Publications

Author: Tanya Bryan, Anna Metaxas

Year of publication: 2007

Publisher: Marine Ecology Progress Series

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