Geology, Biogeography and Genetic Connectivity of Deep Sea Corals in the Orphan Knoll, Orphan Basin, and Flemish Pass Areas
Deep-sea corals and sponges are important habitat-structuring organisms in the deep-sea, but they are highly vulnerable to the impacts of bottom-contact fishing and other disturbances. This project will study deep-sea corals and sponges in three areas in international waters along the continental margin of Newfoundland: Orphan Knoll, along the margins of the Orphan Basin, and along the edges of Flemish Pass, the deep-water channel separating the Flemish Cap from the Grand Banks. The research will document the nature of the geological features that support coral habitat, coral density, paleoceanographic records in coral skeletons, fish and invertebrate biodiversity associated with corals and sponges, fish utilization of deep-sea coral habitat, genetic connectivity among coral populations, and near-bottom (boundary layer) turbulence induced by large gorgonian corals. In-situ mapping and video of deep-sea corals and the geological features supporting their habitat in Newfoundland and Labrador waters uses the Canadian research Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) ROPOS. Results of the cruise will be highly important for Canada's efforts to meet its United Nations commitments to manage and protect vulnerable marine ecosystems both inside and outside the 200-mile limit along the continental margin of Newfoundland and Labrador.