Spalding et al. 2019

scientific chapter |

The Hawaiian Archipelago

Spalding HL, Copus JM, Bowen BW, Kosaki RK, Longenecker K, Montgomery AD, Padilla-Gamino JL, Parrish FA, Roth MS, Rwley SJ, Toonen RJ, Pyle R


Abstract The Hawaiian Archipelago is one of the largest and most isolated island chains in the world, and its marine ecosystems are well-studied. Research on Hawaiian mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) began in the 1960s and has intensified during the past decade. In Hawai‘i, rich communities of macroalgae, corals and other invertebrates, and fishes inhabit MCEs and are associated with increased water clarity and decreasing average current strength with depth. Extensive calcified and fleshy macroalgal beds are found both in discrete patches, dense beds, and meadows over both hard and soft substrates. Several species of corals typical of shallow reefs extend to depths of ~60 m. The dominant corals below 60 m are in the genus Leptoseris, which can form extensive coral reefs spanning tens of km2. Few octocoral species inhabit shallow reefs and upper MCEs (30–70 m) but are diverse at the deepest range of MCEs (>130 m). Sponges do not represent a major structural component of MCEs. Many species of fishes occur on both shallow reefs and MCEs, but MCEs harbor more endemic species (up to 100% endemism). Several new species of macroalgae, corals and other invertebrates, and fishes have recently been documented. Over 60% of the territorial waters surrounding the archipelago are protected as the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument; however, no specific protections exist for MCEs. Generally, threats affecting Hawai‘i’s shallow reefs also affect MCEs to varying degrees. MCEs may be more insulated from some threats but more vulnerable than shallow reefs to others (e.g., water clarity).