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AFSC Seminar Series No. 23

Scheduled Seminars

"Deep Sea Coral Distribution and Habitat in the Aleutian Archipelago"

Presenter: Jon Heifetz, Auke Bay Laboratory (ABL), AFSC, NOAA

When: Tuesday, May 15, 2007, 11:00am PDT, 10:00am AK DT

Where: Fish House Conference Room, Auke Bay Laboratory facility

  • This seminar will be transmitted live to the Observer Training Room (1055), Bldg. 4, AFSC, Sand Point Campus, Seattle, Washington.  When arriving from off the WRC campus, leave extra time to check in with security at the gate and at the entrance to building 4.


A unique feature of the benthic environment of the Aleutian Archipelago is the presence of a highly diverse and abundant coral and sponge community. There is a high degree of endemism and coral abundance far exceeds that reported for other high latitude areas of the world. Habitat mapping of seventeen sites covering 2,600 km2 at depths of 30 – 3,800 m coupled with in situ observations are being used to develop a predictive model that relates coral and sponge distribution to environmental characteristics. Explanatory variables include depth, slope, aspect, rugosity, and substrate hardness.

Thus far models of sponge presence/absence have been the most successful, followed by models of a coral composite group including most of the taxa found in coral garden habitat. Fishing gear that can disrupt coral and sponge habitat operates in all habitat types from steep, boulder areas to smooth, sandy areas. Damage and disturbance to coral and sponge communities was documented in most in situ dive transects < 700 m in depth over a range of habitat types. Conservation of this unique habitat continues to be a challenging problem in the area’s fisheries that use bottom contact gear.

Presenter's Bio:

Jon received his B.S. in Biology from Emory University in 1978, M.S. in Fisheries from Humboldt State University in 1982, and Ph.D. in Fisheries from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1996. He has worked at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Auke Bay Lab since 1982 first as a researcher studying effects of logging on salmon habitat. In 1986 he began his evolution to the benthic realm first studying movement dynamics of sablefish and doing stock assessments on rockfish. More recently he has been involved with studying the effects of fishing on seafloor habitat. A few months ago he took on responsibilities of a Supervisory Research Fisheries Biologist for the Marine Ecology and Stock Assessment (MESA) Program at ABL.


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