Population Connectivity of Deepwater Corals in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
DWH Project Funding
Known Leveraged Funding
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
The RESTORE Act Funds Bucket 4: NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program
Monitoring and Observations
Deepwater corals are three-dimensional structures that provide habitat for diverse and abundant invertebrate and fish communities, including refuge and prey for commercially valuable fisheries. As a result, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is considering designating a number of deepwater coral areas in the northern Gulf of Mexico as Habitat Areas of Particular Concern. In addition, the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) has proposed to expand the boundaries of current protected areas to encompass additional coral sites. The establishment of Marine Protected Areas is one of the key restoration strategies for deep benthic communities impacted by human disturbances. The discoveries made by this project will inform these and other management decisions by determining where the corals in different deepwater populations originated. By using genetic analysis of the different populations to see how closely related they are, the researchers will be able to measure connectivity among them. Using a combination of field sampling, state-of-the-art population genomic analyses and physical oceanographic modeling this project will produce maps of genetically connected corals throughout the Gulf of Mexico.