Mapping and Geomorphic Characterization of the Vast Cold-Water Coral Mounds of the Blake Plateau

TitleMapping and Geomorphic Characterization of the Vast Cold-Water Coral Mounds of the Blake Plateau
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsSowers, D, Mayer, LA, Masetti, G, Cordes, E, Gasbarro, R, Lobecker, E, Cantwell, K, Candio, S, Hoy, S, Malik, MA, White, M, Dornback, M
Date Published12 January 2024
Keywordsautomated, bathymetry, Blake Plateau, cold-water corals, Desmophyllum, geomorphology, Lophelia, mapping, multibeam sonar, Ocean exploration, reef

A coordinated multi-year ocean exploration campaign on the Blake Plateau offshore of the south-23 eastern U.S. has mapped what appears to be the most expansive cold-water coral (CWC) mound 24 province thus far discovered. Nearly continuous CWC mound features span an area up to 500 km 25 long and 110 km wide, with a core area of high density mounds up to 254 km long by 42 km wide. 26 This study synthesized bathymetric data from 31 multibeam sonar mapping surveys and generated 27 a standardized geomorphic classification of the region in order to delineate and quantify CWC 28 mound habitats and compare mound morphologies among subregions of the coral province. Based 29 on the multibeam bathymetry, a total of 83,908 individual peak features were delineated, providing 30 the first estimate of the overall number of potential CWC mounds mapped in the region to date. 31 Five geomorphic landform classes were mapped and quantified: peaks (411 km2), valleys (3,598 32 km2), ridges (3,642 km2), slopes (23,082 km2), and flats (102,848 km2). The complex geomorphology 33 of eight subregions was described qualitatively with geomorphic “fingerprints” (spatial patterns) 34 and quantitatively by measurements of mound density and vertical relief. This study demonstrated 35 the value of applying an objective automated terrain segmentation and classification approach to 36 geomorphic characterization of a highly complex CWC mound province. Manual delineation of 37 these features in a consistent repeatable way with a comparable level of detail would not have been 38 possible.

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Refereed DesignationRefereed