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MEPS 628:73-93 (2019)  -  DOI:

Ecological niche modelling of cold-water corals in the Southern Ocean (N Antarctic), present distribution and future projections due to temperature changes

Safa Chaabani1,2, Pablo J. López-González3, Pilar Casado-Amezú1,4, Hendrik Pehlke1, Lukas Weber1, Irene Martínez-Baraldés3, Kerstin Jerosch1,*

1Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
2Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Høgskoleringen 5, 7491 Trondheim, Norway
3Biodiversidad y Ecología Acuática, Departamento de Zoología, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Sevilla, 41012 Sevilla, Spain
4Marine Biodiversity Research Group, Life Sciences Department. University of Alcalá, 28871 Alcalá de Henares, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: An urgent necessity to understand the effect of climatic change on scleractinian cold-water coral (CWC) ecosystems has arisen due to increasing ocean warming and acidification over the last decades. Here, presence-absence records of 12 scleractinian CWC species from research expeditions and the literature were compiled and merged with model-generated pseudo-absence data and 14 environmental variables. The best-fitting results of 9 species distribution models (SDMs) were combined to an ensemble habitat suitability model for CWCs in the northern Southern Ocean (Weddell Sea and Antarctic Peninsula) by means of the open-source R package ‘biomod2’. Furthermore, 2 future scenarios of increasing bottom sea temperature were used to investigate the spatial response of scleractinians to temperature change. The resulting (current scenario) potential ecological niches were evaluated with good to excellent statistical measures. The results predict that present areas of highest probability of CWC occurrence are around the Antarctic Peninsula, South Orkney Islands and Queen Maud Land, with preference to geomorphic features such as seamounts. The distribution of CWC habitats is mainly driven by distance to coast and ice shelves, bathymetry, benthic calcium carbonate, and temperature. Under warming conditions, CWCs are predicted to expand their distribution range by 6 and 10% in 2037 and 2150, respectively, compared to the present distribution. The future models using increased bottom temperature revealed a stable CWC distribution for most parts of the study area. However, habitat shifts are expected to the Filchner Trough region, the adjacent continental shelves, as well as to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

KEY WORDS: Scleractinian coral · Ensemble models · Environmental change · Habitat suitability model · Spatial distribution · Weddell Sea · Antarctica

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Cite this article as: Chaabani S, López-González PJ, Casado-Amezua P, Pehlke H, Weber L, Martínez-Baraldés I, Jerosch K (2019) Ecological niche modelling of cold-water corals in the Southern Ocean (N Antarctic), present distribution and future projections due to temperature changes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 628:73-93.

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