SUBMARINE GRAND CANYONS IN THE DEEP BLUE
Deep ecosystems and canyons are characterized as either rocky or soft-bottom substrates in waters deeper than 100 meters. Canyons are structurally complex and provide important habitat for a diversity of fish and invertebrate species. Many ecologically and economically important species are found in deep ecosystems, including flatfishes, bocaccio, yellowtail rockfish, and spot prawns. On California’s Central Coast in particular, there is an unusual abundance of large submarine canyons, specifically at Monterey Bay, Carmel Bay, and Big Sur.
SUN DEPRIVED WATERS
Canyon ecosystems tend to affect ocean circulation patterns and often function as an important foraging area for marine birds and mammals. The sun, and therefore photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), rarely penetrate to these depths. As a result, food webs are primarily supported by inputs of nutrients from external sources.
Many fish found in this ecosystem are long-lived and slow to reach sexual maturity, so detecting significant changes in density or size-structure requires long-term monitoring. In addition, many of these species are wide-ranging and are thus likely to move between protected areas, which may limit MPA effects. Combining ecological data with information about the spatial patterns of fishing can help to separate MPA effects from non-MPA effects on species in these habitats.