Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
2022 Sylvie ME Alexander
Gorgonian deep-sea corals (DSCs) are biologically linked to ocean carbon cycling converting ocean carbon to gorgonin and calcite in their skeletons. As such, gorgonian DSCs likely accumulate and store carbon in their skeleton throughout their lifespans, acting as carbon sinks on historic timescales. Yet, DSC carbon storage hasn’t been investigated to date. This study evaluates gorgonian DSC carbon storage capacity through an evaluation of the carbon stored by Alaskan Primnoa pacifica corals. The development of a model relating coral height to biomass in specimens with this data available was used to determine biomass values in a suite of Alaskan P. pacifica corals for which height, but not biomass, was recorded. Modeled biomass values were used to calculate carbon storage for specimens with known height, determining that Alaskan P. pacifica corals store a total of .22 tonnes of carbon (SE = +/- 1.5E-05 tonnes). This study found an abundance of smaller corals, ranging from 60 to 120 cm in height, to be responsible for storing over half of the carbon stored by all known Alaskan P. pacifica corals. These findings hold implications for P. pacifica conservation and benthic and pelagic fisheries management in Alaska. Introducing Alaskan P. pacifica carbon storage to conservation considerations adds conservation value to Alaskan P. pacifica corals. Further, this study highlights the importance of small P. pacifica corals for total Alaskan P. pacifica carbon storage which elevates small P. pacifica coral conservation status promoting protections from bottom-contact fishing for these corals in Alaska.
Alexander, Sylvie, "Power in numbers: an abundance of small corals responsible for storing over half of the carbon stored by all Alaskan Primnoa pacifica deep-sea corals" (2022). Scripps Senior Theses. 1884.