Autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) mapping reveals coral mound distribution, morphology, and oceanography in deep water of the Straits of Florida

Mark Grasmueck, Gregor P. Eberli, David A. Viggiano, Thiago Correa, Glenda Rathwell, Jiangang Luo

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To make progress in understanding the distribution and genesis of coral mounds in cold and dark water, maps of morphology and oceanographic conditions resolving features at the 1-10 m scale are needed. An autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) cruising 40 m above the seafloor surveyed a 48 km2 coral mound field in 600-800 m water depth at the base of slope of Great Bahama Bank. The AUV acquired 1-3 meter resolution acoustic backscatter and bathymetry together with current vectors, salinity, and temperature. The multibeam bathymetry resolved more than 200 coral mounds reaching up to 90 m height. Mound morphology is surprisingly diverse and mound distribution follows E-W oriented off-bank ridges., Bottom currents reverse every 6 hours indicating tidal flow decoupled from the north flowing surface current. The AUV data fill the gap between low-resolution surface-based mapping and visual observations on the seafloor, revealing the dynamic environment and spatial relationships of an entire coral mound field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL23616
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 16 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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