Climate-Change Refugia for the Bubblegum Coral Paragorgia arborea in the Northwest Atlantic

Published: 12 September 2022| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/bzpzzw9tdc.1
Camille Lirette


The large, habitat-forming bubblegum coral, Paragorgia arborea, is a vulnerable marine ecosystem indicator with an antitropical distribution. Dense aggregations of the species have been protected from bottom-contact fishing in the Scotian Shelf bioregion off Nova Scotia, Canada in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Recently, basin-scale habitat suitability ensemble modeling has projected an alarming loss of 99% of suitable habitat for this species across the North Atlantic by 2100. Here, a regional reassessment of the predicted distribution of this species in the bioregion, using both machine learning (random forest) and generalized additive model (GAM) frameworks, including projection to 2046−2065, was undertaken. Extrapolation diagnostics were applied to determine the degree to which the models projected into novel covariate space (i.e., extrapolation) in order to avoid erroneous inferences. The best predictors of the species’ distribution were a suite of temporally-invariant terrain variables that identified suitable habitat along the upper continental slope. Additional predictors, projected to vary with future ocean climatologies, identified areas of the upper slope in the eastern portion of the study area that will remain within suitable ranges for P. arborea at least through to the mid-century. Additionally, 3-D Lagrangian particle tracking simulations indicated potential for both connectivity among known occurrence sites and existing protected areas, and for colonization of unsurveyed areas predicted to have suitable habitat, from locations of known occurrence. These results showed that extirpation of this iconic species from the Scotian Shelf bioregion is unlikely over the next decades. Potential climate refugia were identified and results presented in the context of protected area network design properties of representativity, connectivity, adequacy, viability and resilience. Here we provide the locations for presence and absence records for P. arborea (response data) and the interpolated environmental predictor variables used in present day and future species distribution models. Predicted surfaces from random forest (RF) and generalized additive models (GAM) are provided for present day and projected (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 2045-2065) time frames. Outputs after applying extrapolation diagnostic tools (calculated using the R package dsmextra) are provided for each model. Climate change refugia for this species under the RCP4.5 2045-2065 projections are found in the Fig8 folder showing analogue conditions. Explanations for the surfaces can be found in Wang, Murillo & Kenchington (2022) and in the associated supplementary files. Links to both are provided (see related links). Reference: Wang S, Murillo FJ and Kenchington E (2022) Climate-Change Refugia for the Bubblegum Coral Paragorgia Arborea in the Northwest Atlantic. Front. Mar. Sci. 9:863693. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2022.863693



Fisheries and Oceans Canada Maritimes Region, Bedford Institute of Oceanography


Marine Ecology, Climate Change, Particle Tracking, Deep-Sea Benthos