Research Technical Report
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Expanded to Include Davidson Seamount
MBNMS (August 2009)
Poster presentation at Monterey County Fairgrounds, Monterey, CA
The Davidson Seamount was added to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 2009. This pristine, undersea mountain - home to fragile, "old-growth" deep-sea coral forests - is the first seamount to be protected in U.S. waters. Although there are over 30,000 seamounts in the Pacific Ocean alone, less than 0.1% of the world's seamounts have been explored and relatively few protected.
Discovered by seafloor mapping in 1938, and following decades of curiosity about the seamount, scientists from the sanctuary and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute launched an exploration in 2002 and discovered a unique, oasis of life, including species that were rare, endemic, never described or seen alive before. Most stunning of all were the large, lush forests of deep-sea corals and sponges that carpeted the seamount's crest. Fragile corals reaching as much as 12 feet high and unusual sponges - some bigger than a refrigerator - towered over its ridges. Above the seamount, life was just as prolific. Scientists encountered nine species of marine mammals, including the endangered sperm whale, and 15 species of seabirds.
National attention was drawn to the seamount and its magnificent qualities, but scientists realized they had only just begun to understand this remarkable ecosystem. The sanctuary organized another seamount expedition in 2006 resulting in more amazing findings - 15 species new to science and corals determined to be well over 100 years old! These exciting discoveries highlighted the importance of protecting this undersea treasure, and in September 2008, President George W. Bush announced the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary would expand to include the Davidson Seamount. On March 9, 2009 the seamount officially became part of the sanctuary, ensuring it will be conserved and protected forever.