French Polynesia

  • Michel Pichon
Part of the Coral Reefs of the World book series (CORW, volume 12)


French Polynesia is composed of 118 high islands and atolls stretching in a vast oceanic expanse in the central Pacific Ocean, from just below the equator to almost 30° S. It is composed of five archipelagos, which all differ in terms of their geological origin and history, environmental conditions, and reef development. The Tuamotu Archipelago is entirely comprised of atolls, whereas fringing or barrier reefs are found in the Society, Gambier, and Austral Islands (only one atoll), and coral reef accretion is almost nonexistent in the Marquesas. Coral reef studies have concentrated mostly on the Society and Tuamotu Archipelagos, and, except for occasional observations, been restricted to a depth of 30–40 m on the reef slopes. Our knowledge of mesophotic coral ecosystems is therefore limited, particularly for the deeper zone, below 80 m depth. The scleractinian mesophotic fauna is highly diverse compared to shallow reefs, with 38 genera and 96 species recorded. This fact is likely to be a consequence of water clarity, allowing the photophilic shallow coral species to extend deeper than usual. In some areas, substratum cover by Pachyseris speciosa reaches values of 80% at depths of ≥70 m, and a typical “deep” mesophotic assemblage dominated by Leptoseris spp. has also been recognized. Quantitative data on other major biotic components of the mesophotic assemblages are either lacking or insufficient to allow their characterization as depth generalists or depth specialists.


Mesophotic coral ecosystems French Polynesia Atolls Volcanic islands Scleractinia 



I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks first and foremost to Pauline Bosserelle for drawing the final figures from my sketchy drafts. Special thanks also go to Gilles Siu for providing pictures and sharing his local knowledge of MCEs. I am also indebted to Prof. Dr. Carsten Lüter (Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin) for making available the coral collection data by Kühlmann at Moorea and Takapoto. I am grateful to Yannick Chancerelle for the pictures of Pachyseris and for making available the full text of a number of literature references, as did also Bruno Delesalle, and to Zena Dinesen for her advice on Leptoseris identifications. I also wish to thank Bernard Salvat and Philippe Bacchet for making available the map of French Polynesia, and authorizing its reproduction, and Merrick Ekins and Joseph Poupin for their advice on Porifera and Crustacea, respectively. Thanks also go to Laetitia Hédouin for her relentless efforts to develop research projects on mesophotic environments. Finally, I am deeply grateful to Héloïse Rouzé for her continuous support and stimulating discussions on the challenges presented by the study of MCEs in French Polynesia.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michel Pichon
    • 1
  1. 1.Biodiversity and Geosciences ProgramMuseum of Tropical Queensland, Queensland Museum NetworkTownsvilleAustralia

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