Ireland's Deep-Water Coral Carbonate Mounds: Multidisciplinary Research Results

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Kozachenko, M. , Wheeler, A. J. , Beyer, A. , Blamart, D. , Masson, D. and Olu-Le Roy, K. (2003): Ireland's Deep-Water Coral Carbonate Mounds: Multidisciplinary Research Results , 13th Irish Environmental Research Colloquium, Galwayth-10th January 2003. .
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Recent international research activity, involving a strong Irish collaboration, has shown that coral reefs are not exclusively associated with warm tropical waters but are also present in the deeper and colder Northeast Atlantic. In the Porcupine Seabight west of Ireland, coral-colonised carbonate mounds (up to 350m high) are present at 600-900m water depth. The corals Lophelia pertusa L. and Madrepora oculata L. contribute to this diverse ecosystem that may also play a significant role in expanding deep-water fisheries.New side-scan sonar, multibeam echosounder, sub-bottom profiler and underwater video imagery supplemented with sedimentological sample material were used to map the seabed in the environs of the Belgica Carbonate Mound province, eastern Porcupine Seabight. The data were integrated in a GIS and provides information on sediment pathways and benthic current patterns within the study area. A facies map of the study area highlights differing sedimentary processes showing evidences for strong northward bottom currents whose interaction has an influence on mounds growth and morphology. This survey revealed mound flanks dominated by sediment waves that give way to coral banks towards the mound summits. A form of coral accumulation was also documented.Detailed analyses of sediment properties from a 26m core through sediment drift have generated a high-resolution palaeoclimate record revealing temporal patterns in bottom current strength variations. An accurate assessment of this influence on mound through a comparison with coral growth rates is ongoing.

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