, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 654-669
Date: 11 Nov 2005

Acoustic mapping using a multibeam echosounder reveals cold-water coral reefs and surrounding habitats

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Abstract

Multibeam surveys were carried out in four areas to the west of Scotland where the coral Lophelia pertusa had previously been recorded. Distinctive seabed mounds were found in one area; video images from the mounds showed coral reef formation, and grab samples recovered L. pertusa reef framework and rubble. Skeleton samples were dated to 3,800 years BP. Grab samples contained 123 species of fauna. The reef structures, termed the Mingulay Reef Complex, were identified as topographic mound-like structures from the bathymetric data and were also visible on the backscatter images. The location of the reefs coincides with Atlantic bottom waters, close to a primary productivity centre and mixing zone, in an area where currents are likely to be accelerated by rocky seafloor ridges. This study shows that multibeam echosounders are powerful tools to locate and map deep-water coral reefs irrespective of water depth.

Communicated by Environmental Editor B.G. Hatcher