Deep-water coral mounds on the Porcupine Bank, Irish Margin: preliminary results from the Polarstern ARK-XIX/3a ROV cruise

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Abstract

An overview of preliminary results from a series of recent Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) dives on the deep-water coral provinces of the Porcupine Bank, Irish continental margin, NE Atlantic is presented. The Porcupine Bank exhibits numerous giant carbonate mounds (up to 100s of metres in height) that occur predominantly, although not exclusively, on topographic ridges. The results revealed that, although these ridges have a tectonic origin, contemporaneous activity is typified by erosion due to strong hydrodynamic controls. The carbonate mounds are colonized by a variety of suspension feeders and associated fauna including framework-building corals (e.g., Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata) although dense coral reef-like fauna coverage is not evident at present. The ecology of the carbonate mounds varied widely. Sessile megafauna, such as sponges, gorgonians and framework-building corals (e.g., Lophelia pertusa), were abundant on some of the carbonate mounds. Other mounds were relatively barren and appeared to be undergoing a natural senescence, with a much lower biomass of megafauna than is typical of shallow-water coral reefs. Some mounds had been damaged by demersal trawls, with smashed coral and lost gear common, whereas others appeared relatively pristine with occasional evidence of man-made litter.