Sedimentary processes and carbonate mounds in the Belgica Mound province, Porcupine Seabight, NE Atlantic

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Abstract

Carbonate mounds (up to 200 m high) formed from the accumulated remains of cold-water corals (principally Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata), associated calcareous fauna and interstitial sediment are present at 500–1000 m water depths west of Ireland. Seabed mapping datasets (side-scan sonar, multibeam echosounder, sub-bottom profiler and underwater video imagery) are presented here from the Belgica Mound province on the eastern Porcupine Seabight margin. The data, integrated within a Geographic Information System (GIS), provide an environmental context to mound development. Analysis of this multidisciplinary dataset and resultant facies map highlight differing sedimentary processes (e.g., sediment wave, barchan dune, gravel lag and sand ribbon development) operating under strong northward flowing bottom currents with sandy sediment supply where the influence of mound topography on benthic currents and sediment pathways is evident. Correspondingly, benthic current pathways and associated sediment transport also exert an influence on carbonate mound surface morphology and growth. Giant mounds show a transition from sediment waves that, with increasing coral colonisation, give way to banks of coral towards the mound summits. Smaller mound features (Moira Mounds) show sand entrapment as an important mound-forming process.