Coral Reefs

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 654–669 | Cite as

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

  • J.M. Roberts
  • C.J. Brown
  • D. Long
  • C.R. Bates


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.


Cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa Remote sensing Habitat mapping Marine protected areas Geographic Information System 



The multibeam survey work was part of the MINCH partnership project ‘Mapping INshore Coral Habitats’. Survey partners were the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), British Geological Survey (BGS), TOPAZ Environmental & Marine Ltd. and the Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (Northern Ireland). Funding for the multibeam sonar was provided by the Scottish Executive and Scottish Natural Heritage. Thanks are due to the captain and crew of the RV Lough Foyle and to W Clark, A Mitchell, M Service and B Stewart for their help with the survey work. Kongsberg-Simrad Ltd. and Fathoms Ltd. provided assistance at sea and with initial data processing. Previous work was supported by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Managing Impacts on the Marine Environment programme to JD Gage (MIME, grant no. GST/02/1828), the European Union Framework 5 Atlantic Coral Ecosystem Study (ACES, contract no. EVK3-CT-1999-00008) and the SAMS-NERC Northern Seas research programme. DL publishes with permission of the Director, British Geological Survey (NERC).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • J.M. Roberts
    • 1
  • C.J. Brown
    • 1
    • 4
  • D. Long
    • 2
  • C.R. Bates
    • 3
  1. 1.Scottish Association for Marine ScienceDunstaffnage Marine LaboratoryObanUK
  2. 2.British Geological SurveyEdinburghUK
  3. 3.School of Geography and GeosciencesUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK
  4. 4.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of UlsterNorthern IrelandUK

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