The Eugen Seibold coral mounds offshore western Morocco: oceanographic and bathymetric boundary conditions of a newly discovered cold-water coral province
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This study reports a new cold-water coral (CWC) province covering ~410 km2 off western Morocco (ca. 31°N) ~40 nautical miles north of the Agadir Canyon system between 678 and 863 m water depth, here named the Eugen Seibold coral mounds. Individual mounds are up to 12 m high with slope angles varying between 3° and 12°. Hydroacoustic data revealed mound axes lengths of 80 to 240 m. Slope angle, mound height, and density of mounds decrease with increasing water depth. The deepest mounds are composed of dead and fragmented Lophelia pertusa branches. Living CWCs, mainly L. pertusa, were sampled with box cores between 678 and 719 m water depth. Conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) measurements revealed living CWC colonies to occur within the deeper part of the North Atlantic Central Water (NACW; conservative temperature Θ of 9.78–9.94 °C, absolute salinity SA of ca. 35.632 g/kg, and seawater density σΘ of 27.31–27.33 kg/m3). Comparable CWC reefs off Mauritania (17°N–18°N) and on the Renard Ridge (35°N) in the Gulf of Cadiz, the latter consisting only of a dead CWC fabric, are also located in the deeper layer of the NACW slightly above the Mediterranean Outflow Water. The new CWC province, with its thin cover of living corals and much larger accumulations of dead thickets and fragmented coral rubble, was successfully discovered by CTD reconnaissance applying seawater density as a potential indicator of CWC occurrences, followed by hydroacoustic mapping. U-Th isotope systematics for macroscopically altered buried Lophelia material (25 cm sediment depth) yielded absolute ages dating back to the late Holocene at least.
KeywordsBefore Present North Atlantic Deep Water Seawater Density Mediterranean Outflow Water Coral Mound
We acknowledge the superb support by the captain and crew as well as the scientific shipboard party during cruise 32 aboard the RV Maria S. Merian, and the German Science Foundation (DFG) for funding ship time and providing financial support (Du 129/48-1). R.B.W. and the NOC TOBI team were supported by NERC grant NE/J012955/1. We are grateful to Dr. Gemma Ercilla of CSIC, Barcelona for providing analogue TOPAS profiles which enabled us to target the coral mound province. In addition, thanks go to Dr. Steffen Hetzinger for providing data collected during cruise MSM16/3, Anke Bleyer and Bettina Domeyer for their “helping hand” in preparing the cruise, Jutta Heinze for XRD analyses, Ana Kolevica for clean-lab support (all from GEOMAR), Dr. Jan Fietzke for high performance level of the Axiom MC-ICP-MS facility, Prof. A. Eisenhauer for unrestricted scientific and infrastructural support, and Prof. Peter Brandt for valuable discussions on water mass structures. Detailed comments provided by two anonymous reviewers, Prof. A. Foubert (Fribourg) and the editors proved useful in improving the paper.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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