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Facies

, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 297–316 | Cite as

Cold-water coral reef frameworks, megafaunal communities and evidence for coral carbonate mounds on the Hatton Bank, north east Atlantic

  • J. M. Roberts
  • L.-A. Henry
  • D. Long
  • J. P. Hartley
Original Article

Abstract

Offshore banks and seamounts sustain diverse megafaunal communities, including framework reefs formed by cold-water corals. Few studies have quantified environmental effects on the alpha or beta diversity of these communities. We adopted an interdisciplinary approach that used historical geophysical data to identify topographic highs on Hatton Bank, which were surveyed visually. The resulting photographic data were used to examine relationships between megafaunal communities and macrohabitat, the latter defined into six categories (mud, sand, cobbles, coral rubble, coral framework, rock). The survey stations revealed considerable small-scale variability in macrohabitat from exposed Late Palaeocene lava flows to quiescent muddy habitats and coral-built carbonate mounds. The first reported evidence for coral carbonate mound development in UK waters is presented, which was most pronounced near present-day or former sites of topographic change, suggesting that local current acceleration favoured coral framework growth and mound initiation. Alpha diversity varied significantly across macrohabitats, but not between rock and coral rubble, or between smaller grain sized categories of cobbles, sand and mud. Community composition differed between most macrohabitats, and variation in beta diversity across Hatton Bank was largely explained by fine-scale substratum. Certain megafauna were clearly associated with particular macrohabitats, with stylasterid corals notably associated with cobble and rock habitats and coral habitats characterized by a diverse community of suspension-feeders. The visual surveys also produced novel images of deep-water megafauna including a new photographic record of the gorgonian coral Paragorgia arborea, a species not previously reported from Rockall Plateau. Further interdisciplinary studies are needed to interpret beta diversity across these and other environmental gradients on Hatton Bank. It is clear that efforts are also needed to improve our understanding of the genetic connectivity and biogeography of vulnerable deep-water ecosystems and to develop predictive models of their occurrence that can help inform future conservation measures.

Keywords

Biodiversity Deep-sea coral Paragorgia arborea Lophelia pertusa Marine protected area Seismic survey 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The images analysed in this study were collected by the UK Department of Trade and Industry (now the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) as part of Strategic Environmental Assessment of area 7 (“SEA7”) carried out before licensing hydrocarbon exploration (see http://www.offshore-sea.org.uk/). The seismic profiles were gathered as part of the British Geological Survey’s Rockall project supported by a consortium of oil companies. We acknowledge the captains and crews of SV Kommandor Jack (2005) for collecting multibeam and images, RV Colonel Templar (2000 and 2001) and RRS Charles Darwin (2006) for collecting seismic data and multibeam, M. Wisshak and A. Freiwald for historic coral positions and A. Davies for assistance with figures. This work was supported by the European Commission Marie Curie international fellowships “European Cold-water Coral Ecosystems” (Contract No. MIF1-CT-2004-002469) and “Trans-Atlantic Coral Ecosystem Studies” (Contract No. MOIF-CT-2006-040018) under the programme “Structuring the European Research Area” and the HERMES project (Contract No. GOCE-CT-2005-511234) through the European Commission’s Sixth Framework Programme under the priority “Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems”. We thank T. Beck, S. Cairns, A. Freiwald, T. Molodtsova, M. Nizinksi and D. Opresko for assistance in identifying animals in the photographs. David Long publishes with permission of the Director, British Geological Survey (Natural Environment Research Council).

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. M. Roberts
    • 1
    • 2
  • L.-A. Henry
    • 1
  • D. Long
    • 3
  • J. P. Hartley
    • 4
  1. 1.Scottish Association for Marine ScienceDunstaffnage Marine LaboratoryObanUK
  2. 2.Center for Marine ScienceUniversity of North Carolina at WilmingtonWilmingtonUSA
  3. 3.British Geological SurveyEdinburghUK
  4. 4.Hartley Anderson Ltd.EllonUK

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