, 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


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.


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



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 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).


  1. Akhmetzhanov AM, Kenyon NH, Ivanov MK, Wheeler AJ, Shashkin PV (2003) Giant carbonate mounds and current-swept seafloors on the slopes of the southern Rockall Trough. In: Meinert J, Weaver P (eds) European margin sediment dynamics. Springer, Berlin, pp 203–209Google Scholar
  2. Brett CP, Smith DJ (2000) Hatton–Rockall 2000 regional survey. RV Colonel Templer. (Project 00/01 Operations Report, British Geological Survey Report CR/00/42). BGS Rockall Consortium, Edinburgh, UK Google Scholar
  3. Cairns SD (1992) Worldwide distribution of the Stylasteridae (Cnidaria: hydrozoa). Sci Mar 56:125–130Google Scholar
  4. Clarke KR, Gorley RN (2006) PRIMER v6: user manual/tutorial. PRIMER-e Ltd., Plymouth, UK, p 192Google Scholar
  5. Colman JG, Gordon DM, Lane AP, Forde MJ, Fitzpatrick JJ (2005) Carbonate mounds off Mauritania, Northwest Africa: status of deep-water corals and implications for management of fishing and oil exploration activities. In: Freiwald A, Roberts JM (eds) Cold-water corals and ecosystems. Springer, Berlin, pp 417–441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. De Mol B, Van Rensbergen P, Pillen S, Van Herreweghe K, Van Rooij D, McDonnell A, Huvenne V, Ivanov M, Swennen R, Henriet JP (2002) Large deep-water coral banks in the Porcupine Basin, southwest of Ireland. Mar Geol 188:193–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Davies AJ, Roberts JM, Hall-Spencer J (2007) Preserving deep-sea natural heritage: emerging issues in offshore conservation and management. Biol Conserv 138:299–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dorschel B, Hebbeln D, Foubert A, White M, Wheeler AJ (2007) Hydrodynamics and cold-water coral facies distribution related to recent sedimentary processes at Galway Mound west of Ireland. Mar Geol 244:184–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Due L, van Aken HM, Boldreel LO, Kuijpers A (2006) Seismic and oceanographic evidence of present-day bottom-water dynamics in the Lousy Bank-Hatton Bank area, NE Atlantic. Deep Sea Res I 53:1729–1741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Duineveld GCA, Lavaleye MSS, Berghuis EM (2004) Particle flux and food supply to a seamount cold-water coral community (Galicia Bank, NW Spain). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 277:13–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fauth JE, Bernardo J, Camara M, Resetarits WJ, VanBuskirk J, McCollum SA (1996) Simplifying the jargon of community ecology: a conceptual approach. Am Nat 147:282–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Freiwald A (2002) Reef-forming cold-water corals. In: Wefer G, Billett D, Hebbeln D, Jorgensen BB, Schluter M, van Weering T (eds) Ocean margin systems. Springer, Berlin, pp 365–385Google Scholar
  13. Gooday AJ, Bett BJ, Pratt DN (1993) Direct observation of episodic growth in an abyssal xenophyophore (Protista). Deep Sea Res I 40:2131–2143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Greene HG, Yoklavich MM, Starr RM, O’Connell VM, Wakefield WW, Sullivan DE, McRea JE, Cailliet GM (1999) A classification scheme for deep seafloor habitats. Oceanol Acta 22:663–678CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Henriet JP, De Mol B, Pillen S, Vanneste M, Van Rooij D, Versteeg W, Croker P, Shannon P, Unnithan V, Bouriak S, Chachkine P (1998) Gas hydrate crystals may help build reefs. Nature 391:648–649CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Henry L-A, Roberts JM (2007) Biodiversity and ecological composition of macrobenthos on cold-water coral mounds and adjacent off-mound habitat in the bathyal Porcupine Seabight, NE Atlantic. Deep Sea Res I 54:654–672CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hewitt JE, Thrush SE, Halliday J, Duffy C (2005) The importance of small-scale habitat structure for maintaining beta diversity. Ecology 86:1619–1626CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hitchen K (2004) The geology of the UK Hatton-Rockall margin. Mar Petrol Geol 21:993–1012CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hovland M, Croker PF, Martin M (1994) Fault-associated seabed mounds (carbonate knolls?) off western Ireland and north-west Australia. Mar Petrol Geol 11:232–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hughes JA, Gooday AJ (2004) Associations between living benthic foraminifera and dead tests of Syringammina fragilissima (Xenophyophorea) in the Darwin Mounds region (NE Atlantic). Deep Sea Res I 51:1741–1758Google Scholar
  21. Huvenne VAI, Blondel P, Henriet JP (2002) Textural analyses of sidescan sonar imagery from two mound provinces in the Porcupine Seabight. Mar Geol 189:323–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Huvenne VAI, Beyer A, de Haas H, Dekindt K, Henriet JP, Kozachenko M, Olu-Le Roy K, Wheeler AJ, the TOBI/Pelagia 197 and CARACOLE cruise participants (2005) The seabed appearance of different coral bank provinces in the Porcupine Seabight, NE Atlantic: results from sidescan sonar and ROV seabed mapping. In: Freiwald A, Roberts JM (eds) Cold-water corals and ecosystems. Springer, Berlin, pp 535–569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Huvenne VAI, Bailey WR, Shannon PM, Naeth J, di Primio R, Henriet JP, Horsfield B, De Haas H, Wheeler A, Olu-Le Roy K (2007) The Magellan mound province in the Porcupine Basin. Int J Earth Sci 96:85–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jacobs CL (2006) SV Kommandor Jack Cruise 01/05 11 Jul-08 Aug 2005: Multibeam bathymetry and high resolution sidescan sonar surveys within the SEA7 area of the UK continental shelf (Research and Consultancy Report No 7). National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, UKGoogle Scholar
  25. Jensen A, Frederiksen R (1992) The fauna associated with the bank-forming deepwater coral Lophelia pertusa (Scleractinaria) on the Faroe shelf. Sarsia 77:53–69Google Scholar
  26. Johnson H, Ritchie JD, Hitchen K, McInroy DB, Kimbell GS (2005) Aspects of the Cenozoic deformational history of the northeast Faroe–Shetland Basin and Wyville–Thomson Ridge and Hatton Bank areas. In: Doré AG, Vining BA (eds) Petroleum geology: north-west Europe and global perspectives (PGC6). The Geological Society, London, pp 993–1007Google Scholar
  27. Jonsson LG, Nilsson PG, Floruta F, Lundälv T (2004) Distributional patterns of macro- and megafauna associated with a reef of the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa on the Swedish west coast. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 284:163–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kano A, Ferdelman TG, Williams T, Henriet JP, Ishikawa T, Kawagoe N, Takahashima C, Kakizaki Y, Abe K, Sakai S, Browning EL, Li X, Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 307 Scientists (2007) Age constaints on the origin and growth history of a deep-water coral mound in the northeast Atlantic drilled during Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 307. Geology 35:1051–1054Google Scholar
  29. Kenyon NH, Akmetzhanov AM, Wheeler AJ, van Weering TCE, de Haas H, Ivanov MK (2003) Giant carbonate mounds in the southern Rockall Trough. Mar Geol 195:5–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kiriakoulakis K, Fisher E, Wolff GA, Freiwald A, Grehan A, Roberts JM (2005) Lipids and nitrogen isotopes of two deep-water corals from the North-East Atlantic: initial results and implications for their nutrition. In: Freiwald A, Roberts JM (eds) Cold-water corals and ecosystems. Springer, Berlin, pp 715–729CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Laberg JS, Stoker MS, Dahlgren KIT, de Haas H, Haflidason H, Hjelstuen BO, Nielsen T, Shannon PM, Vorren TO, van Weering TCE, Ceramicola S (2005) Cenozoic alongslope processes and sedimentation on the NW European Atlantic margin. Mar Petrol Geol 22:1069–1088CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Levin LA (1991) Interactions between metazoans and large, agglutinating protozoans—implications for the community structure of deep-sea benthos. Am Zool 31:886–900Google Scholar
  33. Masson DG, Bett BJ, Billett DSM, Jacobs CL, Wheeler AJ, Wynn RB (2003) A fluid escape origin for deepwater coral-topped mounds in the northern Rockall Trough, NE Atlantic. Mar Geol 194:159–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mienis F, de Stigter HC, White M, Duineveld G, De Haas H, van Weering TCE (2007) Hydrodynamic controls on cold-water coral growth and carbonate-mound development at the SW and SE Rockall Trough Margin, NE Atlantic Ocean. Deep Sea Res I 54:1655–1674CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Molodtsova TN (2006) Black corals (Antipatharia: Anthozoa: Cnidaria) of the north-eastern Atlantic. In: Mironov AN, Gebruk AV, Southward AJ (eds) Biogeography of the North Atlantic seamounts. Moscow, pp 141–151Google Scholar
  36. Mortensen PB, Hovland M, Brattegard T, Farestveit R (1995) Deep water bioherms of the scleractinian coral Lophelia pertusa (L.) at 64° N on the Norwegian shelf: structure and associated megafauna. Sarsia 80:145–158Google Scholar
  37. Mortensen PB, Hovland MT, Fosså JH, Furevik DM (2001) Distribution, abundance and size of Lophelia pertusa coral reefs in mid-Norway in relation to seabed characteristics. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 81:581–597CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Neumann AC, Kofoed JW, Keller GH (1977) Lithoherms in the straits of Florida. Geology 5:4–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ostarello GL (1973) Natural history of the hydrocoral Allopora californica Verrill (1866). Biol Bull 145:548–564CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Reed JK, Ross SW (2005) Deep-water reefs off the southeastern US: recent discoveries and research. Current 21:33–37Google Scholar
  41. Reed JK, Weaver DC, Pomponi SA (2006) Habitat and fauna of deep-water Lophelia pertusa coral reefs off the southeastern US: Blake Plateau, Straits of Florida, and Gulf of Mexico. Bull Mar Sci 78:343–375Google Scholar
  42. Roberts HH, Aharon P (1994) Hydrocarbon-derived carbonate buildups of the northern Gulf of Mexico continental slope: a review of submersible investigations. Geo Mar Lett 14:135–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Roberts JM, Harvey SM, Lamont PA, Gage JD, Humphery JD (2000) Seabed photography, environmental assessment and evidence for deep-water trawling on the continental margin west of the Hebrides. Hydrobiologia 441:173–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Roberts JM, Long D, Wilson JB, Mortensen PB, Gage JD (2003) The cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa (Scleractinia) and enigmatic seabed mounds along the north-east Atlantic margin: are they related? Mar Pollut Bull 46:7–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Roberts JM, Wheeler AJ, Freiwald A (2006) Reefs of the deep: the biology and geology of cold-water coral ecosystems. Science 312:543–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rogers AD (1999) The biology of Lophelia pertusa (LINNAEUS 1758) and other deep-water reef-forming corals and impacts from human activities. Int Rev Hydrobiol 84:315–406Google Scholar
  47. Ross SW, Quattrini AM (2007) The fish associated with deep coral banks off the southeastern United States. Deep Sea Res I 54:975–1007CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rüggeberg A, Dullo C, Dorschel B, Hebbeln D (2007) Environmental changes and growth history of a cold-water carbonate mound (Propellor Mound, Porcupine Seabight). Int J Earth Sci 96:57–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Smith DJ (2002) Rockall–Hatton 2002. RRS James Clark Ross JR76 (BGS Project 02/02 Operations Report, British Geological Survey Internal Report IR/02/152). BGS, Edinburgh, UKGoogle Scholar
  50. Smith DJ (2006) BGS cruise to Rockall–Hatton–Faroes region (Project 06/02, RRS Charles Darwin CD180 Operations Report, British Geological Survey Internal Report IR/06/076). BGS, Edinburgh, UKGoogle Scholar
  51. Stetson TR, Squires DF, Pratt RM (1962) Coral banks occurring in deep-water on the Blake Plateau. Am Mus Novit 2114:1–39Google Scholar
  52. Stoker MS, Praeg D, Shannon PM, Hjelstuen BO, Laberg JS, Nielsen T, van Weering TCE, Sejrup HP, Evans D (2005) Neogene evolution of the Atlantic continental margin of NW Europe (Lofoten Islands to SW Ireland): anything but passive. In: Doré AG, Vining BA (eds) Petroleum geology: north-west Europe and global perspectives (Proceedings of the 6th World Petroleum Geology Conference). The Geological Society, London, pp 1057–1076Google Scholar
  53. Tendal OS (1992) The north Atlantic distribution of the octocoral Paragorgia arborea (L., 1758) (Cnidaria, Anthozoa). Sarsia 77:213–217Google Scholar
  54. Van Rooij D, De Mol B, Huvenne V, Ivanov M, Henriet JP (2003) Seismic evidence of current-controlled sedimentation in the Belgica mound province, upper Porcupine slope, southwest of Ireland. Mar Geol 195:31–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. van Weering TCE, de Haas H, de Stigter HC, Lykke-Andersen H, Kouvaev I (2003) Structure and development of giant carbonate mounds at the SW and SE Rockall Trough margins, NE Atlantic Ocean. Mar Geol 198:67–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wheeler AJ, Kozachenko M, Beyer A, Foubert A, Huvenne VAI, Klages M, Masson DG, Olu-Le Roy K, Thiede J (2005) Sedimentary processes and carbonate mounds in the Belgica mound province, Porcupine Seabight, NE Atlantic. In: Freiwald A, Roberts JM (eds) Cold-water corals and ecosystems. Springer, Berlin, pp 571–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wheeler AJ, Beyer A, Freiwald A, de Haas H, Huvenne VAI, Kozachenko M, Olu-Le Roy K, Opderbecke J (2007) Morphology and environment of cold-water coral carbonate mounds on the NW European margin. Int J Earth Sci 96:37–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. White M, Roberts JM, van Weering T (2007) Do bottom-intensified diurnal tidal currents shape the alignment of carbonate mounds in the NE Atlantic? Geo Mar Lett 27:391–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wienberg C, Beuck L, Heidkamp S, Hebbeln D, Freiwald A, Pfannkuche O, Monteys X (2008) Franken Mound: facies and biocoenoses on a newly-discovered “carbonate mound” on the western Rockall Bank, NE Atlantic. Facies 54:1–24Google Scholar
  60. Williams T, Kano A, Ferdelman T, Henriet J-P, Abe K, Andres MS, Bjerager M, Browning EL, Cragg BA, De Mol B, Dorschel B, Foubert A, Frannk TD, Fuwa Y, Gaillot P, Gharib JJ, Gregg JM, Huvenne VAI, Léonide P, Li X, Mangelsdorf K, Tanaka A, Monteys X, Novosel I, Sakai S, Samarkin VA, Sasaki K, Spivack AJ, Takashima C, Titschack J (2006) Cold-water coral mounds revealed. EOS Trans Am Geophys Union 87:525–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wilson JB (1979) “Patch” development of the deep-water coral Lophelia pertusa (L.) on Rockall Bank. J Mar Biol Ass UK 59:165–177Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations