Solenosmilia variabilis-bearing cold-water coral mounds off Brazil

Abstract

Cold-water corals (CWC), dominantly Desmophyllum pertusum (previously Lophelia pertusa), and their mounds have been in the focus of marine research during the last two decades; however, little is known about the mound-forming capacity of other CWC species. Here, we present new 230Th/U age constraints of the relatively rarely studied framework-building CWC Solenosmilia variabilis from a mound structure off the Brazilian margin combined with computed tomography (CT) acquisition. Our results show that S. variabilis can also contribute to mound formation, but reveal coral-free intervals of hemipelagic sediment deposits, which is in contrast to most of the previously studied CWC mound structures. We demonstrate that S. variabilis only occurs in short episodes of < 4 kyr characterized by a coral content of up to 31 vol%. In particular, it is possible to identify distinct clusters of enhanced aggradation rates (AR) between 54 and 80 cm ka−1. The determined AR are close to the maximal growth rates of individual S. variabilis specimens, but are still up to one order of magnitude smaller than the AR of D. pertusum mounds. Periods of enhanced S. variabilis AR predominantly fall into glacial periods and glacial terminations that were characterized by a 60–90 m lower sea level. The formation of nearby D. pertusum mounds is also associated with the last glacial termination. We suggest that the short-term periods of coral growth and mound formation benefited from enhanced organic matter supply, either from the adjacent exposed shelf and coast and/or from enhanced sea-surface productivity. This organic matter became concentrated on a deeper water-mass boundary between South Atlantic Central Water and the Antarctic Intermediate Water and may have been distributed by a stronger hydrodynamic regime. Finally, periods of enhanced coral mound formation can also be linked to advection of nutrient-rich intermediate water masses that in turn might have (directly or indirectly) further facilitated coral growth and mound formation.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the captain, crew members and the scientific party of RV Meteor cruise M125. JR acknowledges funding from the Focus Track A/B programme by the Goethe University Frankfurt. JT received funding by the DFG-Research Center/Cluster of Excellence “The Ocean in the Earth System” and the Cluster of Excellence “The Ocean Floor – Earth’s Uncharted Interface”. Data of S. variabilis distribution around New Zealand were provided by the NIWA Invertebrate Collection, where the specimens were collected as part of numerous research programs funded by agencies such as the New Zealand Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, Fisheries New Zealand, New Zealand Department of Conservation and Land Information New Zealand. AR acknowledges support from Swiss National Science Foundation Project Number SNF 200021_149247. The authors are grateful to the Heidelberg University Hospital for providing access to the CT facility. We also appreciate the help by Frederik Kirst with the GIS based map. NF was supported by the DFG Grant FR1341/9-1 regarding the Th/U dating of cold-water corals and by the DFG Grant INST 35_1143-1 FUGG, which funded the MC-ICPMS infrastructure. This work would not have been possible without the laboratory support for 230Th/U dating provided by René Eichstädter, and the student helpers Carla Roesch and Hanna Rosenthal. Finally, the authors thank Helen Bostock and two anonymous reviewers as well as the topical editor, whose comments considerably improved the manuscript.

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Raddatz, J., Titschack, J., Frank, N. et al. Solenosmilia variabilis-bearing cold-water coral mounds off Brazil. Coral Reefs 39, 69–83 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-019-01882-w

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Keywords

  • Cold-water corals
  • South Atlantic
  • 230Th/U
  • Computed tomography