Cold-Water Corals in an Era of Rapid Global Change: Are These the Deep Ocean’s Most Vulnerable Ecosystems?



Cold-water corals create highly complex biogenic habitats that promote and sustain high biological diversity in the deep sea and play critical roles in deep-water ecosystem functioning across the globe. However, these often out of sight and out of mind ecosystems are increasingly under pressure both from human activities in the deep sea such as fishing and mineral extraction, and from a rapidly changing climate. This chapter gives an overview of the importance of cold-water coral habitats, the threats they face and how recent advances in understanding of both past and present cold-water coral ecosystems helps us to understand how well they may be able to adapt to current and future climate change. We address key knowledge gaps and the ongoing efforts at national and international scales to promote and protect these important yet vulnerable ecosystems.


Cold-water coral Ocean acidification Aragonite saturation horizon Lophelia pertusa Conservation 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Marine Biodiversity & BiotechnologyHeriot-Watt UniversityEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre SouthamptonUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  3. 3.Departament d’EcologiaUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, Gregory BuildingUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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