Global Biodiversity in Cold-Water Coral Reef Ecosystems

Reference work entry


Over half of all scleractinian coral species inhabit ocean depths greater than 50 m, some of which are capable of constructing reefs tens of kilometers long and hundreds of meters high. The biodiversity of life found on these cold-water coral reefs is astounding yet remarkable since, in contrast to the photic and mesophotic zones, so few coral species actually create a framework matrix at these depths. In light of rapid climate change and unprecedented rates of anthropogenic disturbance, it is urgent we understand how biodiversity in the depths of our oceans is coupled to the persistence of these habitats. We provide a synthetic overview of animal biodiversity associated with major reef framework-forming species, discussing this with respect to global trends in species diversity, composition, and regional species pools, large knowledge gaps, and also the frontiers in technology that cold-water coral science is adopting to help address these gaps.


Cold-water coral reefs Sharks Fauna Species diversity Community assembly Biogeography Taxonomy Landers Underwater observatories Robotics Genomics 



This work builds upon several projects including the European Union Marie Curie fellowships ECCRE (Contract no. 002469) and TRACES (MOIF-CT-2006–040018). The authors acknowledge the recent UK Ocean Acidification programme (Natural Environment Research Council grant NE/H017305/1) and on-going NERC projects (grants NE/M007235/1 and NE/J021121/1). Further thanks are due to the captain and crew of the RRS James Cook for assistance at sea and to Marta Mellado-Silva, Claudia Wienberg, and Dierk Hebbeln at MARUM, and Di Tracey and Malcolm Clark at NIWA for images.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology, School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt UniversityEdinburghUK
  2. 2.School of GeoSciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  3. 3.Center for Marine ScienceUniversity of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmingtonUSA

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