New study finds that cold water corals can survive in extreme conditions – within a submarine canyon
Most people associate corals with sunshine, blue skies and warm seas. In reality more than half of the 5,100 species of coral live in deep and dark parts of the world’s oceans.
The Irish Marine Institute’s deepwater research used a submersible to investigate the Porcupine Bank, a vast submarine canyon at the edge of Ireland’s continental shelf.
The images reveal that corals are thriving at the very edge of the canyon on a near-vertical cliff face. Not only that but the currents here were fast, sometimes more than a metre per second, the highest speed ever recorded in a cold-water coral habitat.
These cold-water corals are growing at the very edge of a near-vertical cliff face, in Ireland’s largest submarine canyon some 850m below the surface in very intense conditions – they’re quite literally living on the edgeDr Aaron Lim – University College Cork (UCC) scientist who led the research.
Cold-water corals help to form deep-water reefs and mounds which can range from as little as 10m to more than 100m high. Some coral mounds have existed offshore Ireland for 2.6 million years.
The research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland and Horizon 2020, with co-funding by the Marine Institute and Geological Survey, Ireland.