Deep-sea corals

When we think of corals, for most people this brings up colorful views of clear blue waters and colorful tropical reefs around which swim a multitude of exotic fish.  However, these are not the only coral reefs present in our ocean, there are highly productive and extensive reefs in the colder and deeper waters of our oceans.  These are called cold-water coral reefs and as opposed to their tropical counterpart which rely on a symbiotic relationship with photosynthesis algae for their energy, individual cold-water coral polyps capture food particle in the water as the currents move through the colony.   Similarly to tropical reefs, cold-water coral reefs also tend to be home to a wide range of other associated animals as their complex structure can provide shelter for some and opportunities to attach higher up in the water column for others.  As such, they tend to be considered hot spot for biodiversity, but they also face threats from ocean acidification or human activities such as trawling.

In 2015, I was part of a cruise through the CODEMAP project ( where large reefs in England’s Southwest Approaches (depth: 750m) were extensively mapped and imaged for the first time.  Luckily, these are actually located within The Canyons marine conservation zone and as such will be protected against some of these threats.

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