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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 397:139-151 (2009)  -  DOI:

Mingulay reef complex: an interdisciplinary study of cold-water coral habitat, hydrography and biodiversity

J. M. Roberts1,2,9,*, A. J. Davies1,10, L. A. Henry1, L. A. Dodds1, G. C. A. Duineveld3, M. S. S. Lavaleye3, C. Maier3,4, R. W. M. van Soest5, M. J. N. Bergman3, V. Hühnerbach6, V. A. I. Huvenne6, D. J. Sinclair1, T. Watmough1,7, D. Long8, S. L. Green6,8, H. van Haren3

1Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, Oban, Argyll PA37 1QA, UK
2Center for Marine Science, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, 5600 Marvin K. Moss Lane, Wilmington, North Carolina 28409, USA
3Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands
4CNRS, Laboratoire d'Océanographie de Villefranche, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
5Zoological Museum of the University of Amsterdam, PO Box 94766, 1090GT Amsterdam, The Netherlands
6National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton, Waterfront Campus, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
7School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK
8British Geological Survey, Murchison House, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3LA, UK
9Present address: Centre for Marine Biodiversity & Biotechnology, School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK
10Present address: School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, Menai Bridge LL59 5AB, UK

ABSTRACT: The Mingulay reef complex in the Sea of the Hebrides west of Scotland was first mapped in 2003 with a further survey in 2006 revealing previously unknown live coral reef areas at 120 to 190 m depth. Habitat mapping confirmed that distinctive mounded bathymetry was formed by reefs of Lophelia pertusa with surficial coral debris dating to almost 4000 yr. Benthic lander and mooring deployments revealed 2 dominant food supply mechanisms to the reefs: a regular rapid downwelling of surface water delivering pulses of warm fluorescent water, and periodic advection of high turbidity bottom waters. Closed chamber respirometry studies suggest that L. pertusa responds to seawater warming, such as that seen during the rapid downwelling events, with increases in metabolic rate. Lipid biomarker analysis implies that corals at Mingulay feed predominantly on herbivorous calanoid copepods. Integrating geophysical and hydrographical survey data allowed us to quantify the roles of these environmental factors in controlling biodiversity of attached epifaunal species across the reefs. Longitudinal structuring of these communities is striking: species richness (α) and turnover (β) change significantly west to east, with variation in community composition largely explained by bathymetric variables that are spatially structured on the reef complex. Vibro-cores through the reef mounds show abundant coral debris with significant hiatuses. High resolution side-scan sonar revealed trawl marks in areas south of the coral reefs where vessel monitoring system data showed the highest density of local fishing activity. The interdisciplinary approach in this study allowed us to record the food supply and hydrographic environment experienced by L. pertusa and determine how it may be ecophysiologically adapted to these conditions. Improved basic understanding of cold-water coral biology and biodiversity alongside efforts to map and date these long-lived habitats are vital to development of future conservation policies.

KEY WORDS: Ecological engineer · Lophelia pertusa · Seamounts · Internal waves

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Cite this article as: Roberts JM, Davies AJ, Henry LA, Dodds LA and others (2009) Mingulay reef complex: an interdisciplinary study of cold-water coral habitat, hydrography and biodiversity. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 397:139-151.

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