Menu

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Irish Deep Water Coral Reefs Changing Faster Than Previously Thought, Says New Research

29th March 2018
740 Views
Irish Deep Water Coral Reefs Changing Faster Than Previously Thought, Says New Research Photo: MGRC/UCC/Marine Institute

#MarineScience - One of Ireland’s deep water coral reefs is changing at a rate of some 20% over four years, faster than previously thought.

That’s according to new research published by Dr Aaron Lim of the Marine Geology Research Group at University College Cork.

Images and samples were retrieved from the cold water reefs on two separate occasions using the Marine Institute’s ROV Holland 1 operated from the RV Celtic Explorer — representing “the first ever successful attempt at imaging an entire deep water reef” at 1km below the surface, explains Dr Lim.

“Over half the species of coral in the world are cold, deep-water species and many of them can be found in Irish waters between water depths of 600m and 1,000m,” he added.

One of the most prolific places on the planet for deepwater coral development is the Belgic Mound Province, at the Porcupine Bank on the Irish continental margin, where there are over fifty giant coral mounds and 300 smaller coral reefs. 

In 2011 and 2015, the Holland 1 was used by marine scientists to capture images and footage of the entire surface of one of these reefs, “which has for the first time has provided us the insight into how the reefs grow at this scale,” Dr Lim said.

“Initial results showed that the reef was extremely variable and is coping with the contemporary environmental conditions,” said Prof Andy Wheeler, head of geology at UCC and who has been working in Ireland’s corals for 20 years. 

“However, the issue is that it is so difficult to take images of the deep ocean that we can only get bits of information from these reefs during an expedition.”

Dr Lim added: “The importance of this technology and having access to the national research vessel has meant that we can get access to what was only a few decades ago inaccessible. We can now provide a detailed analyses of the reef, showing that it changed at a rate of 20% in four years.”

Unlike its tropical water counterparts, which suffer from mass coral bleaching events, the proportion of live coral on this reef did not change. 

“The change was in fact an increase in the proportion of dead coral and coral rubble areas, which is not the result of live coral dying, but possibly due to the result of strong currents exposing dead coral buried beneath older parts of the reef,” Dr Lim said. 

“Assuming the change continues at this rate, then in 20 years the reef will entirely change.”

Dr Lim and Prof Wheeler have commenced a sizeable research project to monitor a range of coral habitats on the Irish margin with the aim of understanding what is driving these habitats and what makes them change. This research has been funded by the Irish Research Council, the Marine Institute and UCC.

Published in Marine Science
MacDara Conroy

About The Author

MacDara Conroy

Email The Author

MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.

 

At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

At A Glance – Figaro Race

  • It starts in June or July from a French port.
  • The race is split into four stages varying from year to year, from the length of the French coast and making up a total of around 1,500 to 2,000 nautical miles (1,700 to 2,300 mi; 2,800 to 3,700 km) on average.
  • Over the years the race has lasted between 10 and 13 days at sea.
  • The competitor is alone in the boat, participation is mixed.
  • Since 1990, all boats are of one design.

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

mgm sidebutton
bjmarine sidebutton
xyachts sidebutton

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Events

tokyo sidebutton
sovscup sidebutton
vdlr sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
viking sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating