Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Marine Institute Banner Advert

New Study Finds Coral in Ireland's Deepest Submarine Canyon Survives Extreme Conditions

10th November 2020
Cold water coral habitats from - 750 m water depth at the Porcupine Bank Canyon, NE Atlantic Cold water coral habitats from - 750 m water depth at the Porcupine Bank Canyon, NE Atlantic Photo: UCC Marine Geology Research Group

Irish cold-water corals can survive in extreme conditions within Ireland’s largest submarine canyon on the Porcupine Bank, a new study has found.

The coral even grows on precipices of high cliffs, and can withstand sea current speed of over 114 centimetres per second, according to the study published today in the science journal Nature.

This is the highest current speed ever recorded in a cold water habitat, according to University College Cork(UCC) scientist Dr Aaron Lim who led the research.

An example of a 3D reconstruction of a cold water coral habitat from -750 m water depth at the Porcupine Bank CanyonAn example of a 3D reconstruction of a cold-water coral habitat from -750 m water depth at the Porcupine Bank Canyon Photo: Aaron Lim

Dr Lim’s team used the Holland 1 remotely operated vehicle (ROV) on the State research ship Celtic Explorer to explore how coral are living in the Porcupine Bank Canyon which is 3,500 metres deep.

The Marine Institue's Holland 1 ROV being deployed from the RV Celtic Explorer as it 'holds' the deep sea monitoring system (attached to the front) before descending to the deep sea (credit Aaron Lim). The Marine Institue's Holland 1 ROV being deployed from the RV Celtic Explorer as it 'holds' the deep sea monitoring system (attached to the front) before descending to the deep sea Photo: Aaron Lim

He was part of the 2018 expedition which explored and mapped the canyon some 320 km west of Kerry, finding it full of cold-water corals forming reefs and mounds which create a rim on the lip of the canyon.

This latest expedition found coral in a range of deep marine settings.

The scientists had to use deep marine monitoring stations and three-dimensional reconstructions as part of the work. .

“These cold-water corals are growing at the very edge of a near-vertical cliff face, in Ireland’s largest submarine canyon some 850 m below the surface in very intense conditions. They’re quite literally living on the edge,” Dr Lim said.

UCC's deep sea monitoring system at the edge of the submarine canyon where it collects marine environmental data for months at a timeUCC's deep sea monitoring system at the edge of the submarine canyon where it collects marine environmental data for months at a time

As he explained, cold-water corals help to form deep-water reefs and mounds which can range from as little as ten metres to over 100 m high.

Some coral mounds have existed offshore Ireland for 2.6 million years, he said. 

“Some of these habitats were predominantly alive, while others were mostly dead and so the aim of the study was to understand what is driving this?” Dr Lim said.

UCC marine geologist Luke O’Reilly described the canyon as “a strange-place; deep, dark and cold but full of life”.

“Together with the Marine Institute, we developed a monitoring system which could withstand these pressures and conditions for months at a time,” O’Reilly said.

Prof Andy Wheeler, head of UCC’s school of biological, earth and environmental sciences, noted that the coral can cope with the strong sea currents, but tend to feed when it slows down – such as when the tide turns. 

The team have recently deployed monitoring stations in the canyon to gather information on survival over longer time scales. 

The research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland and Horizon 2020, with co-funding by the Marine Institute and Geological Survey, Ireland. Shiptime was funded by the Marine Institute's National Shiptime Programme.

The study is published here

Published in Marine Science
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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.

 

Who is Your Sailor of the Year 2020?
Total Votes:
First Vote:
Last Vote:

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)

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

leinster sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Car Brands

subaru sidebutton

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton dob
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Events 2021

vdlr21 sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

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

Please show your support for Afloat by donating