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Cold-water coral habitats in the Penmarc'h and Guilvinec Canyons (Bay of Biscay): Deep-water versus shallow-water settings
De Mol, L.; Van Rooij, D.; Pirlet, H.; Greinert , J.; Frank, N.; Quemmerais, F.; Henriet, J.-P. (2011). Cold-water coral habitats in the Penmarc'h and Guilvinec Canyons (Bay of Biscay): Deep-water versus shallow-water settings. Mar. Geol. 282(1-2): 40-52.
In: Marine Geology. Elsevier: Amsterdam. ISSN 0025-3227; e-ISSN 1872-6151, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Lophelia Milne Edwards & Haime, 1849 [WoRMS]; Madrepora Linnaeus, 1758 [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    Bay of Biscay; continental margin; canyons; cold-water corals; Lophelia; Madrepora

Authors  Top 
  • Frank, N.
  • Quemmerais, F.
  • Henriet, J.-P., more

    In 1948, Le Danois reported for the first time the occurrence of living cold-water coral reefs, the so-called “massifs coralliens”, along the European Atlantic continental margin. In 2008, a cruise with R/V Belgica was set out to re-investigate these cold-water corals in the Penmarc'h and Guilvinec Canyons along the Gascogne margin of the Bay of Biscay. During this cruise, an area of 560 km2 was studied using multibeam swath bathymetry, CTD casts, ROV observations and USBL-guided boxcoring.Based on the multibeam data and the ROV video imagery, two different cold-water coral reef settings were distinguished. In water depths ranging from 260 to 350 m, mini mounds up to 5 m high, covered by dead cold-water coral rubble, were observed. In between these mounds, soft sediment with a patchy distribution of gravel was recognised. The second setting (350–950 m) features hard substrates with cracks, spurs, cliffs and overhangs. In water depths of 700 to 950 m, both living and dead cold-water corals occur. Occasionally, they form dense coral patches with a diameter of about 10–60 m, characterised by mostly stacked dead coral rubble and a few living specimens. U/Th datings indicate a shift in cold-water coral growth after the Late Glacial Maximum (about 11.5 ka BP) from shallow to deep-water settings.The living cold-water corals from the deeper area occur in a water density (sigma–theta) of 27.35–27.55 kg m-3, suggested to be a prerequisite for the growth and distribution of cold-water coral reefs along the northern Atlantic margin. In contrast, the dead cold-water coral fragments in the shallow area occur in a density range of 27.15–27.20 kg m-3 which is slightly outside the density range where living cold-water corals normally occur. The presented data suggest that this prerequisite is also valid for coral growth in the deeper canyons (> 350 m) in the Bay of Biscay.

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