Large deep-water coral banks in the Porcupine Basin, southwest of Ireland
De Mol, B Van Rensbergen, P Pillen, S Van Herreweghe, K Van Rooij, D McDonnell, A Huvenne, V Ivanov, M Swennen, Rudy Henriet, JP #
Elsevier science bv
Marine geology vol:188 issue:1-2 pages:193-231
The Porcupine Basin, southwest of Ireland, was one of the earliest sites from where the deep-water corals Lophelia sp. and Madrepora sp. were recovered. These deep-water corals have since been found all along the Atlantic margins of Europe, in water depths ranging from 50 to more than 2000 m. Recent geophysical studies have demonstrated the mound-building potential of deep-water corals. Available data indicate that three major provinces of coral bank occurrences can be identified in the Porcupine Basin: (1) high-relief surface mounds which have a dimension of 1 by 5 km and a height up to 200 m ('Hovland' mounds), flanked to the north by (2) a swarm of buried mounds, somewhat smaller (up to 90 m), and with more irregular shapes than those recognised in area 1 ('Magellan' mounds), and (3) outcropping or buried, conical mounds (single or in elongated clusters, up to 150 m high) occurring on the southeastern slope of the basin ('Belgica' mounds). As far as can be inferred from shallow cores, the surface lithology predominantly consists of an upper layer rich in foraminiferal sand and terrigenous silty clay with intercalations of biogenic rubble. The banks host a remarkable number of colonies of living and dead Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata. The living and dead assemblages are underlain by a significant layer of coral debris in a muddy matrix. Deep-water coral debris together with a living association of the same species covers the surface of the 'Belgica' and 'Hovland' mounds, which may suggest that these corals have played a significant role in the development of the mound structures. The capacity for mound formation by scleractinian corals in the aphotic zone has been known for some time. Examples are found at different locations along the shelves and the continental margins of the North Atlantic. The role of the corals in these deep-water build-ups is still a point of debate. Though the genesis and initial control of mound settings in this basin might be related to hydrocarbon seeps, it appears that the major development of the Porcupine coral banks in recent geological times has most likely been controlled by oceanic circulation and dynamics in water masses and nutrient supply. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.