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The Atlantic Coral Ecosystem Study (ACES) - a margin-wide assesment of corals and their environmental sensitivites in europe´s deep waters

Coral reefs are something we usually associate with warm, tropical waters and exotic fish, but not with the cold, deep and dark waters of the North Atlantic where corals were regarded as oddities on the seafloor. It is now known that cold watercoral species also produce reefs which may rival their tropical cousins in terms of the species richness of associated marinelife (JENSEN and FREDERIKSEN 1992). Increasing commercial operations in deep waters, and the use of advanced offshore technology have slowly revealed the true extent of Europe's hidden coral ecosystems. The discovery of extraordinary10km-long chains of the reef-building corals Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata in 300m water depths on the Norwegian Shelf (MORTENSEN et al. 1995, FREIWALD et al. 1999) have deeply challenged conventional views. The same coral assemblage is also found associated with large seabed structures in the Porcupine Seabight, where they are so abundant that their skeletal remains have, over the millrnnia, contributed to carbonate mound structures up to 300m high in 700 - 1200m water depths (HENRIET et al. 1998). The potential of cold-water corals to contribute to the formation of these large seafloor features and their high biological diversity have attracted considerable public attention through reports in numerous national TV and newspaper features.
 
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