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Cold Water Corals

Introduction


Coral reefs are colourful ecosystems that are brimming with life. Most thrive in tropical oceans' warm, sunny waters. Beautiful and accessible, shallow water corals are beloved and well known to scientists. Deep-sea corals, on the other hand, are often unknown and underappreciated. It is difficult and costly to study these creatures since they dwell in the frigid darkness of the abyss. In recent years, scientists have used advanced submersible and underwater sensing technology to explore the distant domain of corals.


Distribution


The fundamental way that cold-water corals vary from tropical corals is in their habitat. One of the most significant variations between the two groups is the depth at which corals may survive. In actuality, 40 m to more than 1000 m in depth is where cold-water corals often grow.


This depth suggests that there is life at low temperatures, such as 4 to 13 °C. But particularly a life in complete darkness where the coral tissues lack the symbiotic algae that are seen in tropical corals .In stark contrast to the photic and mesophotic zones, so few coral species build a framework matrix at these depths, making the variety of life on these cold-water coral reefs both astounding and extraordinary. Deep-sea corals, like their shallow-water counterparts, may be found as single coral polyps, diversely structured colonies with several polyps of the same species, or reefs with numerous colonies made up of one or more species. However, deep-sea corals don't need sunlight as their shallow-water counterparts do.


Biodiversity


Understanding how biodiversity in the deep waters is connected to the survival of these ecosystems is crucial in light of fast climate change and extraordinary rates of human disturbance. They get the food and energy they require by capturing microscopic creatures carried by the currents.Because zooplankton is their major food source, the water that makes up their environment must be rich in organic materials. A marine current is also indispensable for their development in the sloping sea beds of the bathyal zone .


It would be certainly wrong to assume that cold water corals harbour any lesser biodiversity than tropical corals. There thrives abundant and rich life. In the ocean’s vast expanse, deep-sea corals provide a precious commodity—habitats for marine life. Deep-sea corals support invertebrates like worms, starfish, and lobsters as well as vertebrates like fish. The corals provide food, places to hide from predators, nurseries for young, and a surface onto which invertebrates may establish themselves. Shrimp, crabs, groupers, rockfish, and snappers are just few of the many economically significant species that rely on deep-sea corals.


Threats


Chemical dangers associated with mineral exploration and exploitation may change corals' feeding habits. This is because they directly affect the seafloor and water quality, two areas where corals are found.


Additionally, pollution poses a hazard to them. Particularly, the wildlife gets tangled in abandoned fishing gear and marine detritus, risking their existence. These stresses may decrease the viability of corals and may have an impact on the abundance of particular species that are more vulnerable than others.


One of the biggest risks to cold-water corals globally is climate change. The production and upkeep of the carbonate skeleton of corals, in particular, may be impacted by ocean acidification, endangering the ecosystem as a whole.


Coral reefs are destroyed as a result of oil and gas exploration and production, especially when accidents happen. The Deep Water Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico caused harm to deep-sea coral.


Way Forward


Increasing numbers of people appreciate the essential need of protecting deep-sea corals. These vulnerable ecosystems are starting to attract some attention in waters under national jurisdiction as well as ones in the high seas. Establishing marine protected zones (MPAs) that prohibit the use of certain fishing gear types is an effective method for preventing physical damage to deep-sea coral communities caused by unsustainable fishing .


Conclusion


All of the world's seas and oceans have cold-water coral habitats. Despite expanded study efforts in recent years, little is known about these environments. However, it is evident that pressures from human activities like unsustainable fishing, pollution, and climate change are putting them in danger. This is why it is time to act and help these endangered corals.

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