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Thousands of cold-water coral mounds along the Moroccan Atlantic continental margin: distribution and morphometry
Hebbeln, D.; Bender, M.; Gaide, S.; Titschack, J.; Vandorpe, T.; Van Rooij, D.; Wintersteller, P.; Wienberg, C. (2019). Thousands of cold-water coral mounds along the Moroccan Atlantic continental margin: distribution and morphometry. Mar. Geol. 411: 51-61.
In: Marine Geology. Elsevier: Amsterdam. ISSN 0025-3227; e-ISSN 1872-6151
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 
    Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee: Open access 329324 [ download pdf ]

Author keywords
    Cold-water corals; Coral mounds; NW African margin; Internal waves;Carbonate budget

Authors  Top 
  • Hebbeln, D.
  • Bender, M.
  • Gaide, S.
  • Titschack, J.
  • Vandorpe, T.
  • Van Rooij, D.
  • Wintersteller, P.
  • Wienberg, C.

    Coral mounds formed by framework-forming cold-water corals pierce the seabed along most continental margins of the Atlantic Ocean and new sites are continuously being discovered. Here, we describe an extremely high accumulation of coral mounds at the NW Moroccan Atlantic margin between 35°N and 35.5°N. Within an area of only 1440 km2, >3400 mounds were found exposed at the seabed. The coral mounds are nowadays characterized by an almost complete lack of living cold-water corals. In addition, numerous buried mounds were identified in hydroacoustic sub-bottom profiles, and are estimated to be ~3.7 times more frequent than the exposed mounds. Consequently, a total of ~16,000 buried and exposed mounds is estimated for the entire study area. The exposed mounds are rather small with a mean height of 18 m and show a conspicuous arrangement in two slope-parallel belts that centre in water depths between 720 and 870 m and 890–980 m, respectively, putting them among the deepest mound occurrences discovered so far in the Atlantic. The mostly elongated mounds largely stretch downslope pointing to a significant influence of internal waves in the mound formation process. Moreover, based on their average dimensions, the entire coral mound volume can be estimated as 1.3 km3, which means the mounds store a considerable amount of coral carbonate highlighting their potentially important role as regional carbonate factories. In combination with further occurrences of coral mounds along the Moroccan margin, both in the Mediterranean and in the Atlantic Ocean, these new findings underline Morocco's role as a hotspot for the occurrence of cold-water coral mounds.

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