April 24th - May 11th 2017
Blog intro by cruise leaders Gert-Jan Reichart & Dick van Oevelen
The deep seafloor harbours one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on our planet: cold-water coral reefs. Like their tropical counterparts, cold-water corals (CWCs) form structurally complex habitats that support a diverse and productive reef community. It is still paradoxical how such a rich ecosystem can thrive in the deep sea, an environment that is typically considered to be food limited. A group of scientists, funded by NWO (VIDI program) and the EU (www.eu-atlas.org), collectively targetted this paradox during their recent cruise with the Dutch research vessel Pelagia. The cruise visited Rockall Bank (West of Ireland) which has amongst the highest abundance of cold-water coral reefs in the world.
During this research expedition, the team deployed instruments in the water column above the reef for one year to study the processes that govern the delivery of organic matter towards the deep reefs. In addition, they used targeted sampling of reef organisms by the remotely operated vehicle Genesis (www.vliz.be/nl/rov-genesis) to determine how much and which food sources these organisms are utilising.