The Trans-Atlantic Coral Ecosystem Study 'TRACES' will investigate the biodiversity, connectivitiy and climate records associated with cold-water coral habitats along the continental shelf break and slope and with seamounts in the North Atlantic Ocean.
TRACES relies on scientific cooperation between Canada, the European Union
and the United States.
Download the TRACES Science Plan (Nov 2009)
Three ‘squat lobsters’ on a large Atlantic black coral in the Porcupine Seabight (SW Ireland). Recent work shows that cold-water black corals may live over 2000 years and record a unique environmental archive in their skeletons. Photo: AWI & Ifremer (2003)
Coral ecosystems evoke images of warm, tropical waters, not the deep, dark depths of the sea. Yet in the cold recesses of the ocean, there are coral ecosystems as biologically complex and diverse as their tropical counterparts. Cold-water corals are found worldwide and vary from reefs made by hard scleractinian corals to vast thickets of softer gorgonian corals.
In the North Atlantic Ocean cold-water corals were first recorded in the 18th century but only in the last two decades have improved deep-ocean technologies allowed an exponential increase in scientific research on cold-water coral ecosystems. These studies have shown that cold-water corals support high biodiversity, are long-lived and slow-growing making them susceptible to physical disturbance by human activities (especially bottom trawling). They have also highlighted the importance of cold-water corals as habitat for deep-water fishes, indicators of past ocean climate regimes and sources of novel bio-compounds. Finally, recent studies have shown that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is altering the chemistry of the seas and Atlantic corals may be among the most vulnerable marine ecosystems to this ocean ‘acidification’.
Download four page TRACES prospectus.
Download one page TRACES summary sheet.
Thanks to Kimberly Puglise (U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for help preparing these documents.
For more information
Contact Dr J. Murray Roberts