JUNE - Cold Water Coral Reefs

It’s time to introduce our first HABITAT HIGHLIGHT! 🌊🌍🌱

This month, we will explore cold water coral reefs, which can be found off Scotland’s very own West Coast! These reefs are mainly found between depths of 200- 400m and are an important source of food and shelter for a range of organisms on the sea bed.

They also act as breeding grounds for many species of fish such as redfish, ling, tusk and pollock. Cold water corals have been found growing on the legs of oil platforms in the North Sea and submerged oil drums north of Shetland, with some colonies appearing to be younger than 5 years old, suggesting these reefs are still recruiting!

These reefs are a busy habitat, attracting an abundance of different fish life, making them a target for the fishing industry. Heavy fishing gear and destructive fishing techniques have devasted some of our cold coral reefs. Other threats include laying pipes and cables and oil and mineral exploitation.

Cold water reefs are a priority marine feature in Scotland, and trawling on certain reefs has been banned by the UK. Cold water reefs are also a protected feature of the East Mingulay MPA. Check out this cool footage below from Mingulay!

Alongside our Habitat Highlight, we’d like to introduce June’s Species of the Month; LOPHELIA PERTUSA!

This cold water coral is the only reef forming coral in British waters. The largest ever recorded L.pertusa reef is 35km long; the Røst Reef off the coast of Norway! 🇳🇴

Unlike most coral species, L.pertusa does not house any zooxanthellae, the symbiotic algae which give tropical corals their bright colours.

L.pertusa polyps live and build upon the calcium carbonate skeletons of previous coral generations. They have up to 16 tentacles, which extend from the coral exoskeleton to catch plankton and other microorganisms in the surrounding water.

The islands of Barra and Mingulay off the West Coast of Scotland are home to L.pertusa reefs as shallow as 150m; there is even a L.pertusa reef in the East Mingulay MPA.

These reefs are threatened by destructive fishing techniques and oil exploitation.

Scotland is home to many beautiful and bizarre species; did you know we had coral reefs on our own West Coast? Leave a comment or tag a friend!

If you'd like to learn more, check out this interesting paper below -

See you next month!