‘Coral hotel’ will help reveal secrets of Sea of Hebrides

Team from Scottish Association for Marine Science will be working in area to collect samples

THE Sea of Hebrides off Barra will begin to reveal some of its mysteries this week, with the help of a “coral hotel”.

A team of scientists from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (Sams) at Dunstaffnage, near Oban, will be working in the area of the Mingulay cold-water coral reef aboard the Southampton research vessel RRS Discovery from Friday this week to Sunday, July 5.

The scientists include physicists led by Mark Inall, microbiologists lead by Keith Davidson, and marine biologists led by Murray Roberts.

Mr Roberts led the team which initially discovered the coral reef near to the island of Mingulay in 2003, provoking worldwide interest.

Mr Roberts said the discovery has raised more questions than answers about the importance and complexity of the reef.

He said: “The teams will be studying the biology and oceanography of the Sea of Hebrides, collecting samples from the coral growing at around 360ft below the surface, and from what lives on the seabed and grows in the water column.

“The coral will be kept alive in a special chilled aquarium we’ve nicknamed the coral hotel, and will be studied back at Sams over two years.

“Coral is host to an extraordinary diversity of life including 100 sponges, and 358 other species – and that’s only what we’ve found so far.

“Increasing sea temperatures and ocean acidification are serious threats across the globe, and we want to look at the effects of temperature on coral respiration, and of acidification on its growth patterns. No such monitoring has hitherto been available, but is badly needed.”

Coral reef destruction by bottom-trawling, pollution or uncontrolled harvesting for jewellery is a major problem in other parts of the world.

Mr Roberts added: “Corals form over many thousands of years, in fact it’s thought that certain colonies could be more than 2million years old. If we lose them, we lose a very rich biodiversity that could not be regenerated on our timescale. It would impact on animals, and ultimately man.”

The Press and Journal, 23 June 2009. Article.

  • Reset


OA-ICC Highlights

%d bloggers like this: