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Arctic and Deep-Sea Cold-water Coral Reef Out of sight but STILL growing strong Author: Hanna Swanepoel The world's largest cold-water coral reef was found in Norway in 2002!Røst Reef is the world's largest known deep-coral reef and the world's largest Lophelia stony coral reef, a global natural heritage up to 3000m deep and a foundation for many fish and invertebrate species. Not far from there, the Tisler Reef contains the world's only known yellow L. pertusa. Lophelia pertusa, and cold-water coral, grows a few millimetres or 1 mm a year -compared with warm water corals -tolerating temperatures between 4-14 degrees Celcius, but are found at 6–9 o C and less.
One coral, in particular, thrives on the Lophelia foundation bed as a sea tree, the sweet tree, or the bubble gum tree. It's the most prominent horn coral with growth up to 8 m or more but has reached up to 2 meters or less.
The biggest threat is the fishing industry, various forms of fishing/bottom trawling, and environmental exposures like oil spills and ocean pollution.
Lophelia P is in the near-threatened category on the Norwegian red list of 2010, as well as varied species of soft coral in Greenland's deep sea.
This coral's energy comes from whatever it can filter from a passing current. They eat zooplankton and dead organic matter caught with their tentacles. Unlike their counterparts in warm and tropical oceans, these corals don't have symbiotic blue-green algae in a symbiosis needed for photosynthesis. Their polyp adaptation appears to be much larger than tropical corals. They are filter feeders, using tentacles to filter organisms from the deep-sea currents. Over the years, researchers began a project to map the coral reef at a depth of 300-400 meters, 110 km west of Røst. Nordland county, in the Lofoten archipelago.
What happened in the meantime, and what are the results of their effort?
Lophelia pertusa coral is the building block of the reef, called the 'reef engineer' by scientists. It was endangered in the past by trawling, and regulations have since been put in place to protect it. The coral now has MPA (Marine Protected Area) status from the WWF.
Several coral reefs in Norwegian sea areas have been documented through the bottom mapping program MAREANO.
Charting and photographing this vulnerable 35 km-43km long and 3 to 6.9 km wide reef is challenging for scientific, environmental groups, and communities. Measures are in place to prohibit oil digging, as this region is rich in oil reserves, ensuring exploration efforts are not damaging the reef and ocean biodiversity. The South Pole Recently a research team in Antarctica explored a region in the Weddell Sea, usually covered by ice. They found incredible cold-water coral and unique ecosystems. Species like ice fish, bottlebrush coral, sea pens, and other unknown organisms were researched.
Like the sea pen, Octocorals have flexible skeletons and can grow a few meters tall. The sea pen was found at a cold depth of 2000 m. For sustainable survival, it has the skill to burrow itself in the sediment as protection against the ice. Like in the Arctic, corals receive enough nutrients from the global circulation loop of all the sea currents in the world. Deep currents from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans spiral upwards around Antarctica, putting nutrients and carbon back north in the upper currents like an upward spiral staircase. It is the heart of the ocean, and a healthy heart gives a healthy body.