Environmental factors influencing cold-water coral ecosystems in the oxygen minimum zones on the Angolan and Namibian margins.

Hanz, Ulrike, Wienberg, Claudia , Hebbeln, Dierk , Duineveld, Gerard, Lavaleye, Marc, Juva, Katriina, Dullo, Wolf-Christian , Freiwald, André, Tamborrino, Leonardo, Reichart, Gert-Jan, Flögel, Sascha and Mienis, Furu (2019) Environmental factors influencing cold-water coral ecosystems in the oxygen minimum zones on the Angolan and Namibian margins. Open Access Biogeosciences Discussions . pp. 1-37. DOI 10.5194/bg-2019-52.

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Fossil cold-water coral mounds overgrown by sponges and bryozoans were observed in anoxic conditions on the Namibian margin, while mounds colonized by thriving cold-water coral reefs were found in hypoxic conditions on the Angolan margin. These low oxygen conditions do not meet known environmental ranges favoring cold-water corals and hence are expected to provide unsuitable habitats for cold-water coral growth and therefore reef formation. To explain why the living fauna can nevertheless thrive in both areas, present day environmental conditions at the southwestern African margin were assessed. Downslope CTD transects and the deployment of bottom landers were used to investigate spatial and temporal variations of environmental properties. Temporal measurements in the mound areas recorded oscillating low dissolved oxygen concentrations of 0–0.17 ml l−1 (≙ 0–9 % saturation) on the Namibian and 0.5–1.5 ml l−1 (≙ 7–18 % saturation) on the Angolan margin, which were associated with relatively high temperatures (11.8 13.2 °C and 6.4–12.6 °C respectively). Semi-diurnal barotrophic tides were found to interact with the margin topography producing internal waves with excursions of up to 70 and 130 m for the Namibian and Angolan margins, respectively. These tidal movements temporarily deliver water with more suitable characteristics to the coral mounds from below and above the hypoxic zone. Concurrently, the delivery of high quantity and quality of suspended particulate organic matter was observed, which serves as a food source for cold-water corals. On the Namibian slope organic matter indicates a completely marine source and originates directly from the surface productive zone, whereas on the Angolan margin the geochemical signature of organic material suggest an additional mechanisms of food supply. A nepheloid layer observed above the cold-water coral mound area on the Angolan margin may constitutes a reservoir of fresh organic matter, facilitating a constant supply of food particles by tidal mixing. This suggests that the cold-water coral communities as well as the associated fauna may compensate unfavorable conditions induced by low oxygen levels and high temperatures with an enhanced availability of food. With the expected expansion of oxygen minimum zones in the future due to anthropogenic activities, this study provides an example on how ecosystems could cope with such extreme environmental conditions.

Document Type: Article
Funder compliance: info:eu-repo/grantAgreement/EC/H2020/679849
Keywords: cold-water coral, hypoxic conditions, Namibian and Angolan margin, habitat
Research affiliation: MARUM
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-MG Marine Geosystems
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB1 Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics > FB1-P-OZ Paleo-Oceanography
Refereed: No
Open Access Journal?: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.5194/bg-2019-52
ISSN: 1810-6285
Projects: FATE, SponGES
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2019 08:13
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2019 22:43
URI: http://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/45975

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