Cold-water coral habitats of Rockall and Porcupine Bank, NE Atlantic Ocean: Sedimentary facies and benthic foraminiferal assemblages

G.G.B. Smeulders, K.A. Koho, H.C. de Stigter, F. Mienis, H. de Haas, T.C.E. van Weering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The extent of the cold-water coral mounds in the modern ocean basins has been recently revealed by new state-of-the-art equipment. However, not much is known about their geological extent or development through time. In the facies model presented here seven different types of seabed substrate are distinguished, which may be used for reconstruction of fossil coral habitats. The studied substrates include: off-mound settings, (foram) sands, hardgrounds, dead coral debris, and substrates characterized by a variable density of living coral framework. Whereas sediment characteristics only provide a basis for distinguishing on- and off-mound habitats and the loci of most prolific coral growth, benthic foraminiferal assemblages are the key to identifying different mound substrates in more detail. Specific foraminiferal assemblages are distinguished that are characteristic of these specific environments. Assemblages from off-mound settings are dominated by (attached) epifaunal species such as Cibicides refulgens and Cibicides variabilis. The attached epibenthic species Discanomalina coronata is also common in off-mound sediments, but it is most abundant where hardgrounds have formed. In contrast, the settings with coral debris or living corals attract shallow infaunal species that are associated with more fine-grained soft sediments. The typical 'living coral assemblage' is composed of Cassidulina obtusa, Bulimina marginata, and Cassidulina laevigata. The abundance of these species shows an almost linear increase with the density of the living coral cover. The benthic foraminifera encountered from off-mound to top-mound settings appear to represent a gradient of decreasing current intensity and availability of suspended food particles, and increasing availability of organic matter associated with fine-grained sediment trapped in between coral framework.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-285
Number of pages16
JournalDeep-Sea Research. Part II: topical studies in oceanography
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Carbonate mounds
  • Bioherms
  • Cold-water corals
  • Fossil assemblages
  • Sedimentary facies
  • NE Atlantic
  • Porcupine
  • Rockall


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