Ecosystem overviews

Oceanic Northeast Atlantic Ecosystem Overview

State of the ecosystem: Benthos

​​​​​Cold-water coral species such as Lophelia pertusa have been reported from multiple sites across the area, including the Hatton and Rockall banks, Edoras Bank, Lousy Bank, and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Video records from three different sections along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge found some lost fishing gear in areas of coral, but no evidence of trawl door tracks. Degraded or damaged cold-water coral reefs have been reported from existing fishing areas, and there is evidence of recent damage by bottom trawl fisheries to cold-water corals on Rockall Bank. The majority of sites where there is evidence of the presence of coral reefs are now protected by NEAFC closures. Recovery of corals from damage is expected to take decades.

Deep-sea sponge grounds have been recorded from the Hatton–Rockall Basin, and are also likely to be found elsewhere in the area at depths less than 2000 m. Limited video surveys suggest that some areas are in an undisturbed state. Sponges from some areas of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge have been mapped.

The only active hydrothermal vent and associated fauna in the area (at 45oN on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge) is known as Moytirra, and was discovered in 2011. The vent field is assumed to be pristine. An area in the Hatton–Rockall Basin has been identified as having seabed conditions that would suggest the presence of a cold‑seep ecosystem. There are no indications that the area has been affected by fishing, and NEAFC has closed the area to bottom fishing.

​The ecoregion has numerous seamounts (Figure 6). Some seamounts with summits at depths < 1500 m were explored for fisheries, but too few have been studied by video or photography to assess the state of the sessile benthic communities. Many seamounts are now protected by NEAFC closures and affected communities may be assumed to be recovering, although this may take decades. Many of these NEAFC‑closed areas are included within OSPAR's network of high seas MPAs.​​​

Full caption for figure 6: Seamounts predicted by gravitational anomalies (red patches; source: Harris et al., 2014) and seamounts listed in the IHO IOC GEBCO Gazetteer of Undersea Feature Names (circles and numbers). (1) Almeida Carvalho, (2) Altair, (3) Andromeda, (4) Antialtair, (5) Auriga, (6) Chaucer, (7) Eriador, (8) Evlanov, (9) Faraday, (10) Fernandes Lopes, (11) Franklin, (12) Georgiy Zima, (13) Gondor, (14) Hatton Bank, (15) Hecate, (16) Hugo de Lacerda, (17) Josephine Bank, (18) La Coruña, (19) Lukin-Lebedev, (20) Marietta, (21) Milne, (22) Minia, (23) Olympus Knoll, (24) Pedro Nunes, (25) Prilyudko, (26) Rohan, and (27) Unnamed.

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Figure 6: Seamounts predicted by gravitational anomalies (see full caption in the text)

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Oceanic Northeast Atlantic Ecosystem Overview

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