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Mar Pollut Bull. 2006 May;52(5):549-59. Epub 2005 Nov 21.

The occurrence of the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa (Scleractinia) on oil and gas platforms in the North Sea: colony growth, recruitment and environmental controls on distribution.

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Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, Oban, Argyll PA37 1QA, UK.


This study reports a newly established sub-population of Lophelia pertusa, the dominant reef-framework forming coral species in the north-east Atlantic, on oil and gas platforms in the northern North Sea. L. pertusa was positively identified on 13 of 14 platforms examined using existing oil and gas industry visual inspections. Two platforms were inspected in more detail to examine depth and colony size distributions. We recorded 947 colonies occurring between 59 and 132 m depth that coincides with cold Atlantic water at depths below the summer thermocline in the northern North Sea. We suggest that these colonies provide evidence for a planktonic larval stage of L. pertusa with recruits initially originating from populations in the north-east Atlantic and now self recruiting to the platforms. Size class distribution showed a continuous range of size classes, but with few outlying large colonies. The break between the largest colonies and the rest of the population is considered as the point when colonies began self recruiting to the platforms, resulting in greater colonization success. We present the first documented in situ colony growth rate estimate (26 +/- 5 mm yr(-1)) for L. pertusa based on 15 colonies from the Tern Alpha platform with evidence for yearly recruitment events starting the year the platform was installed. Evidence of contamination from drill muds and cuttings was observed on the Heather platform but appeared limited to regions close to drilling discharge points, where colonies experience partial as well as whole colony mortality.

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