15 Habitat Mapping of Cold-Water Corals in the Mediterranean Sea

  • Claudio Lo IaconoEmail author
  • Alessandra Savini
  • Veerle A. I. Huvenne
  • Eulàlia Gràcia
Part of the Coral Reefs of the World book series (CORW, volume 9)


Habitat mapping is increasingly considered as a reliable and efficient methodology to explore and represent the complexity and extent of benthic communities. Providing a full-coverage spatial perspective of habitat heterogeneity is becoming an essential tool in science-based management of natural resources, specifically regarding vulnerable marine ecosystems such as cold-water corals. Here we present two case studies, where we revisit known cold-water coral areas of the Mediterranean Sea and where we apply original habitat mapping techniques. The areas correspond to the Chella Bank, in the Alborán Sea, and the Santa Maria de Leuca cold-water coral province, in the Ionian Sea. The Chella Bank is one of a series of volcanic banks and knolls located in the western Mediterranean that have been described as geologic features hosting vulnerable marine ecosystems. The cold-water coral province off Santa Maria de Leuca represents one of the largest known occurrences of living reef-forming cold-water coral species (i.e. Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata) in the Mediterranean Sea, where corals grow on the exposed summits and flanks of mound-like structures (up to 300 m wide and 25 m high) associated with mass wasting events. Both cases adopt a holistic and integrated study of the environmental characteristics (geology and oceanography) of the observed benthic habitats and aim to map their extent using supervised automated classifications. Multibeam swath bathymetry, the derived acoustic backscatter, sidescan sonar, video footage gathered with a remotely operated vehicle, photo stills from underwater drop camera, and CTD casts where available, have been used together to identify the geological and oceanographic processes that most likely are responsible for the distribution of the observed cold-water corals and associated benthic communities.


Habitat mapping Cold-water corals Geomorphology Benthic habitats Mediterranean Sea 



The research on the Chella Bank benefited from the Project EVENT (Integration of new technologies in paleoseismology: Characterisation of faults capable to produce earthquakes and tsunamis in south Iberia – CGl200612861-C02-02, CTM2003.QJJ46-ElMAR). We acknowledge the helpful contribution of Jordi Grinyó (ICM-CSIC), which supported the species recognition on the Chella Bank. We deeply thank the EVENT-Shelf and EVENT-DEEP Cruise parties, specifically Rafael Bartolomé (ICM-CSIC) for contributing in the acquisition of some of the video data. We are extremely grateful to Jose Ignacio Diaz and José Luis Sanz from the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) for having provided the multi beam and relative backscatter dataset of the Chella Bank. We finally thank Montse Demestre (ICM-CSIC) and Xavier Monteys (GSI-Ireland) for providing the ROV and the digital still camera used on the Chella Bank. Data for the study on the SML CWC province were collected and analysed within the framework of the EU FP7 project CoralFish (Ecosystem-based management of corals, fish and fisheries in the deep waters of Europe and beyond, Grant agreement number: 213144 –, the Italian project MAGIC (Mapping Geohazard along the Italian Coasts – and the FIRB program 2004/2006 RBAU 01RKC7_004 APLABES. The research on the SML area also benefited from the EU FP6 project HERMES (Hotspot Ecosystem Research on the Margins of European Seas, Contract number GOCE-CT-2005- 511234), the RITMARE project funded by the Italian Ministry of University and Research (MIUR) and the ESF COCARDE Network. We are finally indebted to the two reviewers who have deeply improved the quality of this chapter with their constructive observations.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claudio Lo Iacono
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Alessandra Savini
    • 3
  • Veerle A. I. Huvenne
    • 4
  • Eulàlia Gràcia
    • 2
  1. 1.National Oceanography CentreUniversity of Southampton Waterfront CampusSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.Spanish National Research CouncilMarine Sciences InstituteBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Milano-BicoccaMilanoItaly
  4. 4.Marine Geoscience – Seafloor Processes and Habitats Group, National Oceanography CentreUniversity of Southampton Waterfront CampusSouthamptonUK

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