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Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology

From the shoreline to the deep ocean, tackling issues from pure ecology
and physiology to aquaculture, marine spatial planning and conservation.


CMBB's Laurence de Clippele sets sail on the Celtic Explorer


CMBB PhD student Laurence De Clippele sailed to Rockall Bank this week, onboard the RV Celtic Explorer.

The ship is on a two-week research expedition, titled SORBEH: Slope collapses On Rockall Bank and Escarpment Habitats. She is hosting a group of 13 scientists from 8 countries that are interested in retrieving sediment cores from the seabed and below it, using a brand new gravity corer. They also aim to map the escarpment walls with a multibeam echosounder and get video footage from these environments using the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Holland I.

The target of the SORBEH cruise is the eastern slope of the Rockall Bank in the North Atlantic. In this area, a series of scarps caused by a number of submarine slides have been identified on seafloor maps. They are collectively called the Rockall Bank Slide Complex (RBSC).

The RBSC is believed to have taken place after the last ice age, around 15,000 years ago, but the precise age is still unknown. So far we have been unable to determine when the last phase of instability happened. We are also uncertain about the present-day stability of the slope, i.e. if a new landslide could happen in the near future. Another reason for this cruise, and here Laurence's interest lies, is in studying its habitats. These escarpments can host rich and pristine biological communities that look like coral gardens or reefs, similar to those found in tropical seas – only here they live in cold and deep waters.

This project will continue and expand on research that began in 2010 and 2011 with CE10008 and CE11011 respectively, and will contribute to the ERC-funded CODEMAP project. More information can be found on the blog site.