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Centre for

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.

Coral ecosystems


The very mention of coral reefs instantly conjures images of tropical seas, white sandy beaches and palm trees; you may have even heard of tropical coral reefs being referred to as the rainforests of the sea. Whilst all of this may be true, emerging evidence has highlighted that cold-water corals also support a vast array of life, and are found in many of the World's oceans such as the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indian and Pacific. So despite being less well known, these cold-water corals have a much larger distribution range than tropical corals, and have been found to be much more diverse.

The Coral Ecosystems Lab at the CMBB explore the biology, ecology and hydrology of tropical and cold-water corals and the ecosystems they create, providing the information needed for their long-term management and conservation. More information on the research of the coral ecosystems group is available by following the theme links on the left. For more information on cold-water corals, see the group's outreach website

Current projects and partnerships include:

  • UK benthos around oil and gas platforms.
  • Decision support tools of environmental monitoring.
  • Where did all the CO2 go? UK Natural Environment Research Council
  • Coral-Bots (swarm robotic technology for habitat restoration). 
  • Cold-Water coral reproduction. Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS)
  • Coral pH regulation. Natural Environment Research Council Independent Research Fellowship.
  • EcoLophelia (ASSEMBLE).
  • Trans-Atlantic Coral Ecosystem Study (TRACES). European Commission Marie Curie Fellowship and others

    Recently completed projects include:

  • Hotspot Ecosystem Research and Man's Impact On European Seas (HERMIONE). European Commission FP7
  • Impacts of Ocean acidification upon the cold water coral Lophelia pertusa. UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme (UKOA). Natural Environment Research Council. 
  • Secrets from a deep reef (Melanie Douarin, University of Edinburgh). Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES), Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS)
  • European Project for OCean Acidification (EPOCA, Associate Partners, 2008-2012)
  • Ecohydrodynamics in the NE Atlantic (Added Value Award for UKOA grant).

    In addition, Coral Ecosystems Lab members are currently completing several pilot projects supported by Heriot-Watt University's Crucible grant scheme:

  • 3D complex flow field modelling around coralline algae.
  • Towards mid-IR "optical" fibre sensors for in situ ocean acidification research.