Articles | Volume 11, issue 7
Biogeosciences, 11, 1799–1815, 2014
Biogeosciences, 11, 1799–1815, 2014

Research article 07 Apr 2014

Research article | 07 Apr 2014

Environmental forcing of the Campeche cold-water coral province, southern Gulf of Mexico

D. Hebbeln1, C. Wienberg1, P. Wintersteller1, A. Freiwald2, M. Becker1, L. Beuck2, C. Dullo3, G. P. Eberli4, S. Glogowski3, L. Matos6,5,1, N. Forster2, H. Reyes-Bonilla7, and M. Taviani8,9 D. Hebbeln et al.
  • 1Center for Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM), University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • 2Senckenberg am Meer, Marine Research Department, Wilhelmshaven, Germany
  • 3Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR), Kiel, Germany
  • 4Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), University of Miami, Miami, USA
  • 5Instituto Portugues do Mar e da Atmosfera (IPMA), Lisbon, Portugal
  • 6Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do Mar (CESAM), Aveiro, Portugal
  • 7Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, La Paz, Mexico
  • 8Institute of Marine Sciences, National Research Council, Bologna, Italy
  • 9Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, USA

Abstract. With an extension of > 40 km2 the recently discovered Campeche cold-water coral province located at the northeastern rim of the Campeche Bank in the southern Gulf of Mexico belongs to the largest coherent cold-water coral areas discovered so far. The Campeche province consists of numerous 20–40 m-high elongated coral mounds that are developed in intermediate water depths of 500 to 600 m. The mounds are colonized by a vivid cold-water coral ecosystem that covers the upper flanks and summits. The rich coral community is dominated by the framework-building Scleractinia Enallopsammia profunda and Lophelia pertusa, while the associated benthic megafauna shows a rather scarce occurrence. The recent environmental setting is characterized by a high surface water production caused by a local upwelling center and a dynamic bottom-water regime comprising vigorous bottom currents, obvious temporal variability, and strong density contrasts, which all together provide optimal conditions for the growth of cold-water corals. This setting – potentially supported by the diel vertical migration of zooplankton in the Campeche area – controls the delivering of food particles to the corals. The Campeche cold-water coral province is, thus, an excellent example highlighting the importance of the oceanographic setting in securing the food supply for the development of large and vivid cold-water coral ecosystems.

Final-revised paper