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International Workshop on Cold-Water Corals Held in Norway

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If someone asked you to name a country with a lot of corals, you'd expect tropical answers like "Australia" or "Belize" because of their well-known barrier reefs. Norway, crossed by the frigid Arctic Circle, would probably not even make the top 10 guesses. In fact, Norwegian waters are home to large numbers and varieties of cold-water corals. These corals, including both stony corals and seafan-like soft corals, do not host photosynthetic algae and so can survive in dark, deep waters. For that reason, they are also known as deep-sea corals. However, they may be found as shallow as 40 m in Norwegian fjords and as deep as thousands of meters on seamounts and on the continental shelf. As in the Gulf of Mexico, the areas of hard bottom where these corals are found are commonly areas of interest for oil and gas exploration and drilling.

Cold-water-coral habitat Christina Kellogg
Above left: Cold-water-coral habitat featuring the stony coral, Lophelia pertusa. This image is from the USGS DISCOVRE project in the Gulf of Mexico, but the same coral is even more common in Norwegian waters. Photograph courtesy of USGS DISCOVRE. [larger version]

Above right: Christina Kellogg
(center, coral shirt) participates in a lively discussion after one of the presentations at the cold-water-coral workshop. Photograph courtesy of IRIS. [larger version]

The first Norwegian-hosted workshop on cold-water corals was sponsored by the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association (OLF) and hosted by the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS) on May 31-June 1, 2010. This workshop was designed to bring together researchers, government and nongovernmental organizations, and representatives from the oil and gas industry who are actively involved in cold-water-coral research and management. (See workshop Web site.) Christina Kellogg of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, was the only invited speaker and attendee from the United States. Kellogg was invited to speak specifically because of her knowledge of coral-associated microbial communities and how they can be used as diagnostics of coral stress (see related article, "Coral Paparazzi," this issue). Other scientific experts attended from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, with the goal of sharing results and expertise from national and international research projects. The workshop focused on establishing the current state of knowledge about the sensitivity of cold-water corals to oil and gas activities and on promoting discussions about management measures needed to protect cold-water-coral habitats.

Mekjarvik, Norway IRIS logo
Above left: IRIS is in Mekjarvik, Norway, 13 km north of Stavanger. The view from the institute includes a fjord and an oil rig in port for repairs. Photograph by Christina Kellogg, USGS. [larger version]

Above right: The workshop was organized and hosted by the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS), some of whose researchers are studying the possible impacts of oil and gas activities on deep-sea corals. [larger version]

Related Sound Waves Stories
Coral Paparazzi—Looking for a Quick Way to Spot Evidence of Coral Disease
Oct. / Nov. 2010
Scientists Cruise Deep into Coral Ecosystems
December 2009
TRACES: The Trans-Atlantic Coral Ecosystem Study
May 2008
Microbial Ecology of Deepwater Corals in the Aleutian Islands
September 2004
Diving into Coral Disease
September 2003

Related Web Sites
Gulf of Mexico Deep-Sea Coral Ecosystem Studies
Cold Water Coral Workshop
International Research Institute of Stavanger

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in this issue:

cover story:
Subsea Permafrost and Gas Hydrates Offshore of Alaska

Coral Calcification Rates

Coral Paparazzi

ResearchWhale Falls

Chesapeake Bay Nutrient Trends

Manatee Subspecies Genetically Confirmed

Outreach Earth-Science Multimedia

Woods Hole Partnership Education Program

Meetings International Workshop on Cold-Water Corals

Gordon Research Conference on Natural Gas Hydrates

Awards Jeff Williams Receives NPS Director's Career Achievement Award

Alan Cooper Awarded SCAR Medal for International Scientific Coordination

Publications Oct. / Nov. 2010 Publications

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