Researchers from Plymouth, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), and the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) have recently confirmed 4 new reefs located in the Atlantic Ocean. Developed at Plymouth University researchers used a mathematical process to identify the reefs, and then sent unmanned robotic rovers to explore the areas in waters just West of Ireland. Plead researcher Dr Kerry Howell, Associate Professor in the School of Marine Science and Engineering at Plymouth University, said: “We’re delighted with these results. It means we can now produce maps of where coral is likely to be for large areas of the deep-sea that we have not yet visited, and use them to identify high value ecological areas that might need protection from damaging activities.” “The models work by looking at where we know deep-water coral reefs are found, identifying what is favourable environment for the corals, for example their favourite depths, and then looking for areas with the same or similar conditions,” added Dr Anthony Grehan, from NUI Galway. “If conditions are very similar then there is a high likelihood we will find corals.” The research team spent a total of two frigid weeks aboard the RV Celtic Explorer using its underwater robot, Holland I, to explore areas predicted to house reef inhabitants. While on the exhibition the team was able to locate four out of four predicted reef sites, which solidified the matrix of their models. The findings and predictive models would not have been possible without the use of high resolution “multibeam” sonar maps coupled with the Irish National Seabed Survey high resolution bathymetric charts. Dr Howell concludes: “Our cold water coral reef models are now good enough to be used to better target areas that have not previously been explored, and this can greatly reduce the cost of future survey work.” Read more here!