Mazzini, A., Akhmetzhanov, A., Monteys, X. and Ivanov, M.
The Porcupine Bank Canyon coral mounds: oceanographic and topographic steering of deep-water carbonate mound development and associated phosphatic deposition
Geo-Marine Letters, 32, (3), . (doi:10.1007/s00367-011-0257-8).
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The head of a canyon system extending along the western Porcupine Bank (west of Ireland) and which accommodates a large field of giant carbonate mounds was investigated during two cruises (INSS 2000 and TTR-13). Multibeam and sidescan sonar data (600–1,150 m water depth) suggest that the pre-existing seabed topography acts as a significant factor controlling mound distribution and shape. The mounds are concentrated along the edges of the canyon or are associated with a complex fault system traced around the canyon head, comprising escarpments up to 60 m high and several km long. The sampling for geochemical and petrographic analysis of numerous types of authigenic deposits was guided by sidescan sonar and video recordings. Calcite-cemented biogenic rubble was observed at the top and on the flanks of the carbonate mounds, being associated with both living and dead corals (Lophelia pertusa, Madrepora oculata and occasional Desmophyllum cristagalli). This can plausibly be explained by dissolution of coral debris facilitated by strong currents along the mound tops and flanks. In turn, the dissolved carbon is recycled and precipitated as interstitial micrite. Calcite, dolomite and phosphatic hardgrounds were identified in samples from the escarpment framing the eastern part of the survey area. The laterally extensive phosphatic hardgrounds represent a novel discovery in the region, supplying hard substrata for the establishment of new coral colonies. Based on existing knowledge of regional oceanographic conditions, complemented with new CTD measurements, it is suggested that water column stratification, enhanced bottom currents, and upwelling facilitate the deposition of organic matter, followed by phosphatisation leading to the formation of phosphate-glauconite deposits. The occurrence of strong bottom currents was confirmed by means of video observations combined with acoustic and sampling data, providing circumstantial evidence of fine- to medium-grained sand. Evidently, slope breaks such as escarpments and deep-water canyon headwalls are important structural elements in the development of mature carbonate mounds induced by deep-water coral growth. Stable isotope data show no evidence of methane-derived carbon in the carbonates and lithified sediments of the Porcupine Bank Canyon mounds.
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