Ecohydrodynamics of cold-water coral reefs: a case study of the Mingulay Reef Complex (western Scotland).PLoS One. 2014; 9(5):e98218.Plos
Ecohydrodynamics investigates the hydrodynamic constraints on ecosystems across different temporal and spatial scales. Ecohydrodynamics play a pivotal role in the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems, however the lack of integrated complex flow models for deep-water ecosystems beyond the coastal zone prevents further synthesis in these settings. We present a hydrodynamic model for one of Earth's most biologically diverse deep-water ecosystems, cold-water coral reefs. The Mingulay Reef Complex (western Scotland) is an inshore seascape of cold-water coral reefs formed by the scleractinian coral Lophelia pertusa. We applied single-image edge detection and composite front maps using satellite remote sensing, to detect oceanographic fronts and peaks of chlorophyll a values that likely affect food supply to corals and other suspension-feeding fauna. We also present a high resolution 3D ocean model to incorporate salient aspects of the regional and local oceanography. Model validation using in situ current speed, direction and sea elevation data confirmed the model's realistic representation of spatial and temporal aspects of circulation at the reef complex including a tidally driven current regime, eddies, and downwelling phenomena. This novel combination of 3D hydrodynamic modelling and remote sensing in deep-water ecosystems improves our understanding of the temporal and spatial scales of ecological processes occurring in marine systems. The modelled information has been integrated into a 3D GIS, providing a user interface for visualization and interrogation of results that allows wider ecological application of the model and that can provide valuable input for marine biodiversity and conservation applications.