Hard coral discovered deep in North Sea

A ten-day Dutch North Sea expedition led by World Wide Fund for Nature ocean expert Chris van Assen has uncovered a type of hard coral (believed to be the Devonshire Cup Coral) on a ship wreck in the Dogger Bank that has never been recorded in these waters before. They also discovered Honeycomb Worms, which were previously thought extinct.

Devonshire Cup Coral

Devonshire Cup Coral. Source: Flickr/James Lynott

The underlying purpose of the research venture was to show people and politicians that there is far more to the North Sea than previously thought. The expedition aimed to map out the sea’s hidden ecosystems, and to return the public image of the North Sea back to one of nature as well as industry.

De Stentor of the WWF who organized the ten-day expedition together with the Dive the North Sea Clean foundation reported “We know more about the moon than about our seas. The North Sea is also the biggest nature area of The Netherlands” whilst Van Assen said “Half of all the oxygen that we breathe in is produced by the oceans. We have to take care of them.”

The expedition did more than map the world of the deep. Divers discovered the Honeycomb Worms that help to form hard reefs, like the corals, this showing that the North Sea might get its natural reefs back with a little help. Biologist Wouter Lengbeek thinks this could well be a possibility. “The seabed is now a bare desert. Before, a third was covered with oyster beds, stones and pebbles. Such reefs attract plants and animals and offer them safe hiding places. They are the nesting areas, the motors of the North Sea.”

The shipwrecks that seem to have attracted the growth of these corals, then, should be kept, argue the organizers of the North Sea Expedition. “Wrecks are not only culturally historic heritage, they are also real hotspots for biodiversity”, says Ben Stiefelhagen of Dive the North Sea Clean. “They function as mini-nature areas and can help to restore the richness of plant and animal life”


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