Participant of COCARDE Network


Heriot Watt University

Logo_HeriotWattDr J. Murray Roberts‘ research group researches the biology and ecology of cold-water corals, particularly the reef framework-forming species that construct reefs and coral carbonate mounds. The work is frequently interdisciplinary involving strong collaborations with marine geologists, geochemists, engineers and oceanographers.
Our overall aims can be summarised as, working to advance understanding of the biology and ecology of cold-water corals and provide the information needed for their long-term management and conservation’.
Current research particularly relevant to the COCARDE network includes a study examining the Holocene record and temporal history of reef development at the Mingulay Reef Complex (PhD project Mélanie Douarin, University of Edinburgh) and the comparative coral carbonate mound development studies proposed as part of TRACES – the first basin-scale study of cold-water coral ecosystems.
The PhD project “Secrets from a Deep Reef: Structure, Biogeography and Palaeoclimate Reconstruction from Mingulay Reef Complex Sediment Cores” is based on the study of four British Geological Survey vibo-cores (between 0.5 and 5.25 m long) from a cold-water coral reef within the Mingulay reef complex, located in the Sea of Hebrides, 13 kilometers east of the island of Mingulay (~56°N, 7°W and 120-190 m water depth). Preliminary observations have already revealed a significant variability in the state of preservation and relative abundance of coral fragments present within the cores. This may reflect changes in the depositional history of the reef. In addition U/Th dates performed on 10 coral fragments from the 2 longest cores, confirm that coral fragments within the cores are in chronological order and that only the late Holocene is recorded. The cores show high accumulation rates of 3-5 mm/a within Mingulay reef complex. Based on these first findings we aim to describe the internal structure of the reef, to reconstruct its accumulation history and to correlate phases of the reef development with local and/or global environmental changes within the Late Holocene using among other things coral and foraminiferal geochemistry.






Live cold-water coral aquaria; seawater pCO2 manipulation system; laboratory respirometer; GIS and video workstations; Biodiversity laboratory for faunal sorting & identification;




J. Murray Roberts


Lea-Anne Henry


Laura Wicks


Alessandro Icardi
Melanie_DouarinMelanie Douarin
Beatriz_de_Francisco_MoraBeatriz de Francisco Mora



Related Publications

Henry L-A, Davies AJ, Roberts JM (2010) Beta diversity of cold-water coral reef communities off western Scotland. Coral Reefs 29: 427-436

Gass SE, Roberts JM (2010) Growth and branching patterns of Lophelia pertusa (Scleractinia) from the North Sea. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK. doi:10.1017/S002531541000055

Davies AJ, Duineveld G, Lavaleye M, Bergman M, van Haren H, Roberts JM (2009) Downwelling and deep-water bottom currents as food supply mechanisms to the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa (Scleractinia) at the Mingulay Reef Complex. Limnology & Oceanography 54: 620-629

Dodds LA, Black KD, Orr H, Roberts JM (2009) Lipid biomarkers reveal geographical differences in food supply to the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa (Scleractinia). Marine Ecology Progress Series 397: 113-124

Roberts JM, Davies AJ, Henry L-A, Duineveld GCA, Lavaleye MSS, Dodds LA, Maier C, van Soest RWM, Bergman MIN, Hühnerbach V, Huvenne V, Sinclair D, Watmough T, Long D, Green S, van Haren H (2009) Mingulay reef complex: an interdisciplinary study of cold-water coral habitat, hydrography and biodiversity. Marine Ecology Progress Series 397: 139-151

Roberts JM, Wheeler A, Freiwald A, Cairns SD (2009) Cold-water Corals: The Biology and Geology of Deep-sea Coral Habitats. Cambridge University Press, 334 pp