cold-water corals; Eastern Mediterranean; carbonate factories; cold seeps; ecology; subseafloor geomorphology; ecosystems
Homewood Peter, Strasser André, Spezzaferri Silvia, Foubert Anneleen (2018), SwissSed: past, present, and future trends in Swiss sedimentology, in Swiss Journal of Geosciences
, 111(3), 377-382.
Fentimen Robin, Rüggeberg Andres, Lim Aaron, Kateb Akram El, Foubert Anneleen, Wheeler Andrew J., Spezzaferri Silvia (2018), Benthic foraminifera in a deep-sea high-energy environment: the Moira Mounds (Porcupine Seabight, SW of Ireland), in Swiss Journal of Geosciences
, 111(3), 533-544.
Cold water corals (CWCs) and seeps are unconventional and still poorly known carbonate factories. With their spatial and temporal global, and seemingly sporadic distribution - still in the process of unraveling - these are some of the most enigmatic phenomena of oceanic basins and slope environments. Both environments are biodiversity « hot spots » hosting unique communities of organisms. Seeps are sites for authigenic carbonate precipitation and they are often co-occurring with CWC’s. However, the internally and externally driven processes that control the relationships between those unique carbonate factories are still poorly known. At several locations along the European margin deep-water coral reefs settle on hard grounds, which are associated with seep environments. However, a controlling factor other than the substrate availability has not been observed yet. The Eastern Mediterranean Sea offers a variety of recently discovered seafloor seeps, carbonate buildups and deep-sea coral related phenomena relatively densely distributed in time and space. In particular, recent oceanographic cruises have revealed the presence of seeps, fossils and living CWCs along theIsraeli coasts in the Palmahim Disturbance Zone (PDZ) influenced by the Nile River discharge. This project aims to investigate the PDZ as a natural laboratories by carrying out for the first time the methodic comparative investigation of deep-sea corals, seep systems and methane-derived authigenic carbonates. The importance of this research topic has been recently recognized by the European Union, which funded in 2016 the EU EuroFLEETS2 SEMSEEP cruise on the RV Aegeo. The cruise carried out in September 2016, and jointly organized by the Universities of Fribourg (Switzerland) and Haifa (Israel), with support of Greek and Cypriot scientists has provided a very large number of samples from CWCs and seeps from the PDZ. These samples are presently stored at the Department of Geoscience, University of Fribourg and readily available for investigations. They include: water samples from the water column and pore water, box-cores, push cores, living (preserved in ethanol) and fossil macro- and micro-fauna (preserved in ethanol and Bengal Rose). Habitat mapping, geochemical analyses of water (water column, pore water in cores), sediment characterization petrography and geochemistry on surface and core, carbonate crusts, macro- and microfauna/ fossils will be analysed and coupled with experimental diagenetic studies in the laboratory to address the key question if there exist any causal link between cold-water coral ecosystems and cold seeps in the Eastern Mediterranean or if it has been in the recent geological past.The overall goal of the project is to understand the processes and timing triggering thepotential relation seeps vs. authigenic carbonates, the relation seeps vs. CWCs in the Eastern Mediterranean and to identify bio- and geo-chemical proxies for these environments in a region where the strong influence of the Nile River may have a significant role (PDZ). The project will benefit from the collaboration of Israeli and Italian scientists, who participated to the EU SEMSEEP cruise. The project workshops and exchange visits will give young scientists (PhDs and post-doc) an ideal networking platform to develop their own ideas and new initiatives with the support and input from senior scientists.