Lophelia II 2012 Expedition: Background Essays

Mission Plan
Mission Plan
Our overall goal for this project is to explore areas of the Gulf of Mexico that may harbor new coral communities and collect data on their habitat characteristics, ecology, physiology, and population structure.

Cold-Water Corals
Cold-Water Corals in the Gulf of Mexico
Not all corals are found on island coasts in shallow seas. In fact, over half of all known coral species are found in deep, dark waters where temperatures range from 4-12° C. For this reason, we call these corals the “cold-water corals,” and they are found all over the world – including the Gulf of Mexico.

Coral Growth
Coral Growth Rates and Sizes
Life is said to move slowly in the deep and this often means organisms have slower growth rates and live longer than their shallow-water counterparts. Living over 2,000 years, deep-water black corals are among the oldest living organisms on Earth. 

Deepwater Platforms
Deepwater Platforms in the Gulf of Mexico
Lophelia coral colonies were first recognized on a deep-water platform during a NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research expedition led by John Reed from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in 2003. The observations were made on the Pompano structure located in a bottom water depth of 400 meters. Additional images were obtained by industry in 2009 and we know there is a lot of continued growth of deep-sea corals on this platform now.

The Value of Partnership
The Value of Partnership
Since 2004, BOEM and NOAA's Office of Exploration and Research have partnered, with support from USGS, on a series of novel multi-disciplinary ocean research expeditions to explore and characterize poorly known ecosystems in both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.

Sign up for the Ocean Explorer E-mail Update List.