Environmental Controls on Cold-water Coral Carbonate Mound Development: A Contribution to IODP Exp.307

Environmental Controls on Cold-water Coral Carbonate Mound Development: A Contribution to IODP Exp.307

Funding Body : Marine Institute (Ireland), European Science Foundation (ESF)

Project type : PhD

Period (start to end): October 2006 � October 2009

Researcher: Mieke Thierens


Project Description

Cold-water coral (carbonate) mounds are marine sedimentary build-ups, associated with the presence of framework building cold-water corals, such as Lophelia pertusa. These complex geo-biological systems have been discovered globally and originate from the yet to be fully understood interplay of climatic, hydrodynamic, sedimentological, as well as biological contributors.

During IODP Expedition 307 Challenger Mound, one of the large (~155 m high) cold-water coral mounds along the NE Atlantic continental margin (Porcupine Seabight), was successfully drilled. This first complete recovery of a carbonate mound�s sedimentary sequence allows for the first time the study of the entire mound development and is therefore crucial in unravelling the mechanisms driving and maintaining the build-up of these cold-water coral carbonate systems.

My PhD research project is focused around one of the very fundamental questions in the field of cold-water coral and carbonate mound research:


Which environmental factors (i.e. ocean (hydro-)dynamics, sedimentary input systems, climate change etc) are/have been controlling cold-water coral mound development through time and what is their impact?

The following techniques are applied: (laser) grain-size analysis, XRD, grain-surface microtexture analysis, foraminiferal assemblage studies, cathodoluminescence,…

See also UCC Dept. of Geology website: http://www.ucc.ie/en/geology/Staff/PostgraduateStudents/MiekeThierens/



Titschack, J., Thierens, M., Dorschel, B., Schulbert, C., Freiwald, A., Kano, A., Takashima, C., Kawagoe , N., Li, X. and the IODP Expedition 307 scientific party. (2009). Carbonate budget of a cold-water coral mound (Challenger Mound, IODP Exp. 307). Marine Geology doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2008.12.007.

Huvenne, V.A.I., Van Rooij, D., De Mol, B., Thierens, M., O'Donnell, R., Foubert, A., 2009. Sediment dynamics and palaeo-environmental context at key stages in the Challenger cold-water coral mound formation: Clues from sediment deposits at the mound base. Deep-Sea Research I 56, 2263-2280.

Thierens, M., Titschack, J., Dorschel, B., Huvenne, V.A.I., Wheeler, A.J., Stuut, J.-B., O'Donnell, R., 2010. The 2.6 Ma depositional sequence from the Challenger cold-water coral carbonate mound (IODP Exp. 307): Sediment contributors and hydrodynamic palaeo-environments. Marine Geology, doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2010.02.021.

Environmental Research Institute

University College Cork, Lee Road, Cork