Biodiversity & Conservation

Lophelia reefs



Image Murray Roberts - Section of Lophelia pertusa reef, Mingulay, Scotland. Image width ca XX cm.
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Distribution map

COR.COR.Lop recorded (dark blue bullet) and expected (light blue bullet) distribution in Britain and Ireland (see below)

  • EC_Habitats
  • UK_BAP

Text page icon Habitat description

Map icon Distribution of biotope in Britain and Ireland Reefs of Lophelia pertusa have been recorded on raised offshore seabed features from the Shetland-Faroe Basin, Rockall Bank and Rockall Trough, Anton Dohrn Seamount, Rosemary Bank, Hatton Bank, Bill Bailey's Bank, and the Wyville-Thomson Ridge in the north Atlantic off Britain, and in the Porcupine Seabight and Porcupine Basin off west Ireland. The map shows the recorded distribution of Lophelia pertusa, including isolated colonies as well as reefs.
National importance Not available

Text page icon Description of biotope

For a full description of this biotope including characterizing species, distribution, survey information and references visit JNCC

The cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa forms patches of bushy growths composed of a network of anastomosing branches that grow into thickets, coppices and eventually reefs under favourable conditions. The morphology and size of reefs are highly variable but reefs may be circular, dome-shaped or elongate, forming distinct patches or arranged in lines of 'islands' along the edges of the continental shelf, sea mounts, offshore banks and other raised sea bed features. Reefs may be composed of coral thickets 10 -50 m across and several metres high, mounds of 50 -500 m in diameter and 2 -33 m high, or through growth and/or fusion of nearby patches, form large elongate coral banks of up to 5 km in length and I km wide, reaching heights of ca 200 m and cover several square kilometres, depending on local conditions. In the Sula Ridge Norway, the coral grows in an iceberg furrow forming a coral bank 13 km in length, 300 m wide and 45 m high. Although Lophelia pertusa dominates, other cold-water corals may also occur, e.g. Madrepora oculata, Desmophyllum cristagalli, Dendrophyllia cornigera, Enallopsammia rostata and Solensmilia variabilis. The reef supports a species rich assemblage of invertebrates, especially suspension feeders such as foraminiferans, sponges, hydroids, gorgonians, corals, polychaetes, bryozoans, brachiopods, asteroids, ophiuroids, holothurians and ascidians. Relatively few species have so far been shown to be closely associated with Lophelia pertusa, for example, eunicid polychaetes, especially Eunice norvegica, and brittlestars, especially Ophiocantha species. The associated community requires further study. The xenophyophore Syringammina fragilissima (a giant protozoan growing up to 20 cm in diameter) occurs at markedly increased densities in downstream 'tails' of the some Lophelia mounds. [NB biotope description composed by author.]

Additional information icon Additional information

The ecology of Lophelia pertusa (henceforth Lophelia) reefs is poorly studied and the biology or Lophelia poorly known. The following review is based primarily on the detailed review of Lophelia pertusa by Rogers (1999) with additional material from more recent studies. The author is grateful to the referees for their helpful comments and for highlighting additional information and recent findings.

This review can be cited as follows:

Tyler-Walters, H. 2005. Lophelia reefs. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 28/11/2015]. Available from: <>