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The discovery of mounds and reefs hosting cold-water coral ecosystems along the northeastern Atlantic continental margins has propelled a vigorous effort over the past decade to study the distribution of the mounds, surface sediments, the ecosystems they host, and their environments [Hovland et al., 1994; Freiwald and Roberts, 2005].This effort has involved swath bathymetry, remotely operated vehicle deployments, shallow coring, and seismic surveys.

Global coverage is difficult to gauge, but studies indicate that cold-water corals may cover as large an area as the better known warm-water corals that form shallow reefs (284,300 square kilometers) [Freiwald et al., 2005]. Cold-water corals occur in a variety of forms and settings, from small isolated colonies or patch reefs to giant mound structures such as those found west of Ireland.