Sir David Attenborough backs coral website

A new website set up by Scottish scientists to raise awareness of cold-water corals is to premiere a short film by Sir David Attenborough.

The naturalist has given his support to the website created by scientists at Heriot-Watt University.

They want to publicise the importance of the corals’ conservation in Scotland and around the world.

The team discovered the only known inshore coral reef in Scottish waters – the Mingulay reef complex – in 2003.

The reef was discovered in the Sea of the Hebrides when the area was mapped using modern mapping sonar techniques.

Heriot-Watt said the short film would focus on cold-water corals and the threats they face.

Dr Murray Roberts, from the university’s School of Life Sciences, said: “To have the backing of such a well-known and respected figure as Sir David Attenborough is a great support to our work in raising awareness of cold-water corals and the significance of their conservation.

“People always associate corals with tropical reefs but in fact corals form hugely important centres of marine life in the deep ocean.

He added: “These cold-water corals have been largely out of sight and out of mind. Sir David Attenborough’s new film will help change that.”

‘Very remarkable’

Sir David said: “We are now discovering that cold-water corals are probably more abundant and widespread across the oceans of the world than tropical corals.

“They are very remarkable – one cold-water coral is 4,000 years old – probably the oldest living organism on this planet.

“The more that’s being discovered, the more we realise how precious, diverse, important and endangered these cold-water corals are.”

Dr Roberts and his laboratory team are currently studying the ecology and vulnerability of cold-water coral ecosystems, particularly in relation to climate change and the threats of ocean warming and acidification.