Microbial Diversity and Functionality in Cold-Water Coral Reef Ecosystems (MiCROSYSTEMS)


Cold-water coral reefs thriving on carbonate mounds have been discovered in the late 90's off western Ireland and recently off Morocco. Mound building seems to be a fundamental but still enigmatic strategy of Life, developed since Precambian times onwards. Various arguments suggest that microorganisms are playing a major role in reef development and biodiversity. Mounds may find their origin at the confluence of fluxes from external (oceanic) and internal origin (geofluids). Long cores taken in 2004 showed that the 'Pen Duick' mounds off Morocco, in which microbial action was demonstrated by an strong emission of hydrogen sulfide, may be considered as giant biogeochemical reactors. MiCROSYSTEMS proposes to turn the Pen Duick mounds into a natural laboratory through the following actions and experiments:
- Biotope exploration and characterization of biodiversity through geophysical and video imaging, targeted microbiological profiling, evaluation of present and past oceanic conditions, - Microbial diversity census and evaluation of the functional link microbes-metazoans through metazoan species analysis, biogeochemical and molecular fingerprinting, laboratory culturing, fauna-microbe interactions analysis, evaluation of microbially mediated processes of carbonate precipitation, - Assessment of the impact of biodiversity changes through the development of a reactor technology to changes.
The MiCROSYSTEMS project closely dovetails with European projects on deep-water coral ecosystem conservation and with IODP Expedition 307. The project will foster a Europe-Maghreb cooperation on the Moroccan margin and contribute to the ICoMM initiative within the Census of Marine Life Programme.


Scientific article

  • Tj.C.E. van Weering, Et al.: Short-term environmental variability in cold-water coral habitat at Viosca Knoll, Gulf of Mexico. Deep Sea Research pp. 199 - 212
  • Tj.C.E. van Weering, Et al.(2007): Resource potential of gas hydrate-bearing mud volcanoes in the Gulf of Cadiz. Geophysical Research Abstracts
  • F. Mienis, Et al.(2009): Scleractinian cold-water corals in the Gulf of Cádiz-First clues about their spatial and temporal distribution Deep Sea Res. pp. 1873 - 1893
  • Tj.C.E. van Weering, Et al.(2009): The Holocene occurrence of cold water corals in the NE Atlantic: Implications for coral carbonate mound evolution. Marine Geology pp. 129 - 142
  • Tj.C.E. van Weering, Et al.(2010): Glacial cold-water coral growth in the Gulf of Cádiz: Implications of increased palaeo-productivity: Earth and Planetary Science Letters pp. 405 - 416

Publications for the general public

  • F. Mienis, T.C.E. van Weering, H.C. de Stigter, H. de Haas, T.O. Richter(2005): Near bed hydrodynamic conditions of carbonate mounds in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean
  • M. Rejas, C. Taberner, H. de Haas, F. Mienis, T.C.E. van Weering(2006): Origin and Characterization of carbonate crusts of Pen Duick Escarpment (Gulf of Cadiz)
  • F. Mienis, H.C. de Stigter, H. de Haas, T. Richter, C. van der Land, T.C.E. van Weering(2006): Environmental controls on carbonate mound development along the European Continental margin
  • M. Rejas, C. Taberner, J.J. Pueyo, S. Giralt, H. de Haas, F. Mienis, T.C.E. van Weering(2006): Isotopic composition of the carbonate crusts from the Penduick Escarpment (Moroccan Atlantic slope, Gulf of Cadiz) implications for the interpretation of methane sources
  • H. de Haas, F. Mienis, T.C.E. van Weering, H.C. de Stigter, T.O. Richter(2006): Carbonate mound provinces and cold water corals along the NE Atlantic margin
  • Tj.C.E. van Weering, Et al.(2006): NIOZ geology in the Gulf of Cadiz, Microsystems Workshop
  • F. Mienis, H.C. de Stigter, H. de Haas, C. van der Land, T.C.E. van Weering(2007): Environmental controls on carbonate mound development along the European Continental margin
  • J. Scholten(2007): Analysis of the sedimentological features of the Gemini mud volcano, northern channel and Penduick Escarpment, El Arrarich mud volcano field, Gulf of Cadiz
  • F. Mienis, T. van Weering, H.C. de Stigter, C. van der Land, H. de Haas, G. Duineveld(2007): Hydrodynamic controls on cold-water coral growth and carbonate mound development
  • F. Mienis, H.C. de Stigter, H. de Haas, C. van der Land, T.C.E. van Weering(2007): Environmental controls on carbonate mound development along the European Continental margin
  • T.C.E. van Weering, H. de Haas, A. Gorban, M. Tokarev, F. Mienis(2007): Mud mounds, Carbonates and Methane in the Pen Duick area, El Arraiche mud volcano field, Gulf of Cadiz, NE Atlantic
  • L. Terhzaz(2007): Statistical evaluation of underwaterphotographs and videos from the Penduick escarpment (Gulf of Cadiz)
  • A. Chiguer(2007): Sedimentological and paleo-oceanographic changes as recorded in a pistoncore of the Penduick Escarpment, Gulf of Cadiz
  • A. Gorban(2007): Results of the interpretation of seismic data of cruise M2006
  • F. Mienis, H.C. de Stigter, G. Duineveld, H. de Haas, T. van Weering(2007): Hydrodynamic controls on carbonate mound development: Long term in sity seabed BOBO-lander observations and CTD casts at the SW Rockall Through margin and in the Gulf of Cadiz
  • I.T.E. Verhagen(2007): Sedimentary processes on carbonate mounds at the Pen Duick Escarpment, Gulf of Cadiz
  • J. Kolganova(2007): The influence of sedimentary and paleo-oceanographic changes on cold water corals at carbonate mounds of the Penduick escarpment, SE Gulf of Cadiz
  • (2008): Gas hydrate accumulation associated to the Bonjardim mud volcano (Gulf of Cadiz): mechanisms of formation, thermal models, quantitative gas budget estimations (2008)
  • Tj.C.E. van Weering, Et al.(2008): Shallow seismic structure of the Pen Duick area, Guld of Cadiz
  • (2009): The giant cold-water coral mound as a nested mictobial/metazoan system: physical, chemical, biological and geological picture


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. Tj.C.E. van Weering

Affiliated with

NIOZ - Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut voor Onderzoek der Zee, Mariene Geologie en Chemische Oceanografie (GCO)

Team members

Dr. F. Mienis


01/02/2007 to 14/12/2010