Deep water corals are an important ecological part of the marine environment. The corals create vital hiding places for a range of creatures in deep water ecosystems and methods are therefore required for monitoring the coral’s condition. This demands thorough biological understanding. IRIS Environment has arrived at suitable methods that can make use of corals to measure biologically-based indicators of pollution.
Corals obtain nutrients through small polyps that resemble small hands reaching out into the water to grasp food. A method developed by IRIS Environment is based on the interpretation of images of how the polyp activity of the coral is affected by possible waste substances from oil drilling. Series of “snapshots” provide a basis for revealing long-term damage to the corals and the ecology of the marine environment as a whole.
This work is being done through projects financed by the Research Council and the oil industries of Norway and Brazil. Both countries have similar environmental issues relating to avoiding serious damage to deep water coral reefs. The oil companies Statoil, Petrobrás and Total have been particularly committed to these projects.