Scientific publication

A dataset of cold-water coral distribution records

Credits: Photo by John Turnbull on Flickr

Understanding and monitoring biodiversity patterns, both present and future, is paramount for effective conservation and management strategies. However, the quality of species distribution data often leaves much to be desired, plagued by spatial and taxonomic errors. Additionally, the lack of standardized formats for sharing these datasets hinders seamless integration and interoperability.

In response to these challenges, we present a meticulously curated and quality-controlled dataset encompassing the diversity and distribution of cold-water corals. These remarkable organisms play a vital role in providing ecosystem services and are vulnerable to the impacts of human activities and climate change.

Our dataset employs the term “cold-water corals” to encompass species from various orders, including Alcyonacea, Antipatharia, Pennatulacea, Scleractinia, Zoantharia of the subphylum Anthozoa, and order Anthoathecata of the class Hydrozoa. To compile this valuable resource, distribution records were meticulously collated from multiple sources, standardized following the Darwin Core Standard, and subjected to rigorous quality control measures. Taxonomic errors were corrected, and potential vertical and geographic distribution errors were meticulously flagged, all based on peer-reviewed published literature and expert consultation.

The result is a comprehensive dataset comprising 817,559 high-quality records encompassing 1,170 accepted species of cold-water corals. These records are made openly available under the FAIR principle, ensuring Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reusability of the data. This dataset stands as the most up-to-date reference for global cold-water coral diversity. It holds immense potential for the scientific community, offering insights into biodiversity patterns and their underlying drivers. Researchers can leverage this resource to identify regions of high biodiversity and endemicity, as well as to project potential redistribution of cold-water corals under future climate change scenarios.

Furthermore, this dataset is a valuable tool for managers and stakeholders engaged in biodiversity conservation. It can guide prioritization actions aimed at mitigating biodiversity loss, ensuring the continued health and resilience of cold-water coral ecosystems. By sharing this wealth of information, we hope to contribute to a deeper understanding of these vital marine organisms and promote their protection in an ever-changing world.

Main reference

Balogh, V., Fragkopoulou, E., Serrão, E. A., & Assis, J. (2023). A dataset of cold-water coral distribution records. Data in Brief.

  • Featured publications
Artificial intelligence maps giant kelp forests from satellite imagery

Automated kelp canopy detection from satellite data for improved long-term ecological monitoring and conservation efforts.

Global impacts of projected climate changes on mangroves

Potential climate-induced range shifts and losses in biomass, emphasizing the urgency of international climate agreements to protect these crucial habitats.

Global seaweed productivity

Seaweed productivity is strongly related to climatic variables, peaking at temperate latitudes and exhibiting exceptionally high per-area production rates, 10 times higher than coastal phytoplankton in temperate and polar seas.

Major expansion of marine forests in a warmer Arctic

Future expansions of marine forests in response to changing climate will likely elicit major changes in biodiversity and ecosystem functions of the Arctic.


Jorge Assis [PhD, Associate Researcher]
Centre of Marine Sciences, University of Algarve [Faro, Portugal]
© 2023 Biodiversity Data Science, All Rights Reserved