Dynamic Earth joins forces with marine scientists exploring the deep Atlantic Ocean.
Up until about 20 years ago, relatively little was known about the deep oceans and even to this day, much of the ocean below about 200 m is still unexplored. The deep sea remains a transition between the known world and the imagined but what we do know for sure is that the ocean depths are not devoid of life as previously thought but home to a remarkable diversity of plants and animals. Even though they live well out of sight in dark and often cold conditions, the species that have evolved to thrive in the deep sea have a surprisingly important role to play in the well-being of the planet as well as an economically sustainable future for all of us. Which is why I’m so delighted that Dynamic Earth is a partner in ATLAS - the biggest ever scientific research project on Atlantic deep-sea ecosystems.
ATLAS stands for “A Trans-Atlantic assessment and deep-water ecosystem-based spatial management plan for Europe” and is supported by the European Commission’s Horizon2020 funding programme. Over the next four years it will involve hundreds of scientists from 10 European countries, the USA and Canada, working collaboratively to explore the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. Dynamic Earth’s role will be to engage our visitors and the wider public with the discoveries made during ATLAS, the excitement and significance of the Atlantic deep-water environment, and the impact humans are having on the oceans. Over the coming months members of the Learning Team at Dynamic Earth will develop new education material on the deep sea, a new workshop for schools and a travelling road show that will visit communities across Scotland. Future plans also include updating our oceans gallery to convey the excitement and importance of researching the deep ocean and the incredible ecosystems that live there.
The project is being co-ordinated by a team at Heriot-Watt University led by Professor J Murray Roberts, Director of the Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology. As Murray explains, “The north Atlantic was the birthplace of deep-sea biology and the cradle of oceanography. It’s the place we should know best, but it’s only over the last 20 years that we’ve uncovered just how varied and vulnerable the Atlantic’s deep-sea habitats really are.” The researchers will embark on a series of exciting expeditions to improve our understanding of what lives in the deep Atlantic using various techniques from remotely operated submersibles to environmental DNA sequencing to search water and sediment samples for known and undiscovered deep-sea species. Another major goal of ATLAS is to develop a scientific knowledge base that can inform the development of appropriate international policies to ensure deep-sea Atlantic resources are managed effectively to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole.
Dynamic Earth is involved to share the findings of the scientists and help make us all more aware of the important of the oceans on everyday life on Earth and what actions we can take to help protect them. Look out for future updates on ATLAS in our blog.
For more information about ATLAS: http://www.eu-atlas.org/
Image caption: Squat lobster perched on a deep water coral on the continental margin of the north-west Atlantic. (photo credit: Ifremer & AWI, 2003, http://www.lophelia.org/imagesgallery/category/14-animals)
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 678760 (ATLAS). This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.