EUR10 million Atlantic survey to investigate ocean health

Atlantic Ocean. Credit: AFFELDT, JOACHIM

The iAtlantic project, led by the university of Edinburgh along with an international team of researchers will map uncharted regions of the Atlantic from Iceland to South America to analyse the health of its ecosystems.

The four-year EUR10 million (USD11 million) project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, is hoping to provide insights into how climate change is affecting plant and animal life in the ocean. The researchers also intend to analyse the impact of commercial activities on ecosystems such as deepsea mining, fishing, and oil and gas extraction.

32 separate research expeditions, travelling the length and breadth of the Atlantic will gather the data needed for the research. The international team of scientists will use marine robotics and imaging technology to develop mapping tools to gain a better understanding of deepsea habitats.

The scientists will also gather data on ocean species’ DNA and their habitats to provide further insights into the impact of climate change. They also hope to identify the key drivers of ecosystem change and establish which parts of the ocean are more at risk.

The project is an international collaboration between 33 institutions across Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Europe, South Africa and the USA.

Professor Murray Roberts, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, and project lead said, “The oceans are under massive pressures from climate change, destructive fishing, plastic pollution and other human activities. The iAtlantic project has pulled together an amazing team from right around the ocean, and we can’t wait to begin the most ambitious ocean health check ever carried out.”