The Scottish Association for Marine Science has joined one of the largest and most ambitious marine research projects of recent decades, which is holding its kick-off meeting in Brussels until tomorrow (Friday 12 June 2015).
AtlantOS (Atlantis Observing System) brings together 62 partners from 18 countries to significantly enhance the integration and effectiveness of Atlantic Ocean data.
Oban-based SAMS is providing expertise through Professor Stuart Cunningham (right), current UK Oceanographer of the Year, who will use moorings to measure the warm water flow of the eastern Atlantic boundary (from the Scottish continental shelf to the Mid-Atlantic Basin).
Professor Mark Inall of SAMS will also take measurements across the eastern boundary using state-of-the-art robotic sea gliders.
The EU is funding AtlantOS as part of its Horizon2020 programme with €21 million over a period of four years. The project is co-ordinated by GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Germany.
Professor Cunningham said:
"The ocean is very complex and only by having scientists working together in these multi-national projects can we successfully integrate all of the data we collect. It is exciting to be part of AtlantOS, a project at the cutting edge of research into the Atlantic Ocean that will make global connections and be societally relevant."
The Atlantic Ocean is a major trade route, provides the oxygen we breathe, most fish we eat and is responsible for the mild climate in northern Europe. Environmental change causes the ocean to warm, sea level to rise, fish populations to decline and migrate, the water to become more polluted, more acidic, deoxygenized and less biodiverse. Therefore, it is important to accurately observe its current condition, assess past changes and to predict future developments.
Researchers in Europe, the USA, Canada, Brazil and South Africa and other Atlantic-bordering countries are already strongly engaged in observing the ocean in their exclusive economic zones and beyond. Together they support the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) which coordinates global sustained ocean observations including satellites, freely drifting floats, fixed observatories, as well as ship-based systems.
"A lot of measurements are still made on a short-term base or are restricted to a single issue; the data is not necessarily compatible with other measurements and, in some cases, not freely available."
says project co-ordinator Professor Martin Visbeck.
Furthermore, data from the deep Atlantic ocean is still scarce.
"Studies in recent years have repeatedly shown that even processes in the deep sea have an impact on the marine ecosystems and on climate in Africa, Europe or America.
"There have been not enough interactions between the physics, chemistry and ecology but also between open-ocean and coastal observing. The ocean is a highly complex and interdependent system in which all components are closely linked. Our observational efforts need to reflect that also. We have set ourselves very ambitious goals. But the relevance of the Atlantic for Europe is too significant to explore it only in bits and pieces."
In 2013, the United States, Canada and the EU have committed themselves to strengthen their co-operation in the sustainable exploration of the Atlantic by signing the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Research Cooperation. The aim of this cooperation is a better understanding of the Atlantic Ocean and a more collaborative and sustainable management of its resources.