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EUROFLEETS Funded Projects Abstracts

Here you can find the abstracts of all the EUROFLEETS call "Regional 2" funded projects.

RV AEGAEO with Thetis & Max Rover

Geochemical Characterization and Mapping of the Santorini Caldera's Hydrothermal Vent Field using Deep Submersibles (Caldera 2012)

Principle Investigator: Dr. Javier Escartin (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)


Hydrothermal activity is one of the main processes that facilitate both heat and chemical fluxes from the deep Earth to the overlying fluid envelopes. Studies on the chemical composition of these volatiles (fluid and gas) will provide vital constraints on:

a) Origin of the magmas at depth, composition of the mantle, and the relative input from the subducting slab (crust and sediments);

b) Processes of mixing and degassing within the magma chamber; and

c) Contribution of the emitted gases to the Earth's atmosphere.

These studies are at the core of the proposed cruise, which involves an international and multidisciplinary team, including the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (France), the University of Girona (Spain), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (USA), the University of Athens (Greece) and the support of the Hellenic Centre of Marine Research infrastructure.

Our target is the Santorini Caldera (Hellenic arc) and the hydrothermal areas that it hosts at depths up to ~400 m bsl. R/V "Aegaeo" will host the "Girona 500" AUV which will survey different zones of the caldera, both over known sites and at unexplored zones. Microbathymetric, side scan sonar and 3D visual maps will be produced, along with in-situ chemical analysis from a mass spectrometer installed on the AUV. The heavy load manipulation capabilities of the HOV "Thetis" and ROV "Max Rover" will support the deployment of temperature probes and perform water, gas and rock sampling.

The goals of the proposal are three-fold:

From the technology side:

(1) is to validate the Girona 500 AUV as a well suited and fully operational vehicle open to the scientificcommunity.

From the science side, the goals are:

(2) to constrain the distribution, extent and nature of hydrothermal activity from high-resolution geophysical surveying, and

(3) to understand the underlying hydrothermal processes from fluid sampling and monitoring of the field.




Cold-water coral ecosystems from the Moira Mounds (NE Atlantic): affinities and differences with modern and Pleistocene Mediterranean counterparts (CWC-Moira)

Principle Investigator: Dr. Silvia Spezzaferri (University of Fribourg)


The discovery of extensive provinces of cold water coral (CWC) carbonate mounds in the modern oceans opens new perspectives in our understanding of the diversity and variability of carbonate mound systems in the recent world as the key to unravel the diversity of mound settings, morphologies and characteristics in deeper time.


This proposal aims to bring new insight on the initial nucleation of cold water carbonate mounds, their transition from open reef framework towards mounds and about the role of the full spectrum of Biosphere actors in these processes as well as in their fossil counterparts.


The region selected for the RV Belgica cruise is the Eastern slope of the Porcupine Seabight, off Ireland, outside the Irish Special Areas of Conservation where small-scale mounded features occur in the Belgica Mound Province (The Moira Mounds). Sampling is planned by box-coring, multicoring, and CTD rosette. Our objectives are: (a) to characterize the benthic habitats and their relationships with geomorphological, sedimentological and hydrological features; (b) to quantitatively analyse the carbonate biogenic content (biomineralized macro- and microfauna); (c) to identifiy Biomineralized Benthic Facies" (BBF); (d) to identify potential biomineralized bio-indicators for CWC ecosystems; (e) to compare benthic habitats/BBFs (composition, distribution) from the Moira mounds with habitats/BBFs from neighbouring giant CWC mounds (e.g, Galway Mound) and (f) to compare benthic habitats/BBFs (composition, distribution) from the Moira mounds with the Recent Coral Mound Province of S. Maria di Leuca (SML)", in the Ionian Sea and with sediments containing Pleistocene Mediterranean CWC outcropping in Sicily.


This cruise would benefit of the collaboration of many leading scientists in the field and in particular the members of the ESF-Research Network Programme ‘COld-Water CArbonate Reservoir systems in Deep Environments (COCARDE) - European Research Network' launched in Spring 2011.




Population genetic structure, life-history and morphology of Black Sea turbot (Psetta (maxima) maeotica) and brill (Scophthalmus rhombus) (TURPOP)

Principal Investigator: Kelle Moreau (Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research, Oostende)


Turbot (Psetta maxima) and brill (Scophthalmus rhombus) are two important commercial flatfish species in Europe. They are mainly caught as by-catch in trawl fisheries targeting sole, plaice and dab. However, in most areas no management exists yet for these species, and where quota were already set these are based on historical trends in landings rather than the result of analytical assessments requiring detailed biological information. In addition, molecular information would allow to define biologically relevantmanagement units and obtain insights on population connectivity.


The Black Sea may be considered a highly interesting area of study for several reasons. Preliminary research indicates that the Black Sea is the most likely place of phylogeographic origin of the turbot and brill populations in the Mediterranean basin. Furthermore, species are exposed to strong selection forces in the isolated environment of the Black Sea, potentially explaining the presence of a morphologically (and ecologically?) different (sub-) species of turbot. In this context we would like to enhance the sampling of these two species in the crucial area's around the Bosphorus.


The aim of the study is to investigate the spatio-temporal connectivity of turbot and brill populations in the south-eastern part of their distribution area using various classes of genetic markers. The main objectives are:

1) The characterization of the spatial connectivity and temporal stability of turbot and brill populations based on neutral and adaptive (linked to life-history traits) genetic markers. We will examine the extent of of genetic discreteness of European populations, to define which population model can best be used for the fisheries management of both species.

2) The comparative analysis and environmental correlation of connectivity patterns in both turbot and brill, providing new insights into the evolutionary process influencing population (adaptive) differentiation in flatfish.




Amplified Growth of Sediment Waves in the Irish Sea (AmSeDIS)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Katrien Van Landeghem (University of Liverpool)


Large sediment waves are striking yet insufficiently understood seabed features in many shelf seas. Their development and migration remains problematic to model due to the number of parameters involved and the sparseness of targeted field data to validate predictions against. In addition, exceptionally high sediment waves have recently been observed on shelf seas world-wide and reach unique heights of up to 36 m in the Irish Sea. The interplay between geological, biogeochemical and hydrodynamic processes likely influence the formation, migrations, and extreme growth of these sediment waves and we identify the influence of gas seepage and grain size variations as the crucial parameters to be documented and investigated. The biogeochemical aspects of methane oxidation are complex and the causal link with sediment wave growth has been suggested (Hovland, 1993), but subsequently disputed as it remains un-tested. Despite the need of sediment transport modellers, marine geologists, benthic habitat mappers and offshore engineers to understand sediment wave dynamics, no targeted research has aimed to address the extreme growth of these enigmatic tidal sediment waves.


Our team of marine geoscientists, geochemists and numerical modellers from the UK, Italy, Switzerland and Ireland therefore aim to visit carefully selected areas in the central Irish Sea and in Liverpool Bay to collect real-time hydrodynamic data (ADCP), swath bathymetry (MBES), seismic profiles (boomer), water column samples, vibro-cores, seabed grabs and water samples to:

(1) study carbonate formation due to methane oxidation in gas seepage and establishing its association with extreme sediment wave growth,

(2) quantify the role of sediment grain size and sorting on both "extreme" and "normal" sediment wave development and

(3) validate and improve the capability of a morphodynamic model for sediment wave development, both for "normal" sizes and amplified dimensions.




Long-term effects of continued trawling on deep-water muddy grounds (IMPACT)

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Margarida Castro (Universidade do Algarve)


The interest of this proposal is the effect long periods of bottom trawling on deep, soft sediment bottoms. Otter trawling in the slope of the Southwest and South coast of Portugal (200- 800m) has continuous over the last 60 yr. Numerous studies have focused on the effects of trawling on the bottom, most of them directed at the effects on hard bottoms where the disturbance to the biogenic structures (i.e. corals) is more dramatic. Few studies are dedicated to changes induced on muddy bottoms and even fewer to the effects on muddy, deep water grounds. Systems where natural disturbances are less frequent (such as deep muddy bottoms) tend to be more susceptible to changes and take longer to recover, than shallower and/or sandy.


Persistent trawling has effects on the sediment structure, oxygenation, POM, as well as on diversity and abundance of bottom communities. Bottom crustacean trawling produces a diverse catch of fish and invertebrate species, from which only a few are of commercial interest, producing very high levels of by-catch (50-90% of total weight caught). Most of these organisms fall on the bottom in the general area where they were caught. The food subsidies provided by rejections at sea influence the dynamics of small bottom scavengers, the main organism involved in the quick consumption of this unnatural food supply. The main objective of this proposal is to evaluate the effects of continued trawling on deep muddy grounds, by studying indicators of the direct impact of the trawling activity (geochemical properties of the sediment, endo and sessile epifauna). The hypothesis that trawling favours scavengers will also be tested.


These objectives will be reached by comparing towed and untowed stations in the following aspects:

a) Bottom structure (physical + bio structures);

b) Sediment properties (grain size, OC, calcium carbonate, OM - biomarkers); c) Species diversity + biomass (microfossils, epif + endofauna (macro meio + micro), small scavengers.




South Alboran Research in Active Systems (SARAS)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Elia d'Acremont (University of Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC-Paris 6)


We propose a 10-days multi-parameter oceanographic cruise, SARAS (South Alboran Research in Active Systems) to image and constrain active structures and associated sedimentary systems in the Alboran Sea by acquiring swath bathymetry, high and very high-resolution seismic reflection data. Combining the data with existing and available 2D-seismic lines will enable us to link surface morphology and structures with the deeper geology, in order to gain a good understanding of regional geodynamics and constrain the geohazards, in particular seismicity. After all, seismic hazard assessment depends strongly on our ability to understand where strain is accumulated and how much of it is accommodated seismically. The SARAS cruise is linked to the international Marlboro projects (CNFC, INSU-2010-2011) within the French Termex (Terra Mediterranean Earth Science Experiment) and the Actions Marges Programs, as well as to the European TopoMed (Plate re-organization in the western Mediterranean: Lithospheric causes and topographic consequences) program and the Spanish national Contouriber project. The SARAS cruise is an European research effort to combine the specific know-how and existing databases among participating institutes from France, Spain, Morocco, Italy and Belgium. The availability of the integrated database is crucial in increasing our knowledge and understanding of the tectonic and sedimentary processes acting at different spatial and temporal scales. Such processes are responsible for creating potentially catastrophic events such as earthquakes, slope failures and consequently tsunamis. Marine geohazard assessment for the densely populated western Mediterranean region will significantly benefit from completing the high quality and high resolution bathymetry and seismic data coverage of the Alboran basin and combining the different databases.




Complex investigation of pelagic-benthic ecosystem interaction (CIPEC)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Solvita Strake (Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology)


In order to explain short and medium time changes in ecosystem quality of the Baltic Sea it is imperative to understand internal processes since due to shallowness of the sea sediments can perform both as sink and as source of nutrients as well as hazardous substances and so influence processes occurring in water column. The internal processes of the Baltic Sea are highly influenced by combination of climatic factors and anthropogenic pressure since Baltic Sea is relatively shallow sea with catchment basin exceeding sea area approximately 4 times. Therefore, complex investigation is required addressing all key factors such as hydrological regime, pelagic ecosystem and its interaction with benthic ecosystem. Furthermore, benthic ecosystem health status is required to estimate impact of hazardous substances on its performance. Since it is rather difficult to cover whole Baltic Sea the smaller scale test region can be used to acquire knowledge and test hypothesis which can afterwards be transferred to the wider Baltic Sea. As one of such model regions the Gulf of Riga can be used since it copies in smaller scale most of characteristic features of the Baltic Sea.


In order to acquire required information the complex study from January-February 2012 to October 2012 is planned. Altogether 21 stations four times per study period will be visited. The spectrum of parameters measured at each station will vary according to importance of station from CTD and nutrient analysis to CTD, nutrients, fitoplankton, zooplankton, picoplancton, primary production and sampling of benthic organisms for further ecotoxicological analysis.




Canyon processes in sediment-undersupplied margins: A geomorphometric investigation of the Malta Escarpment submarine canyons (CUMECS)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Aaron Micallef (University of Barcelona; University of Malta)


Submarine canyons - deep incisions in the continental shelf and slope - play an important role in margindevelopment worldwide and are hotspots of biological activity.


on formation fail to explain how canyons form in sediment-undersupplied margins or how canyons remain active after disconnecting from terrestrial/littoral sediment sources during high sea level stands. Sediment gravity flows are accepted as a dominant mechanism in canyon erosion, yet their source is not well constrained. Recent studies stress the roles of hydrodynamic and slope failure processes in generating gravity flows and in widening canyons. These processes also regulate habitat diversity and abundance, but the extent of their influence in canyons is unknown and their monitoring is difficult.


CUMECS is an interdisciplinary project investigating the processes forming canyons in sediment-undersupplied margins and their influence on benthic habitats. An excellent natural laboratory for such a study is the Malta Escarpment, central Mediterranean, which is incised by canyons that have remained largely isolated from inputs of fluvial/littoral sediments. Our hypothesis is that these canyons are primarily formed by hydrodynamic processes, widened by mass movements and that their location is controlled by tectonic structures. To test this hypothesis, we propose a cruise to collect and integrate bathymetry and backscatter data, sub-bottom and high resolution seismic profiles, sediment cores and ROV imagery from a Malta Escarpment submarine canyon. We will investigate these data using geomorphometry and state-of-the-art facilities to identify the nature, origin and role of the main processes/controls responsible for canyon initiation and development, to propose a model for canyon evolution in sediment-undersupplied margins, and to assess the impact of canyon processes on benthic habitats in such settings.