EUROFLEETS Funded Projects Abstracts

Here you can find the abstracts of all the EUROFLEETS2 call “Regional 2” funded projects.


There is serious concern about the adverse impact of fisheries on benthic ecosystem which may negatively affect the fisheries yield and integrity of the sea bed through the loss of important ecosystem processes. In the light of ecosystem approach to fisheries management and commitments to EU legislation such as the MSFD to create good environmental status by conserving function as well as biodiversity, it is vital to understand how the wider ecosystem effects of fisheries affect the long-term sustainability of the populations being fished and ecosystem functioning. Most existing knowledge of the effects of bottom fishing on benthic communities is based on relatively small-scale experimental studies,which limits our understanding of the likely long-term changes from trawling that occurs chronically over large spatial scales. In this work we propose to study the secondary effects of bottom fishing along a gradient of otter trawling disturbance from a Nephrops norvegicus fishery over a muddy fishing ground in the Celtic Sea. This work will combine infaunal and demersal fish sampling preferably on board the RV Celtic Voyager or the RV Belgica during summer (June/July) 2015. Specifically, this work will examine the effect of chronic trawling on the functional composition of benthic invertebrate communities using a comprehensive set of functional traits. We examine how the relationship between functional composition and bioturbation (a measure of ecosystem functioning) is moderated by fishing disturbance. Furthermore, we address the lack of detailed understanding of how food web structure and fish feeding may be modulated by changes in the benthos and how this may affect fish body condition and ultimately the sustainability of fish stocks. This study in the Celtic Sea will enable us to assess the consistency of trawling effects over large spatial scales and among different regional seas, which is required for scaling up to a scale relevant for fisheries management.


The Gloria strike-slip Fault is the Africa-Eurasia plate boundary fault in the Atlantic Ocean. It has generated instrumental earthquakes of magnitudes M= 7.3 to 8.4. The SWIM Fault Zone bounds the Horseshoe Abyssal Plain and the Gulf of Cadiz regions, which host the epicentre of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake of estimated magnitude M=8.5 to 8.9 and the 1969 M=7.9. At Present, the Gloria Fault and the SWIM Fault are in a tectonic process of linkage (SWIM-GLO connection) across the Madeira-Tore Rise, as shown by of swath bathymetry and seismicity record. There is a lack of multichannel seismic reflection profiles in the SWIM-GLO connection region and the swath bathymetry showed that the tectonic fabrics in the SWIM-GLO connection are complex. Work in the accretionary wedge of the Gulf of Cadiz has shown the existence of a great number of mud volcanoes. Recently, in 2012, elements of the PROPEL team found for the first time, three mud volcanoes miles away from the deformation front of the accretionary wedge at depths of ca. 4 km below sea level. These three mud volcanoes lie on top of the main SWIM Fault, as well as other mud volcanoes within the accretionary wedge. It is now widely accepted that the SWIM strike-slip Faults control the exhalation of over pressured sedimentary fluids and mud volcanism. Geochemistry of the exhalated fluids has also shown that fluid circulation involves not only the whole of the sedimentary oceanic cover, which can exceed 4 km of thickness, but also the oceanic basement itself in the Gulf of Cadiz region, where the oceanic lithosphere is more than 120 My. The aim of PROPEL is twofold, firstly, unravel the upper crustal tectonics of the SWIM-GLO connection by acquiring state-of-the-art seismic reflection profiles as a main step for neotectonics modelling and secondly, acquire cores for pore fluid analysis to determine the extent of fluid flow along the strike-slip faults and its role on alteration of the crustal rheology.


The GRACO project focuses on the study of the interaction between gravitational and contouritic processes on the Cadiz margin shelf-edge and upper slope. This is a relatively unexplored region of the Gulf of Cadiz, where scarps and downslope-trending valleys will be investigated in relation to oceanographic processes, in order to determine their interaction and the roles played during the evolution of the Gulf of Cadiz Contourite Depositional System. The resulting models are expected to improve our knowlede on the morphosedimentary evolution of the system, but also on their incidence on global climate, geological hazards and the evaluation of potential hydrocarbon reservoirs. To achieve this objective, we request a 8-days cruise on board the OGS-Explora, to acquire seismic, acoustic and oceanographic datasets, sediment samples and video-photograph images of the seafloor. A research team of 12 people, including students and technicians will work on data acquisition on board, but a group involving 16 more remote participants will also be involved in the consecution of the scientific objectives of the project. This group results from years of collaboration between Spanish and international institutions and also includes companies from the energy, civil engineering and telecommunications industry. The GRACO project emphasizes scientific questions that have not been considered with detail in previous projects from the group, and the cruise has been designed to complete the available datasets. Outreach and dissemination of results to the general public will be a major objective of this project, including live, real-time communications during the cruise. Communication of results to the scientific community will be done through participation in scientific conferences and publication in international, high-impact journals.


The offshore shrimp trawl fishery in Icelandic waters has been in operation since the 1970s. Catches have fluctuated over the years, with peak landings in the mid 1990s. Trawl fisheries can have a negative impact on benthic habitats, selecting removing or damaging vulnerable species. However, the impacts of trawling varies according to seabed substrate, with soft sediment habitats (such as those preferred by shrimp) believed to be more resilient.In order the understand the impact of trawling on benthic habitats we must first characterise the habitats of the region. However, existing knowledge of distribution, abundance and biodiversity of benthic communities in the Arctic is relatively fragmented. Knowledge of the benthic ecosystem of Northern Iceland is limited and little direct observational work has been carried out in the area. In contrast, we have 3 years of benthic survey imagery from the shrimp trawl fishery regions of the west Greenland shelf. We plan to use our benthic camera aboard the OGS Explora to survey the seabed in the shrimp fishing areas of Northern Iceland. We will take hundreds of images of the seabed in order to document and analyse the composition of the benthic fauna. For most areas this will be the first time photographic surveys have been conducted. These data will allow us to obtain baseline data on the benthic fauna at shrimp grounds. We will then evaluate the community composition of North Iceland and compare the fauna present and habitat structure with those in West Greenland. Finally, we will evaluate whether there is a relationship between the benthic community structure and diversity and fishing pressure. This project is a collaborative effort between the Institute of Zoology (UK) and the Marine Research Institute (Iceland), which will greatly contribute to pan-Arctic investigation into benthic habitats of the Arctic.


Faced with the challenge of implementing conservation policy in vast areas of deep-sea and High Seas, decisions will be taken based on ‘best available data’. To date decisions regarding the management of human activities to protect ‘Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs)’ have been taken on the basis of maps produced using point data that may itself date back 10s to over 100 years. This essentially restricts conservation efforts to areas that have been sampled, hampering progress in sustainable management of the deep sea and High Seas. Modelled VME predicted distribution maps in areas where actual data is lacking provide a scientifically robust and repeatable means of estimating extent and distribution of species and assemblages and thus represent ‘next best available data’. However there remain a number of questions regarding the reliability of these models particularly concerning the resolution of data used in the modelling process. Our preliminary research suggests models constructed using finer resolution data perform better than those constructed using coarse resolution data. However the metrics routinely used to test models are known to artificially inflate model performances as test data sets are drawn from the same pool as data used in model construction. We request ship time to allow us to test our published models of the distribution of Lophelia pertusa (cold water coral) reef and Pheronema carpenteri (deep-sea sponge) aggregations in the UK and Irish deep-sea areas using newly collected independent (and fit for purpose) test datasets. This study will further our understanding of how well predictive models of different spatial resolution really perform and enable us to provide sound scientific advice to managers on the reliability of predictive models of different resolution and the nature and level of use of predictive models in developing spatial management plans for the deep-sea and High Seas in the face of increasing human exploitation.


The Kveithola sediment Drift in the innermost part of the glacially-eroded Kveithola Trough in the NW Barents Sea hosts an intriguing environment. The internal seismic reflections of the drift show a drastic thinning and termination towards the northern flank of the trough. Here a distinct moat implies a strong influence of dense bottom currents, inferred to flow (or at least to have flown) towards the outer shelf. The highly dynamic environment depicted from the morphological and structural characteristics of the sediment drift is in contrast with the sediment facies and preserved biota, characterized by the presence of typically oxygen-depleted environmental taxa. The sediments of the Kveithola Drift that deposited under persistent dense bottom currents, thus, appears today as a stagnant environment strongly affected by low-oxygen, possibly chemosynthetic conditions with likely ongoing gas seep activity from pockmarks. The BURSTER proposal aims to investigate the hydrographic conditions and the active gas seepage from the pockmark-field on the Kveithola Drift. Additionally, it aims to study climate and environmental changes controlling the evolution of living organisms in extreme environments. This proposal is to be intended as a preliminary, pilot-type of investigation for a successive project that will include detailed and focused investigation of the Kveithola bio-geochemical system over a larger data acquisition area and frame-time. In addition, if no alternative rescue opportunity will be identified by the time of the BURSTER cruise, part of the shiptime will be devoted to retrieve the moorings deployed during the 2014 PREPARED complementary cruise.


There are areas of the planet, once thought of as insurmountable physical and chemical barriers to life, which are now known to be niche habitats populated by ‘extremophiles’, organisms that require extreme environmental conditions for survival. Extreme environments have “environmental parameters showing values permanently close to lower or upper limits known for life in its various forms”. Such environments range from terrestrial and marine hot springs), polar environments, the deep-sea, to the deep biosphere (sub-seafloor). Recent advances in exploration and analytical techniques have discovered a myriad of bacterial communities that have evolved novel bioactive compounds through their physiological adaptations to environmental stressors. The properties and potential applications of these compounds have rarely been fully appreciated. This proposal seeks to address, prospect and utilize novel natural products from a polyextreme environment, the South Shetland Trough near the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the few cryogenic trenches in the world, to provide a conduit of potential solutions from the unexplored natural world to the pertinent problems faced by modern medicine and sustainable chemistry.

PharmaDeep encompasses multi disciplines, mainly bioprospecting for biotechnology and pharmaceutical applications, with the added value of conventional deep-sea biology and ecology, as well as an astrobiology component. The specific aims of PharmaDeep are to (1) Collect marine organisms from deep-and-cold-water habitats that may be unique sources of natural products for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases, (2) Perform the first marine biological survey of the unique habitat, the Soth Shetland Trough, (3) Compare and contrast the South Shetland trough fauna and drivers of distribution with other trench ecosystems, and (4) Investigate the interaction of physical and hemical extremes of relevance to understanding the habitability of other planetary bodies.


ANTSSS Deep-sea sedimentary mounds around the Antarctic margin are well known archives of continuous records of past glacial-to-interglacial fluctuations that occurred since the onset of continent-wide Antarctic glaciation ~34.0Ma. In particular, sediments drifts forming on the levees of slope canyons record action of both along-slope contour and down-slope bottom currents. This proposal aims to investigate the Hillary Canyon (slope) and the channel-levee systems (rise) that cut the continental margin of the eastern Ross Sea. This system is a main conduit for high salinity water (RSBW) forming in the Ross Sea polynya, overspilling the shelf edge at the mouth of the Glomar Challenger Basin, flowing downslope across the Hillary Canyon and feeding the AABW and the Ross Sea Gyre. Sparse existing oceanographic data suggest that RSBW production and mixing with ambient waters has changed in the last 10 years, reflecting changes in the ocean and/or in the source area. The main changes in ocean circulation that occurred in the past, during Cenozoic glacial and interglacial cycles and Southern Ocean frontal zone shifts, are expected to be recorded by sediments deposited on the flanks of the Hillary canyon and its deep water channel levees. Sparse existing seismic profiles and short gravity cores show that the sediment mounds formed under variable (high and low energy) environmental conditions, since the Middle Miocene. We will investigate the present and also the past (Miocene-Quaternary) environmental conditions over this sector of the Ross Sea margin by integrating and comparing geophysical data from the water column, from the sea bed and sub-sea bed, with XBTs and and CTDs a sediment cores. The results will enable development of a high-resolution model of sediment deposition relating to marine-based ice sheet and oceanic process at the Ross Sea continental shelf margin occurring through the Neogene and Quaternary, and will provide a key dataset to identify the most appropriate sites for future planned drilling in this region as part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.

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