The CoML pilot project MAR-ECO: Goals, status, and significance for ICES
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The Mid-Atlantic ridge and adjacent waters are targeted in an international ecosystem study under the Census of Marine Life programme. This pilot project shall gather new knowledge on biodiversity, distribution patterns, and ecological processes, and the overriding aim is “to describe and understand the patterns of distribution, abundance and trophic relationships of the organisms inhabiting the mid-oceanic North Atlantic, and identify and model ecological processes that cause variability in these patterns”. Fish, crustaceans, cephalopods, and gelatinous plankton and nekton have the highest priority in the study, but there will also be some focus on epibenthos and top predators such as seabirds and cetaceans. A major challenge of the project is to overcome observation difficulties at large depths and in rugged terrain. A central aim is thus to utilise modern remote sensing technology (acoustics, optics) using advanced instrument carriers (e.g., towed vehicles, ROVs, AUVs etc.). The project will work on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and in adjacent waters from the Azores to Iceland, both by surveying large areas by acoustics and mid-water trawling, and by focusing on selected sub-areas for intensive sampling and observation by traditional and novel methods and technology. Overlapping with the field seasons 2003-2005, the period 2004-2008 will be an analytical phase, including also submission of data to OBIS. The project will provide significant new information on exploited resources and biodiversity of immediate value to ICES, OSPAR and other advisory authorities. Examples are new data on habitat use, distribution patterns, life history strategies, and population genetics of deep-sea fishes exploited by ICES member states.