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A transatlantic assessment and deep-water ecosystem-based spatial management plan for Europe

IEO scientists contribute significantly to the knowledge of the deep ecosystems of the North Atlantic

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021, 19:00 (GMT + 9)

  • IEO scientists contribute significantly to the knowledge of the deep ecosystems of the North Atlantic


  •     The European ATLAS project ends, an ambitious study in which 25 institutions have participated and which has improved the knowledge of various deep areas of the North Atlantic and the Alboran Sea
  •     After four years of study, the researchers have found 12 new species for science, of which seven have been published by IEO scientists together with scientists from other institutions.
  •     Scientists have confirmed that warming and acidification of the oceans can alter the geographic distribution of various species
  •     The results of ATLAS have also provided recommendations and tools for governments and industry to improve the management of marine resources.

After four years of intense work, the ATLAS project ends, an ambitious study to deepen our knowledge of the deep ecosystems of the North Atlantic and the Alboran Sea, in which 80 researchers from 25 institutions in 12 countries have participated. Throughout the duration of the project, 45 expeditions have been carried out, more than 30 habitats have been described and 12 new species have been discovered for science, of which seven have been published by researchers from the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO ), in collaboration with scientists from other institutions.


 The ATLAS project started in 2016, funded with 9 million euros by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. ATLAS was made up of a consortium of researchers from 12 countries and 25 institutions, its objective being to explore the deep depths of the North Atlantic, improve knowledge of its biodiversity and obtain information that allows predicting future changes in ecosystems caused by climate change.

The Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) has been the only Spanish research institution in this ambitious project, which has just ended with important results. The final balance of ATLAS shows 45 oceanographic expeditions, as well as the publication of more than 200 scientific articles, the description of more than 30 habitats (including several vulnerable ecosystems) and the discovery of 12 new species for science. Much of the knowledge generated in ATLAS is allowing researchers to advise and offer tools for governments and industry to improve the management of marine resources in order to make their exploitation more sustainable.

The contributions made by the IEO to the ATLAS project with the aim of improving knowledge of the deep areas of the Atlantic have been numerous, covering different areas of knowledge. “We have contributed, among others, to a better understanding of the influence of Mediterranean water on the deep benthic ecosystems of the Atlantic, to the knowledge of the geomorphology and distribution of habitats of various underwater structures in the deep Atlantic and, in addition, a good part of the knowledge acquired They have allowed us to contribute to the development of management plans for some areas, as well as to advance in developing instruments to better respond to the Framework Directive on Marine Strategy in deep areas and to lay the first steps in marine spatial planning both in Northeast and Northwest Atlantic areas ”, explains Covadonga Orejas, researcher at the IEO's Balearic Oceanographic Center and responsible for IEO's participation in ATLAS.

The ATLAS results have also shown that a good part of the deep Atlantic ecosystems are in danger. Among the most relevant research of ATLAS, is the finding that the large-scale circulation of the Atlantic Ocean has changed dramatically in the last 150 years due to climate change, and the confirmation that the warming and acidification of the oceans can alter the geographic distribution of several habitat-forming species, such as deep-sea corals and also deep-sea fish species of great commercial importance. "The study of the oceanographic variables of the environment in which species of special interest for their conservation develop allow us to know their distribution and predict how they will be affected by possible changes", explains Pedro Vélez, physicist at the IEO's Oceanographic Center of the Canary Islands and participant by ATLAS.

More information on the results of the ATLAS project can be found here



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