NOC Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems

Lead Research Organisation: National Oceanography Centre

Abstract

Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems Programme is a multidisciplinary programme, studying ocean physics, chemistry and biology using leading modelling and instrumentation techniques to understand ocean biogeochemistry and biodiversity. Much of the research is motivated by the magnitude of the biological carbon pump (BCP), the biological mechanism by which carbon is stored in the oceans interior.

Publications

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Alcántara-Ayala I (2021) Reflections on Earth surface research in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment

 
Description The findings have been used as follows:- As human activities in the marine environment proliferate, there is an increasing need for high-quality seafloor mapping and monitoring data (the 'evidence base') to support integrated marine planning, sustainable resource exploitation, and maintenance of ecosystem services. National Oceanography Centre (NOC) scientists are meeting this requirement by i) developing new technologies, techniques and products (maps) to improve the quality, coverage and cost-effectiveness of data, ii) providing expert scientific advice to UK and international policy-makers, e.g. Defra, to underpin marine conservation and governance, and iii) leading efforts, through MAREMAP, to improve co-ordination of marine mapping and monitoring activities across NERC and the public sector. NOC seafloor mapping and monitoring activities have had significant impact in two key areas: Development and co-ordination of marine mapping to underpin 'blue growth' Marine activities now contribute >£50bn pa to the UK economy, and employ more than a million people. Primary activities include leisure, shipping, resource exploitation (fishing, hydrocarbons, aggregates), and development of offshore infrastructure (e.g. marine renewables, oil and gas pipelines). All of these activities require base maps of the marine environment, e.g. seafloor bathymetry, substrate, habitats/species, especially when viewed within a marine spatial planning framework. However, in many areas suitable maps are not available, e.g. less than a third of the UK seafloor is mapped with multibeam bathymetry at fit-for-purpose resolution. This data gap is exacerbated by the rising cost of survey vessels, e.g. the average price of heavy fuel oil increased by 254% in real terms between 2001 and 2011, including an increase of 18.5% since 2010. Therefore, the overall cost to government and industry of ship-based marine mapping and monitoring is rapidly increasing, at a time when increasing human impacts and statutory obligations (e.g. Marine Strategy Framework Directive; MSFD) mean that the requirement to undertake such work is also increasing. NOC impact: NOC scientists have developed new techniques and technologies to improve data quality and reduce costs of seafloor mapping and monitoring for government and industry. A recent example is a Defra-funded study demonstrating how Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) can be used for Marine Protected Area (MPA) mapping and monitoring. NOC are also Lead Partners in the UK Marine Environmental Mapping Programme (MAREMAP), launched in 2010 with British Geological Survey and Scottish Association for Marine Science and dominantly funded through NERC National Capability. Associate Partners include Cefas, Channel Coastal Observatory, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and Universities of Southampton and Plymouth, while the Marine Management Organisation and Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) have seats on the Advisory Panel. The two main aims of MAREMAP are to i) co-ordinate mapping effort between government, industry and academia to ensure maximum coverage and avoid duplication, and ii) generate new seafloor and habitat maps in strategically important areas and make them freely accessible via the programme website. It costs ~£0.7M to map a 1000 km2 area of seafloor on the UK shelf using multibeam bathymetry; avoiding duplication and ensuring effective dissemination of data through MAREMAP will help reduce these costs. Mapping and monitoring of UK and International Marine Protected Areas (MPA) The UK is committed to development of an ecologically coherent network of MPAs; this network will add to existing MPAs, such as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). Originally planned for delivery in 2012, the implementation of the network in England has been delayed so that new data can be collected to strengthen the evidence base for decision-making. Marine mapping is an integral part of this process, specifically to aid design of the location, areal extent and management measures for each MPA. Regular monitoring will then be required to assess the efficacy of management measures. Further afield, the UK Overseas Territories Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) cover 5.8 million km2, of which >99% is marine. There are huge economic opportunities in these EEZs, and in international waters outside of UK territory. Potentially important activities include deep-sea mining, eco-tourism and hydrocarbon exploration. These need to be balanced against recent establishment of vast MPAs in UK territory, such as the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands MPA that covers over one million km. Seafloor maps and scientific advice are required to underpin management of these activities, and to inform policy in these regions. NOC impact: NOC has internationally-recognised expertise in the science of benthic habitat mapping, exemplified by leadership of major EU programmes such as HERMIONE (€15.5M) and CODEMAP (€1.4M), and publication of high-profile scientific papers in the review period NOC scientists are now applying this expertise to MPA development in UK waters, through i) provision of new data and habitat maps to Defra/JNCC/Cefas to assist with implementation of MPAs in UK waters, and ii) sharing of best practice and resources in marine habitat mapping through, e.g. vessel sharing and technical workshops. At the international level, provision of expert advice by NOC scientists is helping policy-makers determine how best to manage seafloor resource exploitation in the open ocean. This is achieved through contributions to UN fora, e.g. the International Seabed Authority, and delivery of reports to the UN, e.g. on deep-water fisheries impacts. Within MAREMAP, NOC are responsible for leading many aspects of seafloor and pelagic habitat mapping, and have delivered several reports to policy-makers engaged in UK MPA planning. This includes a strategic study funded by Defra in 2012 on the scientific capabilities of the UK UUV fleet, and how these platforms can be applied to MPA mapping/monitoring; the final report concluded that UUVs can collect data of higher quality and at significantly lower cost in many areas of the UK offshore. Ongoing proof-of-concept studies are now demonstrating to Defra how these platforms can be integrated into MPA and MSFD monitoring (see quote below from Director of Defra Marine). NOC has also been funded by JNCC to deliver broad-scale habitat mapping studies off northwest UK, and in 2010 NOC scientists led an EU-NERC-JNCC-funded research cruise on RRS James Cook to this region (with JNCC staff aboard) to map and monitor vulnerable cold-water coral communities; both studies are now guiding MPA implementation in this area. Most recently, NOC has been i) funded by Cefas to deliver habitat maps to aid designation of recommended Marine Conservation Zones (rMCZ) in England, ii) funded by Worthing Borough Council to deliver nearshore benthic maps off Sussex to assist with coastal defence and marine spatial planning, and iii) funded by Natural England to map seabird and cetacean foraging distributions off northwest Cornwall in relation to substrate/bathymetry, in order to advise mitigation measures to reduce seabird and cetacean bycatch in commercial fishing gear. At an international level, NOC sits on the Legal and Technical Commission of the UN International Seabed Authority (and hosted the Chair in 2011), and on the British Indian Overseas Territory (BIOT) Science Advisory Group. NOC scientists made presentations to the UN General Assembly in 2009 and 2011 on the results of the HERMIONE project and the impacts of fishing in the deep ocean (partly based upon a high-profile scientific paper published in PLoS One5); NOC subsequently delivered a report to the UN on how to mitigate seafloor impacts of deep-sea fisheries. Other specific deliverables include preparation of seafloor maps for the UN South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO) to support implementation of fisheries management measures on seamounts12, and contribution to a Convention of Biological Diversity workshop in autumn 2011 on establishment of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) that resulted in a commentary published in Nature *Seafloor environmental monitoring: Since 2002, the SERPENT (www.serpentproject.com) project has taken advantage of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) used by the hydrocarbon industry to undertake biological research during stand-by time. This has resulted in 92 scientific visits to exploration rigs, drill-ships, and survey vessels working in depths of 100 to 2800 m, mostly by NOC researchers, and funded by major oil and gas companies including Statoil, Chevron, Total, BP, Hurricane, OMV and Shell, with "in kind" support from Transocean, Subsea 7, Oceaneering and Fugro. Yielding c.350 offshore days, NOC scientists have unparalleled access to the seabed to study and monitor the effects of local scale disturbance on benthic communities in deep water (worth over £6 million in equivalent vessel costs). Large data sets are now available in the Faroe-Shetland Channel and Norwegian Sea in the North East Atlantic, where 25 sites have been studied, and two studies have been published at sites in the deep North East Atlantic. Such access has allowed the collection of substantial imagery, along with specimens, for the first ID guide to this exploration area. SERPENT data has resulted in 27 peer reviewed publications on biodiversity and impacts8. Reports provided to the companies inform future license applications and allow operators to quantify seabed impacts. The SERPENT archive database details nearly 2000 observations from deep-water drilling locations globally and is seen as the 'go-to' resource by industry to identify deep-sea life encountered in their operations. About 200,000 people have been reached in 5 high profile outreach events, and media outputs include 7 television programmes and numerous magazine and web articles.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description BP Safety and Operational Risk Group Guide
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee UK Deepwater Drilling report: implications of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: written evidence
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Inquiry into the designation of Marine Protected Areas
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description Offshore Environmental monitoring for the Oil and Gas Industry
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Title Deep Sea ID:a deep sea field guide 
Description An iOS field guide app to the marine life of the deep sea. The project was led by the Natural History Museum, the National Oceanography Centre and the World Register of Marine Species. Funding was provided by the University of Southampton INDEEP project (International Network for Scientific Investigation of Deep-Sea Ecosystems ? which is funded by the Total Foundation). Types of beneficiary include: Independent Research Organisation;Research Council/Institute;Public Research Organisation;Academic Institution;Professional Institution;General Public 
Type Of Technology Software 
URL https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/deep-sea-id/id615240268
 
Title SERPENT website 
Description 2012 here are some statistics: 11,045 visits, 22,965 page views, Visitors from 144 countries Types of beneficiary include: Industrial/Commercial;Research Council/Institute;Public Research Organisation;Government Department;Professional Institution;Trade Association/ Research and Technology Organisations;General Public 
Type Of Technology Software 
URL http://www.serpentproject.com
 
Title World Amphipoda Database 
Description Types of beneficiary include: Independent Research Organisation;Industrial/Commercial;Research Council/Institute;Public Research Organisation;Government Department;General Public 
Type Of Technology Software 
URL http://www.marinespecies.org/amphipoda/
 
Title World Register of Deep-Sea Species 
Description Types of beneficiary include: Independent Research Organisation;Industrial/Commercial;Research Council/Institute;Public Research Organisation;Government Department;Academic Institution;Local and regional Government;Charitable Organisation;Professional Institution;General Public 
Type Of Technology Software 
URL http://www.marinespecies.org/deepsea/