NOC Marine Geoscience

Lead Research Organisation: National Oceanography Centre (WEF011019)

Abstract

The Marine Geoscience Programme undertakes multi-disciplinary studies of seafloor and sub-seafloor environments throughout the World’s oceans, from the poles to the tropics and from the coast to the deepest trench. By integrating cutting-edge technology with advanced mapping and observational techniques, this programme addresses major societal and environmental issues across the World's oceans.

Publications

10 25 50

publication icon
Achterberg EP (2018) Iron Biogeochemistry in the High Latitude North Atlantic Ocean. in Scientific reports

 
Description We have provided fundamental knowledge of key natural processes that operate on the seafloor from shelf seas to the deep ocean, needed to understand climate change and human impacts. We studied: seafloor habitats, including cold water corals, and how they respond to bottom trawling and climate; large scale sediment flows related to tsunamis and risks to seafloor infrastructure like pipelines and fibre optic cables; methods for detecting and verifying carbon dioxide storage beneath the seabed for climate change mitigation; methods for quantifying seafloor methane gas hydrates, a major energy resource with possible climate change implications; the genesis and preservation of natural hydrothermal seafloor mineral deposits and the environmental impacts of seafloor mining; methods for reducing the environmental risks associated with deep water frontier hydrocarbon exploration. We have also engaged with the UK naval defence research sector seeking to understand ocean acoustics in the Arctic.
Exploitation Route Our research provides the bacic knowledge needed to undeprin national strategic interests for the benefit of society and the economy around seafloor issues. The seafloor covers nearly 70% of the world's solid surface and is coming under increasing pressure for its natural resources and support of the Blue Economy. Through knowledge of this vast, interconnecting, natural environment, the UK can play a leading role in international affairs, support global trade and promote human wellbeing. See impact narrative statement for details.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Construction,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Security and Diplomacy,Transport

 
Description The findings have been used in the following:- *Seafloor mapping and monitoring: Marine Protected Areas and policy advice. 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. 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, suitable maps are not available in many areas, 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 (although there has been a recent reduction in oil price in 2015/2016). 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 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 website4. It costs ~£0.7M to map a 1000 square km 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 km, 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 has internationally-recognised expertise in the science of benthic habitat mapping, exemplified by leadership of major EU programmes such as HERMIONE (€15.5M), CODEMAP (€1.4M) and STEMM-CCS (€15.9M), 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 (MCZ) 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 One); 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 seamounts, 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. *NOC science and technology maintaining a competitive advantage for UK marine science industry. The UK marine science and technology sector in 2012 had estimated turnover of £1.35 billion (double the 2010 figure) with exports of £500 million. NOC is a world leader in developing new technologies for marine science that are being translated into new products for UK companies. These instruments, conceived by NOC scientists include a range of new platforms, analytical tools and sensors, are internationally recognised as world-leading technology, and in collaboration with industry, are becoming commercial instruments. This world leading technology developed by NOC is assisting the UK marine science industry to maintain a competitive advantage and continue its remarkable expansion. NOC-developed technology includes: HyBIS - an innovative new robotic underwater vehicle, providing a low cost, versatile solution to deep-water (to 6 km) remote operations including rock, fluid, gas and biological sampling, seafloor instrument deployment and recovery. HyBIS's versatility and low cost operation in gas hydrate and methane flux studies in the Arctic Ocean, discovery of the world's deepest hydrothermal vents at 5000 m in the Cayman Trough, and unregulated fishing impacts on an Atlantic seamount, has led to interest from marine operators. An offshore technology company has made HyBIS a commercial instrument with sales to Germany and China, and interest from the offshore sector. Using a cost-competitive system like HyBIS is highly attractive and will spin out further developments HyBIS: NOC science objectives and technology innovation funding led to initial technological development in 2007 and later fabrication in 2008 by an external company. NOC cruises in 2009 and 2010 led to further technical developments. In 2011 and 2012, it undertook Arctic methane studies, and in 2012 CO2 sequestration studies in the North Sea. NOC-led RM funding in 2009 led to discovery of deepest hydrothermal vents in the Cayman Trough in 2010. By end 2012 HyBIS had completed over 100 missions Beneficiaries of NOC-developed technology include UK offshore technology and engineering industry; UK environmental monitoring industry; UK-listed mining and petroleum industries and public sector agencies tasked with mitigating effects of environmental change, UK defence industry, and we have high support and application from industry Until new energy sources can be developed, the world economy and human wellbeing remains dependent on hydrocarbons, many of which are in subsea reservoirs found in increasingly deep waters or extreme conditions (e.g. West of Shetland; Arctic Oceans). NOC has made a significant contribution to economic growth through its delivery of scientific results in the areas of crustal geophysics, rock physics and seafloor environmental observatories for deep-water frontier oil and gas exploration. Example studies include: geological crustal scale analysis of seismic refraction data in the Arctic Ocean; environmental observatories in deep water frontier and mature exploration areas; and fundamental rock physics studies for improved geophysical imaging and quantification for reservoir exploration, characterisation and monitoring. The impact has a global reach as it affects the activities of nation states, serviced by the oil and gas industrial sector, seeking to secure hydrocarbon resources to provide the energy needed to sustain increasing standards of living through economic growth. Apart from developed nations wishing to maintain living standards, the need to secure increasing energy resources is particularly acute for rapidly developing nations with large populations such as China, India and Brazil. Beneficiaries fall into three main categories: 1) Oil and gas companies who need state-of-the-art knowledge to assess the hydrocarbon resources in deep water frontier areas such as the Arctic, offshore Africa and Brazil; 2) Regulatory authorities such as sovereign states, the EU and the UN who wish to control the environmental impacts of offshore hydrocarbon exploration and production for sustainable economic growth, including the mitigation of anthropogenic climate change; 3) Consumers of goods and services provided by high-energy-use societies, underpinned by hydrocarbon fuels and petrochemicals for domestic use, manufacturing, materials, agriculture, transport and defence. Specifically, NOC activities have benefitted oil and gas companies, seeking new resources in the Arctic frontiers by providing basin-scale geological interpretations of seismic refraction data, and service companies to develop new marine geophysical exploration capabilities. NOC activities have also benefitted companies such as Statoil, Chevron, Total, BP, Hurricane, OMV, Shell, Guardline, and Fugro through the provision of long-term environmental impact monitoring around drilling and production platforms. Moreover, much of this research is done via a special model whereby industry donates robotic survey infrastructure through an international effort coordinated by NOC - the Scientific and Environmental ROV Partnership using Existing Industrial Technology (SERPENT). The resulting datasets on impacts and scientific results are published openly and are informing debate on industry best practice for sustainable economic activities. Overall, NOC activities have helped to reduce costs and increase efficiency of deep water offshore exploration and production, while minimising impacts on the marine environment in often sensitive frontier areas, as well as helping to secure jobs in this competitive market sector. Apart from contributing to short-term economic gains by commercial operators, NOC activities are likely to have their greatest impact in the medium to long term as new information is absorbed into exploration culture and regulatory authorities role out exploitation plans for frontier areas. *United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides the formulae allowing coastal states to claim continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and allows states to exploit the natural resources of the seabed and subsoil of this continental shelf. UNCLOS also contains provisions for the protection and preservation of the marine environment. NOC has led the technical advice to the UK Government on all four UK claims under Article 76, provided advice and services to several overseas governments, and continues to provide advice on several aspects of UNCLOS, including delimitation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) conveys sovereign rights to coastal states over the seabed and subsoil of their continental shelf. Article 76 of UNCLOS provides formulae that allow coastal states to claim a continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical mile EEZ where the necessary criteria are met, and allows the state to explore and exploit the natural resources of the seabed and subsoil of this area of continental shelf. The UK has submitted four areas of continental shelf to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), which includes 80,000 sq km of continental shelf in a joint submission with France, Ireland and Spain in respect of the Celtic Shelf area1, some 2.1 Million sq km of seafloor area in the Hatton-Rockall area, Ascension Island, and Falkland Island regions with their associated potential resources submitted to UN for ratification, of which 900,000 sq km within the Falkland Island region could include substantial hydrocarbon reserves similar to the existing UK company exploration within the Falkland Island EEZ. Similarly, seafloor polymetallic sulphides lie within the Ascension Island shelf area on the mid-Atlantic Ridge, near to where Russia and France have been granted exploration licenses by the International Seabed Authority (ISA). China and Korea have similar licenses for mineral exploration along the SW and central Indian Ridge. In a recent communication released by the European Parliament, which states that "By 2020, 5% of the worlds minerals, including cobalt and zinc, could come from the ocean floors. This could rise to 10% by 2030. Global annual turnover of marine mineral mining can be expected to grow from virtually nothing to €5 billion in the next 10 years and up to €10 billion by 2030" re-enforces the importance of securing areas of seafloor with potential mineral resources. The fiscal value of the non-living resources (including hydrocarbons, seafloor minerals, biomedical products from sessile animals) within these areas has yet to be determined, but these UK marine areas may contain oil / gas, mineral rich polymetallic massive sulphides and manganese nodules, which are a source of valuable minerals, including nickel, copper, cobalt, manganese and rare earth minerals. The ISA is an agency established under UNCLOS to organize and control activities in the Area (i.e. parts of the oceans beyond national jurisdiction), in particular with a view to administering the resources. Applications for such licenses have been sponsored by the UK government, and revenue from these activities will potentially result in UK tax revenue benefit: • The UK has recently sponsored a UK subsidiary of Lockheed Martin to submit a licence for exploration in the Pacific Ocean. • Potential revenue from a wide range of non-living resources, both hydrocarbon and mineral. • Potential benefit to security of UK mineral resource supply. In addition, NOC has assisted Barbados, Vietnam, and Yemen in submitting extended continental shelf submissions to the CLCS via commissioned research contracts and has generated considerable goodwill for the UK through capacity building. Over 100 nationals from 40 countries have undertaken training courses at NOC / University of Southampton in UNCLOS application and international maritime law underlining the UK lead is this field.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Education,Energy,Environment,Security and Diplomacy,Transport
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description DEFRA consultation on Proposed UK Marine Monitoring Programmes under the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description House of Commons Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change inquiry into Carbon Capture and Storage
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description National Oceanography Centre and Marine Policy Unit (MPU) of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO): Memorandum of Understanding
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides the formulae allowing coastal states to claim continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and allows states to exploit the natural resources of the seabed and subsoil of this continental shelf. UNCLOS also contains provisions for the protection and preservation of the marine environment. NOC has led the technical advice to the UK Government on all four UK claims under Article 76, provided advice and services to several overseas governments, and continues to provide advice on several aspects of UNCLOS, including delimitation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) conveys sovereign rights to coastal states over the seabed and subsoil of their continental shelf. Article 76 of UNCLOS provides formulae that allow coastal states to claim a continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical mile EEZ where the necessary criteria are met, and allows the state to explore and exploit the natural resources of the seabed and subsoil of this area of continental shelf. The UK has submitted four areas of continental shelf to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), which includes 80,000 sq km of continental shelf in a joint submission with France, Ireland and Spain in respect of the Celtic Shelf area1, some 2.1 Million sq km of seafloor area in the Hatton-Rockall area, Ascension Island, and Falkland Island regions with their associated potential resources submitted to UN for ratification, of which 900,000 sq km within the Falkland Island region could include substantial hydrocarbon reserves similar to the existing UK company exploration within the Falkland Island EEZ. Similarly, seafloor polymetallic sulphides lie within the Ascension Island shelf area on the mid-Atlantic Ridge, near to where Russia and France have been granted exploration licenses by the International Seabed Authority (ISA). China and Korea have similar licenses for mineral exploration along the SW and central Indian Ridge. In a recent communication released by the European Parliament, which states that "By 2020, 5% of the worlds minerals, including cobalt and zinc, could come from the ocean floors. This could rise to 10% by 2030. Global annual turnover of marine mineral mining can be expected to grow from virtually nothing to €5 billion in the next 10 years and up to €10 billion by 2030" re-enforces the importance of securing areas of seafloor with potential mineral resources. The fiscal value of the non-living resources (including hydrocarbons, seafloor minerals, biomedical products from sessile animals) within these areas has yet to be determined, but these UK marine areas may contain oil / gas, mineral rich polymetallic massive sulphides and manganese nodules, which are a source of valuable minerals, including nickel, copper, cobalt, manganese and rare earth minerals. The ISA is an agency established under UNCLOS to organize and control activities in the Area (i.e. parts of the oceans beyond national jurisdiction), in particular with a view to administering the resources. Applications for such licences have been sponsored by the UK government, and revenue from these activities will potentially result in UK tax revenue benefit: • The UK has recently sponsored a UK subsidiary of Lockheed Martin to submit a licence for exploration in the Pacific Ocean. • Potential revenue from a wide range of non-living resources, both hydrocarbon and mineral. • Potential benefit to security of UK mineral resource supply. In addition, NOC has assisted Barbados, Vietnam, and Yemen in submitting extended continental shelf submissions to the CLCS via commissioned research contracts and has generated considerable goodwill for the UK through capacity building. Over 100 nationals from 40 countries have undertaken training courses at NOC / University of Southampton in UNCLOS application and international maritime law underlining the UK lead is this field
 
Description The likely occurrence of natural seafloor hydrates offshore Bangladesh - a scoping study.
Amount £232,000 (GBP)
Organisation Government of Bangladesh 
Sector Public
Country Bangladesh
Start 06/2019 
End 12/2020
 
Description Bangladesh seafloor hydrates 
Organisation Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Country Bangladesh 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution NOC is working with the Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs (BMoFA) on the topic of seafloor gas hydrates research. As a result, BMoFA commissioned NOC to conduct a 12 month desktop study (starting July 2019) to assess the potential for seafloor methane gas hydrates in the Bangladesh deep water EEZ areas of the Bay of Bengal. This involves analysis of seismic data already collected by Bangladesh as part of their previous UNCLOS submission.
Collaborator Contribution They have provided seismic data and other relevant seafloor scientific datasets already collected, and access to software licenses for industry seismic data processing.
Impact The activity is ongoing, and the results will be published subject to agreement with BMoFA.
Start Year 2019
 
Title INCISE : the International Network for submarine canyon Investigation and Scientific Exchange website 
Description  
Type Of Technology Software 
URL http://www.incisenet.org/
 
Title JC094 Tropics Cruise: website and blog 
Description  
Type Of Technology Software 
URL http://tropics.blogs.ilrt.org/
 
Title Submarine Canyons: guest post 
Description website by Siddhi Joshi 
Type Of Technology Software 
URL http://seabedhabitats.org/2013/06/24/submarine-canyons-guest-post/