Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Robots help to map England's only deep-water Marine Conservation Zone

17.09.2015

The first true three-dimensional picture of submarine canyon habitats has been produced using a unique combination of marine robotics and ship-based measurements. The information captured in this new set of maps ranges in scale from the 200km canyon down to the size of an individual cold-water coral polyp, and will be used to inform the management of the only English Marine Conservation Zone in deep water.

This 'nested map' is the result of a recent scientific expedition to the Whittard Canyon in the Bay of Biscay, led by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC). It works in a way not unlike a set of Russian dolls, with the most detailed map sitting within a larger scale one, which sits within a larger map still.


Rich cold-water coral reef in the Whittard Canyon area was imaged by the Isis ROV.

Credit: The National Oceanography Centre as part of the CODEMAP project

Submarine canyons are some of the most complex deep-sea environments on this planet, and are known to be potential biodiversity hotspots. Similar to canyons on land, submarine canyons can have steep flanks, with vertical cliffs and overhanging rock formations.

Until recently these parts were out of reach for traditional types of marine equipment, which made them the 'forgotten habitats' of the deep sea. By using unique robot technology to collect data in these 'hard-to-reach' areas, the results of this expedition will lead to a better understanding of the biodiversity patterns in the canyon and of the processes that drive them.

Echo-sounders on the RRS James Cook were used to create a 200km map of the canyon with a 50m pixel resolution. Using a newly-developed sideways-directed echo-sounder, the Autosub6000 robot-sub, maintained by the NOC, was able to map vertical walls within the canyon with a resolution of 3-5m per pixel.

At the same time Isis, the NOC-maintained Remotely Operated Vehicle, was lowered from the RRS James Cook on a tether to record high definition video and to collect biological and geological samples from vertical and overhanging locations. Echo-sound data collected with Isis was also used to create the most detailed map of the three, with a resolution of 10-20cm.

Dr Veerle Huvenne from the NOC, who led the 5-week expedition, said: "Our robot vehicles imaged rich communities of cold-water corals, clams, deep-sea oysters and their associated fauna, including a broad range of fish species. We also captured amazing footage of Blue Sharks and Swordfish when the Isis marine robot was travelling to and from the seabed.

The morphology of this canyon is spectacular. We have mapped cliffs up to 150m high and 1.6km long, in some locations down to centimetre-scale resolution. This makes us the only group in the world who currently can image vertical cliffs in the deep sea in this way. "

The Whittard Canyon proved to be a highly dynamic environment, with strong internal tidal flows and containing deep plumes of organic-rich sediment. To study these oceanographic processes, the University of East Anglia's robot glider was used to continuously measure the water column. Tahmeena Aslam, who was responsible for the glider from UEA, said: "Our Seaglider collected a fantastic dataset and revealed the presence of internal waves up to 80 m high; these processes are likely to have a major influence on the distribution of habitats and fauna within the canyon".

###

The expedition was part of the CODEMAP project, funded by the European Research Council, and received additional support from the NERC MAREMAP programme and DEFRA. Participants included researchers from NOC, University of East Anglia, University of Southampton, CEFAS, the British Geological Survey, IFREMER, National University of Ireland, Galway, and University of Aveiro.

Media Contact

Holly Peacock
holly.peacock@noc.ac.uk
0238-059-6388

 @NOCnews

http://www.noc.soton.ac.uk 

Holly Peacock | EurekAlert!

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Bioinvasion on the rise
15.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht Litter Levels in the Depths of the Arctic are On the Rise
10.02.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>