iMAR Integrated assessment of the distribution of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystem along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the Azores

Scientific Discipline: Biological Oceanography, Geology, New technologies

Work Area: Mid Atlantic Ridge section within the Portuguese EEZ around the Azores between 42°N and 36°N

Research Vessel: RV Pelagia

PI Name and Affiliation: Telmo Morato, IMAR and OKEANOS, University of the Azores, Portugal

Dates: May 18 - June 3 2021

Citation from PI: Eurofleets+ and NIOZ’s offer to make use of the R/V Pelagia in the Azores during 2021 is a wonderful opportunity for advancing deep-sea science in this Region. Our research team lives in a country with limited research vessels and capacity, where no National ship-time is available for the scientific community. Every year, the Azores is visited by multiple research cruises from different EU countries fitted for their own purposes. We have been able to establish collaborations with some PIs of these cruises, but the time available for our deep-sea research agenda is always very limited. The Eurofleets+ iMAR cruise will be one of the few research cruises in the last decade designed to fit our research agenda. We expect that the data produced will help to evaluate the role of the Mid Atlantic Ridge in shaping the latitudinal and longitudinal patterns in deep-sea benthic biodiversity.

Map of the Survey Area

Abstract & Main objectives: The iMAR cruise aims to evaluate the role of the Mid Atlantic Ridge (MAR) in shaping the latitudinal and longitudinal patterns in deep-sea benthic biodiversity. In particular, iMAR aims to (i) map and characterize deep-sea coral and sponge communities inhabiting unexplored seamounts and ridges in the MAR; (ii) identify new areas that fit the FAO’s Vulnerable Marine Ecosystem (VME) criteria; (iii) to contribute to the understanding of the environmental drivers that determine the spatial distribution of deep-sea benthic biodiversity in the MAR; and (iv) determine the condition of benthic communities by looking at evidence of fishing damage to fauna, presence of lost fishing lines and marine litter. The results of these explorations will enhance the predictive capabilities for VMEs, and to inform Good Environmental Status (GES), Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and provide new insights on how to sustainably manage deep-sea ecosystems in the MAR. It will also support the implementation of protection measures that will have a substantial impact in terms of fisheries regulations and sustainable exploitation of fishing grounds in the MAR region of the Azores, which can be later transferred to Areas beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) and thus to the implementation of international agreements to conserve VMEs and Ecologically or Biologically Sensitive Areas.

Images from previous research produced by IMAR/OKEANOS-UAz, Azor drift-cam


Images curtesy of © IMAR/OKEANOS-UAz, Azor drift-cam & NIOZ