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
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.