Mission Atlantic



  • Funding: €11.5million – European Union’s Horizon 2020
         (September 2020-August 2050)
  • Led by: Danmarks Tekniske Universitet (DTU), Denmark
  • University of Plymouth staff: Professor Kerry Howell, Nils Piechaud (PDRA)

  • Sustainable development

    The world is looking to the ocean and its resources to support economic growth (blue growth) and mitigate climate change. Sustainable management of these resources is dependent on the ability to assess and predict drivers of change, and what those changes mean for marine ecosystems. Mission Atlantic aims to support policy makers in balancing the need for environmental protection with the wish to use the marine environment and its resources, through providing the science to support sustainable development and a secure future for the Atlantic Ocean.


    The mission

    Involving the University of Plymouth, Marine Biological Association (MBA), and Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), Mission Atlantic is working to better our understanding of the Atlantic Ocean ecosystems and the drivers of change that impact biodiversity and ocean resources by developing Integrated Ecosystems Assessments (IEAs). The project aims to be first initiative to develop operational IEAs and apply them through the Atlantic.

    Objectives:

    • Assess ecosystems status and resilience in the whole Atlantic Ocean, to the cumulative impact of food provision, climate regulation and cultural services.
    • Map the present and establish the future 3D distributions of Atlantic biomes and their pressures to support the sustainable use of marine resources.
    • Develop new indicators, tools and technologies to identify risks and vulnerabilities of the Atlantic Ocean under different climate conditions and management scenarios.
    • Formulate and transfer assessment guidelines, data and modelling tools into ecosystem-based management procedures to support sustainable governance of marine resources and the development of the Blue Economy.
    • Educate ocean resource managers and researchers in application of a systemic approach to ecosystem management with/in countries bordering the North, South and Tropical Atlantic Ocean.

    This unique approach engages scientists, stakeholders and resource managers and allow them to integrate climate change, natural hazards and human activities into their decision making processes, balancing the need for environmental protection with secure, sustainable development.

    Mission Atlantic also contributes to the commitments outlined in the Belém Statement on Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Cooperation between the European Union, Brazil and South Africa, and as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science (2021-2030), supporting society in achieving a sustainable ocean.


    Diving deeper into marine conservation

    Plymouth’s world-leading ocean scientists play a key role in this; Professor Kerry Howell, along with the Marine Biological Association (MBA), Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) will receive more than €1million to use existing and new technology to monitor and assess pelagic and seafloor habitats.

    The University of Plymouth is involved in mapping the distribution of deep-sea bed habitats including vulnerable marine ecosystems such as cold-water coral reefs and deep-sea sponge fields. They are also testing the application of artificial intelligence and computer vision in speeding up the analysis of hundreds of hours of video and image data taken from the deep-sea in order to provide new data to support their mapping work.

    Using high-resolution ocean models, artificial neural networks, risk assessment methods and advanced statistical approaches, Mission Atlantic assesses the pressures imposed on Atlantic marine ecosystems, identifying the parts most at risk from natural hazards and the consequences of human activities. The team combines existing data from global ocean monitoring programmes with new observations collected using advanced marine robots and acoustic sensors.

    A truly multidisciplinary approach, these tools are used to explore plankton and fish distribution in unknown waters, including sub-Arctic and Tropical regions in the Atlantic Ocean.


    News release: Plymouth scientists play key role in assessing future threats to the Atlantic

    The University of Plymouth is involved in mapping the distribution of deep-sea bed habitats including vulnerable marine ecosystems such as cold water coral reefs and deep-sea sponge fields. They will also test the application of artificial intelligence and computer vision in speeding up the analysis of hundreds of hours of video and image data taken from the deep-sea in order to provide new data to support their mapping work.

    Kerry Howell, Professor of Deep-Sea Ecology at the University, said:

    “The maps we produce will feed into Integrated Ecosystem Assessments of different parts of the Atlantic Ocean. It draws on the University’s research strengths in sustainable ocean management and marine conservation, and we are looking forward to working with our partners in Plymouth and the wider Atlantic community.”

    Professor Kerry Howell

    Professor Kerry Howell

    Partners and collaborators

    Mission Atlantic brings together 33 partner organisations from 14 countries, including the Marine Biological Association (MBA), Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) and is led by an Executive Board.

    Visit the Mission Atlantic project website for further information.

    Marine Conservation Research Group

    Investigating the consequences of human activity on marine biodiversity and its ecosystem services.

    The Marine Conservation Research Group investigates the consequences of human activity on marine biodiversity and its ecosystem services in order to provide scientific evidence and management advice for the benefit of marine ecosystems and society.

    Find out more about the Marine Conservation Research Group

    Marine Institute

    Representing 3000 staff, researchers and students, the University of Plymouth's Marine Institute is the first and largest such institute in the UK. 

    We provide the external portal to our extensive pool of world-leading experts and state-of-the-art facilities, enabling us to understand the relationship between the way we live, the seas that surround us and the development of sustainable policy solutions.

    Discover more about the Marine Institute