Funded by a €11.5M grant from the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme, Mission Atlantic will be the first initiative to develop and systematically apply integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs) at Atlantic basin scale.
Scientists, marine stakeholders, and resource managers are all engaged in this unique IEA approach that integrates all components of the ecosystem, including human activity, into the decision-making process. Informed by science, managers and policy-makers can balance the need for environmental protection with secure, sustainable development, thereby ensuring a positive future for the Atlantic Ocean and its peoples.
Patrizio Mariani, Mission Atlantic Project Coordinator, said “In an era of rapid transformations affecting our societies and our lives, we are asked to provide the scientific knowledge necessary to face future challenges and to guarantee a sustainable future for the next generations. By studying the complex Atlantic Ocean ecosystems, Mission Atlantic will contribute to a better and more sustainable future for life on Earth."
Using high-resolution ocean models, artificial neural networks, risk assessment methods, and advanced statistical approaches, Mission Atlantic will accurately assess pressures imposed on Atlantic marine ecosystems, identifying the parts most at risk from natural hazards and the consequences of human activities.
The team will combine existing data from global ocean monitoring programmes with new observations collected using advanced marine robots and acoustic sensors. A truly multidisciplinary approach, these tools will be used to explore plankton and fish distribution in unknown waters, including Subarctic and tropical regions in the Atlantic Ocean.
As well as expanding scientific knowledge, the project will focus on improving educational and professional development opportunities in countries bordering the North, South and Tropical Atlantic Ocean. Regional stakeholder platforms will act as “science-to-governance" interfaces in these areas, enabling local communities to engage with their representatives and stimulate effective policies.
ICES will contribute to the project by improving professional skills and competences across the Atlantic in support of IEA approaches to ocean resource management. IEA data availability will be addressed and a wide range of stakeholders will be consulted to define learning objectives for IEA training. This will lead to a targeted researcher mobility and/or online training programme together with the academic partner organizations in the project.
Wojciech Wawrzynski, Head of ICES Science Support, said “Holistic approaches to ocean management first require sharing views and state-of-the-art knowledge. Through the Mission Atlantic High-Level Stakeholder Forum, the project's dissemination and exploitation plan will be implemented, reaching key target audience groups on both sides of the Atlantic, North and South."
VME dataset extension
Vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) are important habitats for marine organisms, providing a haven for diverse marine life. ICES/NAFO Working Group on Deep-water ecology (WGDEC), together with ICES Data Centre, have developed a comprehensive dataset of VMEs, and VME indicators for the North Atlantic.
Neil Holdsworth, Head of ICES Data and Information, said “Working with experts from WGDEC - and within the context of Mission Atlantic - we plan to extend the dataset into the South Atlantic using methods and knowledge gained through experience in the development of a harmonized North Atlantic data portal."
Supporting the Belém statement
Through co-creation of management recommendations, Mission Atlantic will contribute 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) supports society in achieving a sustainable ocean.
Michael St. John, Mission Atlantic Policy lead and Belém Panel Chair, said “In support of the Belém statement, Mission Atlantic will be a catalyst in linking research activities in the South Atlantic and Southern Ocean with those in the North Atlantic. It will identify and strengthen synergies between the Atlantic Research Agenda, AIR Centre; Joint Programming Initiatives, as well as the Strategic Forum for International Science and Technology Cooperation, the European Union's Earth Observation and Monitoring programme - Copernicus, and the Benguela Current Commission. Through its activities, the project will optimise the use and sharing of research infrastructures and, via the development of state-of-the-art data methodologies, enhance access to and management of data on the stressors and services provided by Atlantic ecosystems. Finally, and critically, the project will provide the knowledge and tools necessary to sustainably manage Atlantic ecosystem services as they are impacted upon by climate change and human activities."
This project has received funding from the European Commission - Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no 862428.
Tourism, maritime transport, and small-scale fisheries are among the human activities to be assessed by Mission Atlantic. Photo: Buzios, Brazil by Patrizio Mariani