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Deep ocean research gets 15 million euros from the EU

Published: 12 April 2005

Deep ocean research stretching from the Arctic to the Black Sea is to receive 15 million euros (around £10 million sterling) as part of a programme involving 15 countries across Europe.

Led by Southampton Oceanography Centre's Professor Phil Weaver, the HERMES project (Hotspot Ecosystem Research on the Margins of European Seas) will study ecosystems along Europe's deep-ocean margin and is one of the largest research projects of its kind.

HERMES will bring together leading experts in biodiversity, geology, sedimentology, physical oceanography, microbiology and biogeochemistry, as well as experts in socio-economics. This represents the first major attempt to understand European deep-water ecosystems and their environment in an integrated way.

Scientists will investigate life on the deep ocean margin at a number of study sites extending from the Arctic down to the Gulf of Cadiz, and through the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. These sites encompass a wide range of ecosystems, from open slopes where biological communities are affected by landslides and deep-ocean currents, to ecosystem hotspots such as communities dependent on fluids escaping from the seabed (cold seeps), cold-water coral mounds, canyon communities and anoxic environments.

Professor Weaver explains: "These systems are incredibly fragile and need urgent study. A key goal of the HERMES project is to evaluate the vulnerability of these communities to global change and human activities, and if necessary, develop strategies to protect them. The outcome of our research will provide policy advice to the EU."

Over the next four years the project will make full use of the latest deep-sea technology. Information on deep sea life along the European margin will be gathered on a large number of research cruises, including some that will use Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) from Southampton Oceanography Centre, the French research institute, IFREMER, and from the University of Bremen.

HERMES started in April 2005 and will run for four years. EC funding is provided from the Framework Six Programme - Global Change and Ecosystems. The HERMES consortium is made up of 36 research institutes and nine small businesses from 15 European countries.

For more information on the HERMES project, visit the website at http://www.eu-hermes.net

Notes for editors

  1. A photo of Professor Phil Weaver holding deep sea coral is available from SOC Press Officer Kim Marshall-Brown on (+44) 023 8059 6170; email kxm@soc.soton.ac.uk
  2. Southampton Oceanography Centre is a joint venture between the University of Southampton and the Natural Environment Research Council.  It is one of the world's leading centres of excellence devoted to research, teaching, technology development and provision of infrastructure in ocean and earth sciences.  From 1 May 2005 it will be known as the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

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