ATLAS will provide the first coherent, integrated basin-scale assessment of Atlantic deep-water ecosystems and their Blue Growth potential.
To achieve this ambition, ATLAS will employ innovative methods and integrate data in new ways across Work Packages (WP). By unifying its research from physical oceanography (WP1) through ecosystem function (WP2), biodiversity (WP3) and connectivity (WP4), the ATLAS consortium sets out a uniquely data-led science plan as the foundation for its socioeconomic (WP5), spatial planning (WP6) and policy integration (WP7) activities. Multi-way dialogue with stakeholders (WP6 and WP9) will transfer ATLAS outputs into policy-making to create a new platform informing both Blue Growth and research agendas (WP7). ATLAS will disseminate knowledge and data through systemic EU and global data infrastructure (WP8), and complement this with pan-EU and international public dissemination and outreach (WP9).
The foundation of ATLAS is improving our understanding of ocean circulation in the Atlantic. Atlantic ocean currents not only connect deep-sea ecosystems, but move vast quantities of heat, salt, and energy across the Atlantic basin. As the Earth’s climate changes we need to understand how this affects the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and what implications this will have for ecosystem functioning, biodiversity, and genetic connectivity.
Understanding how ecosystems function and interact is a major goal of ATLAS. ATLAS is providing ground-breaking new predictive models to map Atlantic ecosystems, their species and how they function at management-relevant spatial scales. The models will also allow us to predict how these ecosystems will adapt in a future of rapidly changing climate, carbon flux and deep ocean resource exploitation.
ATLAS is studying the biodiversity and biogeographic patterns of sensitive deep-water ecosystems and species. Forecasting changes to these ecosystems and species under future climate change scenarios will strengthen the evidence base for unlocking sustainable Blue Growth opportunities along with the protection of the marine environment. ATLAS scientists are using a combination of techniques to study the biodiversity and biogeographic patterns of sensitive deep-water ecosystems and deep-sea fish in the North Atlantic and forecast changes under future scenarios of water mass structure and ocean currents. Where benthos and fish species data are quality assured separate basin-scale biogeographic syntheses will be conducted.
ATLAS is providing new models to identify critical source areas of marine genetic resources. Exploring how these resources are connected on regional and basin scale levels will help ATLAS understand their vulnerability to climate change and human activities. Adaptive ecosystem-based management needs new models to identify critical source areas of marine genetic resources, including those that could be exploited under Blue Growth. Policies also need to maintain basin and regional connectivity, and fully understand the vulnerability of genetic resources to N Atlantic circulation change and human activities.
Ecosystem service valuation is the practice of assigning an economic value to the benefits humans obtain from an ecosystem or its services. These values can help to justify and set priorities for programmes, policies, or actions involving these ecosystems and their services. Assessing the many ecosystem services the Atlantic area provides to society (supporting, provisioning, regulating, and cultural) allows ATLAS to establish firm foundations upon which Blue Growth and conservation scenarios can be evaluated and balanced.
With the increasing number of stakeholders and activities occurring on the high seas, managing and planning across such open spaces is more important than ever. Fully integrated spatial planning products on basin and regional scales allow stakeholders to explore, and respond to, various scenarios of ocean dynamics and cross-sectoral Blue Growth. The Monitoring and Evaluation of Spatially Managed Areas framework is being used to develop an adaptive Atlantic Marine Strategic Planning approach within ATLAS.
Managing cross-cutting issues in policymaking requires the integration of scientific evidence into effective policy. Translating ATLAS' scientific findings to policy and practice will ultimately inform national and international agreements regarding Blue Growth and systematic conservation planning. Such agreements spanning areas across and outside of national jurisdictions are key to sustaining and managing marine resources effectively and in an equitable manner.
Making environmental data from the ocean surface, water column to the seafloor fully available to stakeholders is a significant challenge, but overcoming this would improve business productivity, stimulate innovations and facilitate policy implementation including the Marine Knowledge 2020 strategy. The integration of different data formats spanning national to small local systems into a coherent portal, the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet), tackles this challenge by making data and products available and downloadable for a given area.
Effective external communication, dissemination and optimal knowledge transfer of ATLAS must lead to the widest exploitation of its research outputs: these should include contributing to the Atlantic Action Plan initiatives on Ocean Literacy and further support development of the European Research Area and the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance.
Supporting all activities, WP10 provides overall co-ordination for ATLAS and manages project reporting through a dedicated ATLAS project management office. WP10 will convene the ATLAS project Steering Committee and Advisory Board. It will ensure ATLAS liaises with relevant tranatlantic initiatives during the course of the project and respond to requests from the EC/EASME to opportunities that enhance project dissemination and synergy in support of the Galway Statement.