iAtlantic: Integrated Assessment of Atlantic Marine Ecosystems in Space and Time

By Murray Roberts, iAtlantic Project Coordinator, Vikki Gunn, iAtlantic WP6 lead and iAtlantic Project Office

iAtlantic is a multidisciplinary research programme assessing the health of deep-sea and open-ocean ecosystems across the full span of the Atlantic Ocean. With 35 beneficiaries from 18 different countries bordering the North and South Atlantic Ocean, iAtlantic is delivering knowledge that is critical for the responsible and sustainable management of Atlantic Ocean resources in an era of unprecedented global change.

iAtlantic is undertaking an ocean-wide approach to understand the factors that control the distribution, stability and vulnerability of deep-sea ecosystems. Work spans the full scale of the Atlantic basin, from the tip of Argentina in the south to Iceland in the north, and from the east coasts of USA and Brazil to the western margins of Europe and Africa.

In July-August 2021, a team of iAtlantic marine scientists undertook a 6-week expedition to investigate and explore the ecosystems and natural processes in the deep sea around the Cabo Verde islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. This flagship expedition for iAtlantic– known as iMirabilis2 – was much more than a scientific mission: on board was a cohort of early-career scientists undergoing hands-on, at-sea training in a range of cutting-edge techniques and skills that equipped them to be the expedition leaders of the future. Over these 6 intense working weeks, a full research programme off Cabo Verde was conducted. This adventure led us to the seamount of Cadamosto (exploring areas from 2,500 to 1,700 m depth) – one of our main research areas – to the abyssal plains off Cabo Verde (exploring areas around 4,000 m depth). Wind and sea conditions around the exposed location of Cadamosto on some of our working days led us to look for more sheltered areas to include in our research programme: the steep slopes of the islands of Fogo and Brava. If you are interested in knowing more about the iMirabilis2, please visit www.iatlantic.eu/imirabilis2-expedition/.

Over the course of 5 days (20-24 September 2021), the 2021 iAtlantic General Assembly took place and brought together the whole consortium to discuss progress, achievements and highlights of the past 15 months since the whole project last met. With COVID-19 still very much an issue for all partners, the meeting was convened as a virtual event, with around 80 participants joining from all over the Atlantic region each day, presentations on the progress of all iAtlantic Work Packages and discussion sessions on the iAtlantic main objectives, a session dedicated to our Sister Projects, 11 workshops, feedback from our Advisory Board and Science Council, the ''iAtlantic Hero'' award presentation and announcement of the winners of our General Assembly photo competition. The tone for the meeting was set by Ambassador Peter Thomson, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, who opened our General Assembly with a video message that highlighted the critical role that iAtlantic has to play in improving the management of our ocean.

You can follow all of the iAtlantic’s developments by visiting our website: www.iatlantic.eu