DOOS/AtlantOS Scoping Workshop on a Deep Ocean Observing Activity in the Azores

The Deep Ocean Observing Strategy (DOOS) and the All-Atlantic Ocean Observing System (AtlantOS) invite ocean observers, observing data users, and stakeholders active/interested in the Azores’ region for a half day online workshop (24 June 2021, 17-21 CEST/8-12 PDT) to initiate a Deep Ocean observing activity in the area.

Scope and Goal

The workshop shall identify the scientific scope, potential approaches and contributors for developing a joint DOOS-AtlantOS project. This project shall demonstrate the feasibility of a comprehensive and multidisciplinary deep ocean observing system and serve as a use case that provides the necessary observations aligned to specific scientific and societal needs in the area.
The workshop will:

  • Identify the most important scientific and societal questions that call for multidisciplinary deep ocean observations in the Azores’ area.
  • Compile existing and upcoming deep-ocean observing assets in terms of infrastructures, initiatives and networks, activities, observed variables, data dissemination resources, and information products.
  • Identify potential synergies and identify gaps, and assess the required resources and assets that are required to address those gaps.
  • Recognize (additional) stakeholders and their potential contribution and needs.

The overall goal of the workshop is to start a process towards the development of a joint DOOS-AtlantOS project and form an expert team to move the project forward, next steps, and a timeline. Some guiding questions for the workshop discussion are:

  • What would be appropriate foci to develop a joint DOOS-AtlantOS project that is sufficiently diverse to serve as a DOOS demonstration of integrated observing (i.e. including multiple disciplines, observing networks, observer- and user communities) and focus enough to qualify as an AtlantOS use case showcasing the societal relevance and added value of ocean observing?
  • What would be the components of an observing system that is suited to demonstrate state of the art and novel approaches of integrated, scalable deep-ocean observing while serving the specific needs? Which of these components are available in the Azores area and which need to be added and how?
  • Are there parts of the project that can be readily addressed by facilitating access and integration of existing deep-ocean data in the region?
  • Who are the key ‘deep ocean stakeholders’ in the area that need to be integrated to ensure observations and data products make use of local assets and match local needs?

Preparation

All participants are asked to provide their individual answers to the above questions ahead of the meeting and provide information on relevant activities and assets of the groups they represent. The information will be collected by an online questionnaire and results will be shared beforehand. Participants are expected to familiarize themselves with the information provided so we can surrender introductory presentations. The workshop is expected to take place as a plenary discussion. If needed, breakout groups will be formed ad-hoc to discuss specific questions (potential project targets, next steps…) in more detail.

Background

DOOS Demonstration Projects – targeting the Azores, the Clarion Clipperton Zone and the NE Pacific – are intended to demonstrate the feasibility of integrated and coordinated deep-ocean observing in its broadest sense. They are described in the DOOS Science and Implementation Guide as well as in the OceanObs white paper on deep ocean observation1. DOOS demonstration projects include all relevant networks including exploration, observation, monitoring, and modelling communities. The projects will highlight measurement of essential ocean variables (EOVs) across disciplines, tie together existing but separate programs and communities, enable testing of new technologies and demonstrate the benefit of deep ocean knowledge for policy, management, conservation and the private sector. The demonstration projects form a central part of a proposal for an international collaborative network (Accelnet) submitted to NSF and an US contribution ‘Ocean Shot’ to the UN Ocean Decade. This effort could provide a blueprint for global deep-ocean observation technology readiness and FAIR access to deep-ocean that is scalable from local to global coverage.

AtlantOS use cases address specific thematic foci to showcase the added value of a more integrated ocean observation system in the Atlantic Ocean. Use cases build upon existing data and observing infrastructures and shall help building community/capacity exchange. They work in these use cases orients towards services that are needed but presently not available and aims to create a prototype component of the final ocean observing system. The planned joint DOOS-AtlantOS project would be the first one dedicated to the deep ocean.

DOOS demonstration project and AtlantOS use cases are highly complementary to each other. The workshop will build on previous exchanges that took place in the past months and involved representatives of several initiatives, including DOOS, AtlantOS, the University of the Azores, the Azores Air Centre office, and Marine Biodiversity Observing Network.

Information on the Region

The Azores volcanic archipelago is located in the northeast Atlantic, above a tectonically active triple junction between the North American, Eurasian, and African plates and surrounded by abyssal plains deeper than 3000m. The unique geographic, oceanographic, and biological characteristics of the Azores, together with the already existing infrastructures in the archipelago, make the Azores a key location for a demonstration site for deep ocean observing. The area has numerous seamounts, deep fracture zones, trenches, and a considerable extension of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge as well as abyssal areas (Peran et al., 2016). Located at the northeastern edge of the North Atlantic subtropical gyre, the oceanographic conditions in the region are influenced by the Atlantic Meridional Overturning (AMOC), which has been identified as an important, but poorly understood, element of the Earth’s climate system (Amorin et al. 2017). In addition to the widespread hard and soft-bottom habitats, prominent vulnerable marine ecosystems in the region include deep-sea hydrothermal vents, sponge aggregations, cold water coral gardens and reefs, and extensive fields of xenophyophores (Morato et al. 2016).

Because of its unique setting in the proximity of diverse open-ocean and deep-sea habitats, the Azores are a strategic location to test Biodiversity and Ecosystem EOVs that are still in the concept phase for the deep-ocean. These include collecting data on ecosystem functioning, connectivity, and biodiversity (taxonomic, functional diversity) at multiple scales, from bacteria to top predators, and from Atlantic basin (amphi-Atlantic population connectivity) to large-scale migrations. Additionally, important is the surveillance of biological communities, e.g., monitoring of changes in species ranges, community composition, structure and turnover, larval dispersal, as well as detection of potential invasive species, trophic interactions between benthic and pelagic communities, related to global environmental change. As the Azores region is an area of strong Blue Growth opportunities that are reflected in a variety of activities in the deep-sea (fishing, bio-prospecting and mining), this joint DOOS-AtlantOS project would offer the possibility of monitoring/testing EOVs under the cumulative impacts of global (warming, acidification, deoxygenation, changes in POC) as well as local (fishing, mining) stressors.

There are numerous observing resources available in the Azores that could be integrated within the establishment of a demonstration site for deep ocean observing. The Azores hosts two fixed point observatories within the EMSO, with nodes at the Lucky Strike hydrothermal vent and, in the near future, a coral garden area in the Condor seamount. The observatories include numerous sensors (e.g., pH, temperature, salinity, oxygen, turbidity, ocean currents) to monitor the biogeochemical coupling of the benthos, water column, and atmosphere. The enhancement with additional sensors, e.g., for the collection of long-term data on carbon/biogeochemistry variables and ocean currents would provide much needed information on ocean change in relation to climate and AMOC patterns, complementing other observing activities in the North Atlantic. Observatory assets in the area would also offer an ideal setting to test new technology. The region offers a wide range of environmental conditions (e.g., corrosive conditions in hydrothermal vents, high pressure in abyssal areas) where the performance of technologies under development can be studied for application elsewhere in the world.

There are numerous Argo floats measuring physical properties to 2000 m, as well as OceanSITES moorings (RAPID array at 26.5°N), Repeat hydrography (GO-SHIP A5 (occupied in 2020), A16, A17, A25), and national research expeditions in and in the surrounding of the region. Other infrastructures available include passive and active acoustic devices for ocean acoustic tomography/thermometry, and tracking of instrumented marine mammals. Ifremer/France and Poland carry out deep-ocean observations as part of their exploration contracts to the south of the Azores.

Mapping of the deep seafloor is a key task addressed by skilled personnel in the area. A camera-based rapid appraisal program utilizes low-cost fishing vessels for surveys that involved more than 150 dives in 20 different areas. Partnerships could be built with other initiatives to apply new technologies (e.g., unmanned vehicles) that combine seafloor mapping with the collection of physical-chemical and biological data for an integrated characterization of deep-sea communities and ecosystems. Originally scheduled for summer 2020, NOAA OER plans ASPIRE expeditions in the vicinity of the Azores, to conduct mapping and exploration of the sea floor. This offers a valuable opportunity to develop strategies to integrate observing efforts with exploration activities.

Mobile deep-sea laboratories that host a wide range of relatively light-weight hydrographic, biogeochemical, optical and acoustic sensors for monitoring EOVs related to ecosystem functioning, as well as fixed biological survey equipment (e.g., benthic chambers, microprofilers, sediment traps, larval pumps) are already available and in use. The mobility of these platforms would allow for the collection of information in a variety of ecosystems and under different impact scenarios, e.g., areas with/without fishing mining or within the proximity of land infrastructures. Other infrastructures available include, remote platforms (e.g., vessels), receiving devices (and sources) for passive (and/or active) ocean acoustic tomography/thermometry, and instrumented marine mammals. Additionally, the area hosts an experimental laboratory with a large pressurized vessel that is used to investigate effects of environmental pressures on deep-sea organisms under deep-sea conditions.

References

Amorim, P., Perán, A. D., Pham, C. K., Juliano, M., Cardigos, F., Tempera, F., & Morato, T. (2017) Overview of the Ocean Climatology and its Variability in the Azores Region of the North Atlantic Including Environmental Characteristics at the Seabed, 4(Pt A), 104–16, doi:10.3389/fmars.2017.00056

Colaço, A., Blandin, J., Cannat, M., Carval, T., Chavagnac, V., Connelly, D., Fabian, M., Ghiron, S., Goslin, J., Miranda, J. M., Reverdin, G., Sarrazin, J., Waldmann, C., and Sarradin, M (2011) MoMAR-D: a technological challenge to monitor the dynamics of the Lucky Strike vent ecosystem. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 68: 416–424, doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsq075

Morato, T., Lemey, E., Menezes, G., Pham, C. K., Brito, J., Soszynski, A., et al. (2016) Food-Web and Ecosystem Structure of the OpenOcean and Deep-Sea Environments of the Azores, NE Atlantic, 3, 4–13, doi:10.3389/fmars.2016.00245

Peran A. D., Pham C. K., Amorim P., Cardigos F., Tempera F., Morato T. (2016) Seafloor Characteristics in the Azores Region (North Atlantic), Frontiers in Marine Science 3: 214, doi:10.3389/fmars.2016.00204