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A UK MAR-ECO consortium project was recently funded. ECOMAR-  Ecosystem of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at the Sub-Polar Front and Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone will start October 2006.

£2 million pounds has been awarded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council for a four year consortium project led by Prof Monty Priede of Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen. The project will start 1 October 2006 and finish 30 September 2010.

The ECOMAR area 

Focus on the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone

ECOMAR will be the UK contribution to MAR-ECO, and focuses on the central area in the region of the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone. The major objective of ECOMAR will be the full integration of several marine science disciplines to provide a comprehensive overview of the functioning of the Mid-Atlantic ridge ecosystem in the vicinity of the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone and the sub-polar front.

The project will include three cruises (6 weeks duration each) in 2007, 2008 and 2009 to the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The first cruise is likely to be in August-September 2007 on board the new Royal Research Ship James Cook.


The new Royal Research Ship James Cook
Through a multi-disciplinary approach ECOMAR intend to:

  • Describe the physical flow regimes, both at the surface and the seafloor, across four sites located either side of the sub-polar front. Reference will be made to their specific role in carrying nutrients to the surface and influencing the down-ward transport of organic carbon.
  • By remote sensing, appropriately calibrated by in situ incubations,  produce regional estimates of surface primary production and likely export flux over the study area.
  • Measure the export flux of organic matter to the seafloor using sediment trap moorings located at each of the four study sites.
  • Compare the distribution and abundance of pelagic biomass in relation to the position of the mid-Atlantic ridge at either side of the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone and to the accompanying varying regimes of primary production encountered either side of the sub-polar front.
  • Measure benthic biodiversity and  biomass comparing species composition with similar depths at East and West Atlantic margins using  traps, camera sledges, landers, and targeted ROV-based survey and sampling.
  • Assess the possible boundaries to gene flow at the MAR and sub-polar front and also the genetic population structure of target species in comparison with the East and West Atlantic margins.

~ See Oceanlab's presentation of ECOMAR
~ Read a story on the University of Aberdeen's website

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