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Call to action for decade of deep-sea marine research

News Item 2020

The Earth’s deep seas account for around 60% of the planet’s surface, and are recognised as an important frontier of science and discovery. The vast array of habitats and species they contain, and the ecosystem services they provide, are essential to support the health not only of the oceans, but of the planet. However, large areas of the deep seas remain completely unexplored.

Our experts are among an international team of scientists, spanning 45 institutions, which has published two reports calling for a dedicated programme of research to advance discovery in deep-sea regions. This programme will coincide with the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, from 2021–2030. The team presented the rationale behind the call for action in a comment article in Nature Ecology & Evolution, simultaneously publishing a detailed blueprint of how the actions can be best achieved in Frontiers in Marine Science. The work was led by members of the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI) and the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR).

The programme – which has been named Challenger 150 – will generate new geological, physical, biogeochemical, and biological data through a global cooperative of science and innovation, including the application of new technology. These data will be used to understand how changes in the deep sea impact the wider ocean and life on the planet, and to support regional, national, and international decision-making on deep-sea issues.

A key aspiration of the programme is to build greater capacity and diversity in the scientific community, acknowledging the fact that existing deep-sea research is conducted primarily by developed nations with access to resources and infrastructure.

JNCC’s Laura Robson, one of the authors on the report and chair of the ICES Working Group on Deep-water Ecology, said:

"This 10-year global research programme offers an important and exciting opportunity to further our knowledge of deep-sea ecosystems, and identify the most effective measures for their sustainable use. For JNCC, this increased scientific understanding will help inform our expertise on ecosystems found in the UK’s deep-sea MPAs and learn more about how to monitor their changes over time within a changing climate." 

You can find out more about some of JNCC's survey work on deep-sea Marine Protected Areas through our videos and blog posts.

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