New collaborative deep sea survey: Hatton-Rockall Basin
A partnership between Marine Scotland Science (MSS), SAMS, Aberdeen University and British Geological Survey has been created as part of the MASTS deep-sea forum and it will see a project to explore the largely unknown habitats and fauna of the remote deepwater Hatton-Rockall Basin come to fruition. This area is thought to be the site of what is known as deep-sea ‘cold-seep’ ecosystem and where methane gas bubbles up through the seabed and forms a resource for specialised bacteria and creatures that harvest the gas as an energy source.
The first indication of the presence of this cold-seep ecosystem came from a Scotia survey in 2012 in which some unusual shells were collected – 3 species found were completely new to science and of the type known only from cold seep sites. This latest survey is the first chance scientists have had the chance to return to the area and they intend to deploy TV cameras together with sediment and benthic samplers in order to map, describe and understand this ecosystem. In addition, the survey will collect information from a nearby Marine Protected Area in the region and undertake studies on the processes whereby whale bones become colonised by deep-sea animals.
Dr Francis Neat, the MSS chief scientist said:
“This an exciting opportunity to describe an almost completely unknown marine ecosystem. Biodiversity is an important conservation issue and we need to know what lies beneath the full extent of Scotland’s seas. This is a strong collaboration between MASTS partners who have complementary interests in deep sea biology and management. By pooling institutional resources and expertise we can achieve much more than any of us could do alone. The survey will hopefully yield some important discoveries and results and show that Scotland has a world-class network of deep-sea scientists that choose to work together.”
- Programme for this research cruise
- MASTS Deep Sea Forum
- The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS)
- British Geological Survey
- Deep sea secrets uncovered – the 2012 discovery