Problems to be solved (while also addressing the relevant EU policies)
Prominant carbonate mound reefs have been features of Earth's history ever since Cambrian times. These mounds frequently form giant host rocks for hydrocarbon accumulation. Their formation and environmental controls have not been discussed controversial, due to the absence of any modern analogue. The discovery of spectacular mounds along the European continental margin provides an outstanding opportunity to study the relevant processes of their formation. Data and observations on modern carbonate mounds are entirely missing. We want to know and define why, where, and by what means mound growth is favoured and are there specific paleoceanographic settings responsible that these living structures occur only along the European margin these days? Obviously, most of the carbonate mound regions known so far are very proximal to licensed hydrocarbon exploration blocks. Furthermore, they represent very special ecosystems, from which only very little is known up to now. However, they are already threatened by human activities such as deep-sea fisheries and hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation. Thus, the carbonate mound ecosystems deserve study and -where appropriate - selective conservation. (Sustainable Marine Ecosystems, Key Action 3.1.2)
Scientific objectives and approach
ECOMOUND will investigate the morphology and setting, the oceanographic control, the role of biota, and the sedimentary processes of mound formation. During 5 cruises to the Porcupine Basin, the Rockall Basin, and the Trøms District off Norway, mapping of the mound arrangements (towed cameras, side scan sonar and seismic equipment) and measurements of the physical, chemical and oceanographic parameters will be carried out (moored current meters, sediment traps, CTD, newly developed lender systems). We want to assess the microbiological potential of the seabed and sub-seabed biosphere on and in such mounds and to unravel the role of bacteria in carbonate mud generation and fixation by applying state of the art geomicrobiological methods new methods. The important role of carbonate producing benthic invertebrates as biogenic source for carbonate and as environment recorders will be studied. The quantitative measurement of the relationship of these biogenic mounds to the surrounding drift sedimentary settings will allow a description and quantification of the role of these carbonate mounds in terms of the CO2 budget: sinks versus source.
Aside from new area-related knowledge concerning the distribution, size, shape of mounds and their relation to sedimentary settings and water mass conditions, an overall synthesis will be made of the environmental controls governing mound formation and biological distributions on the European Margin. The direct coupling of hydrographic, biological, geological and geochemical data sets on the scale of this study will yield new insights in the dynamic effects and processes involved in particle transport, settling and re-suspension governing mound growth along the margins of NW Europe. ECOMOUND, together with its partner project GEOMOUND, will provide a better understanding of the dynamics of this deep water carbonate mound eco- and geosystem, which is an essential key issue towards the sustainable use of marine ecosystems and the associated sea floor of Europe.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
91198 Gif Sur Yvette
SO14 3ZH Southampton
1790 AB Den Burg
L69 3BX Liverpool