Skip to main content

Oceanic seamounts: an integrated study


The BIAS provides a taxonomic assessment of the macrofauna with full-scale photographic documentation, including additional information on ecology and biogeography. Besides the OASIS study sites, Seine Seamount and Sedlo Seamount, the BIAS covers also Ampère Seamount and Gettysburg Seamount.
This report mirrors the presentations and discussions which took place during the first OASIS stakeholder workshop, April 1-2, 2004 in Horta, Faial, Azores. OASIS (Oceanic Seamounts: An Integrated Study) is a EU-funded integrated seamount research project (2002-2005) aiming to describe the functional interaction of all seamount ecosystem compartments, except for the highly migratory visitors. OASIS also wants to improve knowledge, which is required for taking management decisions. The research focuses on two model seamounts of different summit depth, topography and fishing pressure, the Sedlo seamount 100 nm north of the Azores and the Seine seamount 100 nm northeast of Madeira. The results from these in-depth studies shall be generalized as far as possible, driving conceptual and numerical models for enabling the extrapolation to less well studied areas. As a first step with regard to conservation, a more generic management plan for a seamount conservation area was developed, the ‘Offshore MPA toolbox’. In a second step, a model site-specific management plan will be developed for the Sedlo seamount, which will be presented to all stakeholders for discussion in fall 2005. Ultimately, more general conclusions on seamount management shall be drawn. The workshop was attended by some 40 regional, national and foreign participants from fisheries, government, advisory, NGOs and science. The first day of the workshop was an integral part of the annual Azores Fisheries Week, a major international meeting involving scientists, economists, politicians, lawyers, fishermen and fisheries representatives. The presentations - Introduced the OASIS project (Ana Martins, University of the Azores, DOP), - Reviewed the knowledge on seamounts and seamount ecology in the North East Atlantic (Susan Gubbay, Consultant), - Gave a scientific perspective on global and regional seamount fisheries (Telmo Morato, Gui Menezes, University of the Azores, DOP), - Shed light on the ecological relationship between seamounts and visiting turtles (Thomas Dellinger, University of Madeira), - Described the process of MPA designation on the example of Bowie Seamount (Kevin Conley, Fisheries and Oceans Canada), - And reviewed past, present and future marine conservation scientific efforts in the Azores (Ricardo Serrão Santos, University of the Azores, DOP). The second day of the workshop was dedicated to discussing the following issues: - Seamount fisheries in the context of regional and European Fisheries legislation - Management measures required for protecting seamounts (including MPAs) - The knowledge base on Atlantic seamounts: trying to fill the gaps. Until today, the seamount fisheries of the Azores and Madeira employ fishing techniques, which are basically low-tech, small scale and labour-intensive. Due to the recently changed access regime to the former exclusive 200nm fisheries zone of the Azores and Madeira (Western Waters Regulation, November 2003), a large part of the workshop discussions focussed on the fate of the island fisheries. The regional management system in place until now was considered to come quite close to a sustainable fishery taking account of the longterm health of the ecosystems supporting it. The EU Western Waters Regulation was seen as a top-down non-participatory, and scientifically not sound decision prioritizing the principle of equal access over the precautionary principle also inherent in the Common Fisheries Policy. Participants expressed their concern over the high probability of overfishing due to industrial fishing techniques and increasing fishing effort, resulting in significant consequences for the local Azorean economy. Management measures regulating seamount fisheries were recommended to include effort and gear control in very specific, small-scale management units, rather than the statistical rectangles used at present. Pelagic fishing techniques were highlighted to cause high mortality rates of visiting sea turtles, cetaceans and seabirds. The pelagic fishing effort should also be quantified. The existing gaps in knowledge on Atlantic seamounts were seen to call for more immediate measures being taken on a precautionary basis, since management failures would be more severe in a deep-sea environment. Most speakers regarded MPAs as tools that deliver risk reduction for species and habitats and offer integrated management of restricted resources, including fishes. However, surveillance problems were highlighted. A representative network of MPAs could resemble an investor’s portfolio. The Azores, as the first European Region to have concluded a Management Sectorial Plan for the Natura 2000 network, are now involved in the preparation of new dossiers leading to the inclusion of deep-sea sites as SCIs under Natura 2000, some of which are individual seamounts. In view of this, seamount management should, from the beginning, be developed in close cooperation with stakeholders.
Charcterisation of organic matter of particulate materials collected with in-situ pumps and water bottles in the vicinity of the Seine Seamount and the Sedlo Seamounts in the North Atlantic Ocean. Data set includes elemental, molecular (lipid, chlorophyll) and isotopic information.
The report on the bathymetry of Sedlo and Seine seamounts compiles bathymetric data from various sources, including satellite gravimetry, ship soundings and swath mapping. The available data were combined to produce updated bathymetric maps of the two main OASIS target areas.
Document is an 8-page brochure describing the OASIS project and seamounts in general Seamounts are offshore mountains rising steeply more than 1,000 metres above the abyssal plain. Standing isolated or as part of a chain of undersea elevations, their summits do not break the ocean surface. The hard substrates on the tops and flanks are made up of ancient volcanic rock and crusts rich in precious minerals. Tens of thousands of seamounts are estimated to exist world-wide most still undescribed by science. The OASIS project (OceAnic Seamounts: an Integrated Study) is the first European scientific seamount study integrating physical, biogeochemical and biological research. Its primary goal is to assess the ecosystem at and around two chosen seamounts. The scientific knowledge gained here will be integrated in ecosystem models and applied to developing concepts for seamount conservation. Further, site-specific management plans for potential seamount marine protected areas will be developed and presented to stakeholders. OASIS involves scientists and institutions from several west European countries.
An algorithm of salinity as a function of temperature has been developed for 2º x 2º boxes for the whole Canary Basin, from Africa to the 19ºW and from 26ºN to 36ºN, a region that includes the Seine Seamount. The good skill of the algorithm to infer both salinity and indirect quantities (density, dynamic heights, velocities, etc.) has been verified using independent data sets. The results should allow using expendable bathythermographs, routineraly deployed from opportunity ships, to obtain dynamic quantities, both for operational and scientific oceanographic applications. The results have been published in a scientific journal (Scientia Marina).
The report "Toward the Conservation and Management of the Sedlo Seamount" is a contribution to objective application of scientific knowledge to practical conservation; which acknowledges the critical need for the timely input of appropriate scientific advice for the development of marine policy such as the establishment and management of marine protected areas (MPAs). Building on the "Seamounts Report" (Gubbay, 2003) and the "Offshore MPA toolbox" (Schmidt & Christiansen, 2004), it takes the form of a draft management plan for the Sedlo seamount and is intended to illustrate the issues, actions and role of science in the management of seamount ecosystems. It has been prepared as a contribution to the work of the Regional Government of the Azores and the University of the Azores on marine biodiversity conservation. The long term purpose is to provide a framework for the management of activities and interests of the Sedlo seamount. In consultation with the stakeholders the boundaries for a future Sedlo MPA were agreed. The relatively large option chosen included the physical feature of Sedlo as well as the principal area of influence as suggested by modelling of water currents, which might act as a buffer zone. The proposed area extends across the 100nm zone where the Regional Government of the Azores has exclusive competence for management of fisheries. The area is entirely within the zone which the European Council have agreed is to exclude any bottom trawling, gill netting and/or trammel netting. Given the presently low commercial interest, but considering its potential for supporting a deep water fishery, the draft management plan for Sedlo proposes to establish a strictly protected area around Sedlo, effectively closing the area to all fisheries. There was no stakeholder support for a multiple use area open to all activities, and a full closure was seen to make enforcement easier. Such a conservation measure could be a model of precautionary management as well as a safeguard against the uncertainty of the area being targeted for commercial fishing in the future. Research was considered to be essential for reporting on the effects of the MPA and on the success or otherwise of the management measures. Scientific activity was therefore considered acceptable but with an emphasis on non-invasive techniques, invasive techniques being subject to licencing by the MPA management body. Providing information and raising awareness about Sedlo will be essential to its successful management. Stakeholders are interested in the ecological effects of such a closed area and therefore transparency is the key to gaining their longterm support for this and other MPAs in the Azores. Regular monitoring of biological parameters is as vital for the credibility of the management arrangements as a good surveillance and enforcement programme. While the majority of proposed management measures require the introduction of some regulations these requirements could be brought together into a few key statutes as part of the designation of the MPA by the Regional Government of the Azores. Regulation of fishing activity beyond the 100nm zone will require separate provisions from the European Commission and possibly ICAAT.
The cruise report gives an overview of research cruise Poseidon 309 in March/April 2004 to Seine Seamount, northeast Atlantic. The cruise started in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, and ended in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain. The report includes the cruise narratives, a list of participants and a station list with the instruments used.
We have gathered a large dataset on the metabolic balance (community production and respiration) of microplankton in the surface ocean (0-200m), as well as data of microbial remineralization rates on organic matter from samples collected each 50m from the surface to 1000m depth, across target topographic features around two North Atlantic seamounts.
We have gathered a large dataset on the distribution of dissolved organic carbon, and particulate organic carbon and nitrogen from samples collected with bottles, each 50 m from the surface to 1000m depth, across target topographic features around two North Atlantic seamounts.
The WWF/OASIS report "Seamounts of the Northeast Atlantic" is a unique product in reviewing the state of knowledge for a particular sea area - it was distributed globally to a very wide audience, covered in relevant media and the requests for copies indicated that it was well received. There are at least some 800 major seamounts in the North Atlantic, mostly occurring associated with the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR), and the Greenland-Iceland/Iceland-Faeroe Rise. However, there are also clusters of seamounts some distance from the MAR such as those along the south west of the Rockall Bank and west of Portugal on the Madeira-Tore Rise. Water mass circulation is characterized by the warm North Atlantic Drift setting northeastwards, seasonal up welling off southeastern Europe and North Africa, and cold deep water formation off Greenland which then prevails in the North Atlantic deep sea. The Mid Atlantic Ridge, and in particular in the islands of the Azores, currents, water masses and species of different biogeographic origin meet and mix - shallow seamounts often acting as stepping stones for cross-Atlantic dispersal of species. Reproductive isolation between seamount ridge systems may also lead to elevated numbers of endemic benthic species, however this cannot yet be confirmed based on the limited data available. Because of their volcanic origin and steep slopes amplifying the prevailing currents, hard substrata are common on seamounts. Softer substrata may also be present. There is a paucity of information on the benthos, illustrated by the fact that a century of study has resulted in the identification of just 596 invertebrate species from all seamounts explored up to the late 1980 s. The enhanced currents that sweep around the seamounts and the exposed rock surfaces provide ideal conditions for suspension feeders, and it is these that often dominate the benthos. Studies of the pelagic communities above seamounts reveal qualitative and/or quantitative differences when compared to the surrounding water. The higher biomass of planktonic organisms over seamounts constitutes an important basis for the diet of fish, squid and top predators such as sharks, rays, tuna and swordfish. Small and large cetaceans, and turtles also aggregate at these biologically productive hydrographic features. The fish communities found around seamounts have evolved a suite of morphological, ecological, life-history and physiological features that enable them to successfully exploit an environment with enhanced currents and greater flux of organic matter than much of the deep sea. Many are adapted for strong swimming performance, deep-bodied and with relatively high rates of metabolism and food intake. They may also be exceptionally long-lived with a slow growth rate. Some are also subject to extremely high recruitment variability, with successful recruitment occurring on approximately decadal time scales. The most significant threat in terms of geographic spread and scale of impact is commercial fishing. Commercially important species have been the targets of intensive exploitation using longlines, mid-water trawls and bottom trawls that can operate at depths of more than 1500m. In most cases fishing has taken place before there is a reasonable understanding of the biology of the species being targeted, and in the absence of formal stock assessments or quotas. The result has been over-exploitation and major crashes in the different stocks. Fishing activity is also known to have had a massive impact on the benthos of seamounts in other areas of the world ocean. However, for the North East Atlantic data on impacts are missing due to lack of scientific studies. Next to demersal fisheries, the use of longlines, driftnets and purse seines are known to have taken many thousands of seabirds, cetaceans, and turtles between them as “incidental catch”. In recent years, several political initiatives are seeking to address the conflict between human impact and conservation requirements on a global, North East Atlantic regional and national level: - The UN General Assembly called for urgent coordinated action to integrate and improve the management of seamounts and other underwater features in 2002, - The need for conservation action in the high seas, i.e. by establishing high seas Marine Protected Areas is recognized by various fora (i.e. the Convention on Biodiversity) - The OSPAR Ministerial Meeting agreed in 2003 on a regional priority list of species and habitats, including seamounts, for developing conservation action. - The European Union Natura 2000 network of protected areas will include seamounts, selected as reef-like habitats under EU Habitats Directive Annex I. The first seamount protected is in Azores (Portugal) waters. Methods and experiences gained with the management of human activities at seamount Marine Protected Areas in other parts of the world are complied in the final chapter.
Document is meant to serve as a toolbox for developing a management plan for a seamount in the North-East Atlantic under the legal frameworks available. Deep down in the ocean, but nonetheless within human reach, seamount communities and ecosystems have repeatedly been shown to be highly vulnerable to the impact of human activities. Globally, seamount and cold-water coral habitats and species which are frequently associated with each other, are considered a priority for developing conservation and sustainable management measures in the marine environment within and beyond national jurisdiction. Apart from the implementation of regulatory controls of sectoral activities for a wider sea area, seamounts may be good candidates for site-based management measures including marine protected areas, due to their singularity and isolation. The ultimate goal will be to link a network of seamount marine protected areas into the envisaged global representative network of marine protected areas, as agreed by the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg 2002. However, there is still a long way to go. Currently, there are 346 seamounts under protection in 84 marine protected areas worldwide, all located in areas under the sovereignty of a coastal State. This corresponds to only a small fraction of the estimated 10,000-50,000 seamounts rising higher than 1,000 m from the seafloor. In the Atlantic, only two seamounts have been designated up to now, though without being successfully managed as a marine protected area. The "Offshore MPA Toolbox" seeks to compile the most important information relevant to the selection, designation and, in particular, the management of protected areas at seamounts in the North-East Atlantic, including a summary of legal issues. We hope that it will contribute to enhance the establishment of well-managed marine protected areas offshore, especially for seamounts and offshore banks, which face similar problems. The EU-funded project OASIS (OceAnic Seamounts: an Integrated Study) aims to provide a holistic, integrated assessment of seamount ecology in the NE Atlantic using two sites as case studies, and to apply the scientific knowledge to developing possible options for sustainable management. A site-specific, mass-balanced seamount model and management plan for the two example sites shall lay the ground for legislative protection at a later stage, but also provide ideas how to practically advance the designation of marine protected areas for seamount habitats with limited data availability. The "Offshore MPA Toolbox" is a product of the OASIS project, following a comprehensive description of the "Seamounts of the North-East Atlantic" in 2003. As a next step, more specific management recommendations will be included in the final, updated OASIS Seamounts Report to be published in 2005/2006.
Seamounts or seamount chains may exhibit reduction of prey biomass (Genin et al. 1988) or primary productivity indicators such as chlorophyll a (Venrick 1991) compared to the neighbouring open ocean. In any case they seem to exert an influence to their immediate environment and this is often referred as the ‘seamount effect’. Although it has long been recognised that physical processes may largely be responsible, the precise mechanisms are poorly understood. This review focuses on biogeochemical investigations around seamounts both in the water column and in sediments, although the physical and biological aspects of the studies, being intimately related, are also mentioned.
The cruise report gives an overview of research cruise Poseidon 295 to Seine Seamount, northeast Atlantic, in March/April 2003. The cruise started in Lisbon, Portugal, and ended in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain. The report includes the cruise narratives, a list of participants and a station list with the instruments used.
The cruise report gives an overview of research cruise Discovery 282 to Seine Seamount and Sedlo Seamount, northeast Atlantic, in June-August 2004. The cruise started in Vigo, Spain, and ended in Govan, Scotland. The report includes the cruise narratives, a list of participants, a station list with the instruments used and an overview of first results.
The result comprises a description of the fish fauna found at two NE Atlantic seamounts, Sedlo Seamounts and Seine Seamount. Different methods were used to assess the fish fauna, including longlines and various types of trawls. Population parameters were estimated for a subset of the data.
The OASIS Newsletter is an information platform of the OASIS project, informing about recent developments in the project, but also about activities concerning seamounts outside OASIS, including political issues. The newsletter was distributed electronically to researchers, administrators all over the world.
The result describes the food web structure at Seine Seamount in the northeast Atlantic. Stable isotope and fatty acid analysis were used to derive trophodynamic relationships between the pelagic and benthic key players. Traditional stomach content analysis provides additional data for selected groups.
The cruise report gives an overview of research cruise Meteor 60/1 to Seine Seamount and Sedlo Seamount, northeast Atlantic, in November/December 2003. The cruise started in Kiel, Germany, and ended in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. The report includes the cruise narratives, a list of participants and a station list with the instruments used.
This result deals with the composition, biomass and abundance of zooplankton at two seamounts in the Northeast Atlantic, in comparison with areas outside the influence of the seamounts. Distribution patterns derived from net samples and from acoustic measurements are described and compared. The metabolism and carbon demand of key groups are estimated.
The cruise report gives an overview of research cruise Poseidon 322 in May/June 2005 to Seine Seamount and Ampere Seamount, northeast Atlantic. The cruise started in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, and ended in Kiel, Germany, with a stopover in Lisbon, Portugal. The report includes the cruise narratives, a list of participants and a station list with the instruments used.
The interactive DVD provides information about the OASIS project. It comprises two parts. Part one is a video giving an introduction to the project and its framework and presenting some research highlights. The second part gives access to more detailed descriptions of the project, its main results and the scientific and political context.