Marine Integrated Autonomous Observing Systems

Photo: RRS Discovery with its fleet of autonomoue vehicles

The UK must fulfil statutory obligations for monitoring the state of the sea. This means we need to collect data that enable assessment of the status of marine ecosystems and effective management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Autonomous technologies could make marine observation more cost-effective, while accelerating our understanding of marine ecosystem function and its response to climate change and other pressures.

This research programme is co-funded by NERC, the Department for Environment & Rural Affairs (Defra) and WWF-UK. It will address the scientific and technical challenges of using new technologies to deliver a more efficient and integrated next-generation UK marine observing programme, capable of meeting science and policy data requirements now and into the future.

The overarching objective is to accelerate the use of autonomous measurements and combined observational-model outputs in meeting long-term science need and statutory policy requirements.

Marine Integrated Autonomous Observing Systems Announcement of Opportunity

Closing date: 28 Jun
2017

28 Mar 2017

Proposals are invited for a new research programme on improving understanding of shelf sea ecosystem function using integrated autonomous observing systems.


1 2 3

New and emerging marine technologies (autonomous platforms, miniaturised sensors, and remote or automated data collection methods) provide opportunities to transform the temporal and spatial coverage of marine observations for both scientific and monitoring purposes. Over recent years the research councils, higher education institutions and industry have invested over £100 million in smart and autonomous observing systems.

Marine autonomous vehicles are now routinely deployed to support NERC science, and are increasingly demonstrating their capability for complex multiple deployments with novel sensors - external link, making high-quality targeted observations to improve our scientific understanding of nutrient and carbon cycling within the shelf seas. These technologies offer the potential to observe the marine environment cost-effectively over large areas and long periods of time.

The UK must fulfil statutory obligations for monitoring the state of the seas, eg as demanded by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) - external link, the Convention on Biological Diversity - external link and the OSPAR Convention - external link. This means we need to collect data that enable assessment of the status of marine ecosystems and the effective management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Autonomous technologies could make marine observation more cost-effective, while accelerating our understanding of marine ecosystem function and its response to climate change and other pressures. To achieve these benefits, more research is needed to prove how their capabilities can be used and integrated with existing techniques.

Marine ecosystem services were valued at $50 trillion in 2011. It is thought that over two-thirds of the overall economic value of the ocean depends directly on healthy ocean conditions[1]. Model studies reported in the most recent Assessment Report[2][3] of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predict damage to marine ecosystems and cascading consequences to human populations that rely on ocean productivity.

It is crucial, then, that we develop a more complete understanding of the marine ecosystem response to natural and anthropogenic variability. This will allow us to develop better management strategies for human impacts on the marine ecosystem. Understanding the oceans' long-term resilience to climate change, so that mankind can sustain and increase ecosystem benefits, is a high-level priority of the UK Marine Science strategy[4].

Integrating new technologies with existing marine observing infrastructure and data archives is a significant challenge. This programme will build on previous and planned NERC and co-funded projects (eg Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry and Marine Ecosystem Research programmes) to advance our understanding of marine ecosystem function. Bringing observations from multiple sources together with models more effectively is essential to assess how different stressors (natural or anthropogenic) can affect diverse habitats over various timescales, and what impact these have upon ecosystem services.


  1. WWF report - Reviving the ocean economy summary - external link
  2. Mora C, Wei C-L, Rollo A, Amaro T, Baco AR, et al. (2013) 'Biotic and Human Vulnerability to Projected Changes in Ocean Biogeochemistry over the 21st Century'. PLoS Biology 11(10): e1001682. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001682 .
  3. IPCC, 2014: Summary for policymakers. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change- external link [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1-32.
  4. UK Marine Science strategy - external link

Timing

2016 - 2021

Can I apply for a grant?

Opportunities will be listed on the News page when available.

Budget

This programme has a budget of £3·6 million.