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Biodiversity Studies - Call for Proposals

Atlantic Margin Benthos Biodiversity Bursaries

The Atlantic Frontier Environmental Network (AFEN) is a co-operative grouping of energy companies, (the Department of Trade and Industry, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Fisheries Research Services and Scottish Executive - Environment and Rural Affairs Department). As part of a wider programme of environmental studies, AFEN commissioned extensive seabed mapping and sampling surveys in 1996 and 1998. These surveys covered those areas of the UK Atlantic Margin licensed for oil and gas exploration - an area of nearly 40,000km2 with water depths 100-2000m and a wide range of hydrographic conditions, bottom topography and sediment types.

As expected from sampling such a large area and variety of ecological conditions, numerous species (around 2000 taxa) were found in the samples. The material was taken to a first level of identification (usually to species or to genus with a species code) allowing an initial appreciation of community types and distributions over the area. However, better taxonomic definition of the fauna is desirable to:

  • Allow fuller evaluation of the biodiversity of the Atlantic Margin area and its relationship to adjacent areas
  • Enhance the ability to detect change in seabed communities
  • Improve the intercomparability of AFEN and other studies of the benthos of the area

As part of its commitment to furthering the understanding of the area, AFEN sponsored a programme of bursaries in 1999 and 2000 to facilitate taxonomic work on the fauna of the area. Preference was given to projects which addressed taxa which are numerically or biogeographically important.

The bursaries were primarily intended to facilitate studies for example by covering travel and subsistence, electron microscopy, illustration etc, although in some instances, time was also funded.

An electronic listing of all taxa from both surveys, indicating relative numerical importance, is available from Jennifer Stewart, UKOOA e-mail: jstewart@aberdeen.ukooa.co.uk to whom bursary applications should be made. Selection of proposals will be through a project steering group drawn from AFEN, the Natural History Museum, Scottish Natural Heritage, the University of Aberdeen, and the Scottish Association for Marine Science. The material from the AFEN 1996 and 1998 surveys is deposited in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh and is available for loan to bona fide researchers from there. The NMS also holds supporting details (station positions, water depth, sediment type etc).

For questions on the surveys and project as a whole, contact the AFEN Chairman, Gill Bishop (gillian.bishop@gbr.conoco.com) or John Hartley (jphartley@ha-an.demon.co.uk)

Bursaries funded to date cover the following groups:

Phase 1
Taniads
Bivalves
Cirratulids
Spionids
Sabellids
Bryozoans
Cumaceans

Phase 2
Isopods
Amphipods
Tamaids
Cumaceans
Polyplacophorn
Aplacophorn

A report on the fanoids is now available: BIRD, G. (2001) Taniadacen of the Atlantic Margin, the AfEN Surveys of 1996 and 1998. Report to UKOOA, 92pp.

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