To date, just 5% of the ocean floor has been mapped. Under AORA, the remainder of the Atlantic Ocean floor will be charted, making it the best-understood ocean on Earth.
Seabed mapping enables us to observe and predict changes in weather, climate and ecosystems. The connectivity between the shape of the ocean floor and the ocean circulation above it drives our climate, our weather, and the movement and productivity of the seafood resources within the ocean. The more we understand the ocean floor, the more we can fundamentally increase our knowledge of underwater terrain and habitats, why ocean currents move the way they do and why species migrate to certain places and not others.
- Although only 5% of the ocean floor is currently mapped - with just 1% of this gridded at high resolution - research teams have already identified previously uncharted undersea volcanoes and mountain ranges. Knowing what lies on the ocean floor will inform safer shipping and search and rescue policies, provide better knowledge for siting cables and pipelines, and help make the Atlantic the best-known, best-understood, and most predictable ocean in the world.
- 103 million mi² of deep sea exists in perpetual darkness. While almost 200,000 species have been identified (UNESCO/IOC 2018), actual numbers of unknown marine life may lie in the millions. Ocean mapping reveals invaluable insights into deep-sea marine ecosystems, profoundly the affecting the ways in which future generations will think about sustainability, food and medicine.
- The United Nations has designated 2021-2030 as the Decade of the Ocean, while the UN 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include a goal dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans (SDG14). Seabed mapping will ensure that future uses of ocean energy - from marine geothermal power to mineral extraction - will help to deliver on these ambitious UN goals.
A strategy has been developed to map the Atlantic and surveying has already begun. Using the latest technology, we are making ground-breaking discoveries, including previously uncharted undersea volcanoes and mountains.
Some achievements to date:
- 6 international transatlantic seabed mapping surveys
- First transatlantic seabed survey line between Ireland and Canada
- Improving Sharing, Discovery and Access of Seafloor Data in the North Atlantic (White paper)
- Understanding the characteristics of the seafloor and sub-surface of the North Atlantic (White paper) – Technology Considerations
- A North Atlantic Data Portal and prototype Data Viewer for data sharing and seabed mapping outputs
- Identifying target pilot areas and the minimum data required for survey
AORA Atlantic Seabed Mapping International Working Group (ASMIWG) was established to identify the steps required to implement a seabed mapping strategy.
The key objectives include:
- identifying the issues and priorities of seabed mappers in order to prepare a unified seabed map of the shared Atlantic
- progressing data availability, harmonisation and standards
- improving communication and the sharing of best practices
Membership of the group comprises experts from the following neighbouring Atlantic countries: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Monaco, Portugal, Spain, the UK, and the USA.
Under AORA, researchers are now collaborating on seabed mapping projects such as :
- Atlantic Seafloor Partnership for Integrated Research and Exploration (ASPIRE)
Other seabed mapping initiatives: