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Deep sea brings cutting-edge technology and international experts to the island of Madeira

What species hide at the bottom of the sea? How do they behave and what do they live on? What is the role of jellyfish, sensitive animals that are difficult to capture with nets, in the food web that controls the entire community? What importance can they have for science and deep-sea exploration?

To answer these and other questions, 22 international scientists embark tomorrow on the exclusive MSM126 expedition. Armed with sophisticated image capture systems, special nets and a deep-sea robot, they set out in the hope of getting to know this delicate species in depth and, who knows? bringing great news. MARE – Center for Marine and Environmental Sciences is the only Portuguese partner in the expedition.

“The deep sea around Madeira is the least explored in Macaronesia (groups of islands in the North Atlantic, close to Europe and Africa). We know it is essential for the carbon cycle and nutrient cycles that support underwater life (and also on land) and it is these cycles that mitigate climate change, but we also know that these are waters that are permanently threatened by human pressure and rising temperatures. In-depth scientific expeditions are essential for expanding knowledge and developing strategies protection for of these systems”, he concludes.

To alleviate this lack of knowledge, an international expedition with specialists from different areas of research leaves tomorrow from the port of Funchal to explore the underwater habitats and biodiversity around the island. Quite exclusive, it is the fifth expedition of its kind in the last 50 years in the region.

Coordinated by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, in addition to MARE-Madeira/ARDITI, the expedition includes the participation of references such as the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, the University of Southern Denmark and the University of Hamburg.

Aboard the RV Maria S. Merian, the 22 researchers will use a wide range of state-of-the-art instruments and technology, including remote sensing, image capture systems, a deep-sea robot, oceanographic sensors and a network system.

“One of the priorities of this expedition is to understand the role of jellyfish in the oceanic food chain. Because they are very fragile and difficult to capture intact, they are an enigma for us”, begins by explaining João Canning-Clode, coordinator of MARE-Madeira. Using onboard instruments, researchers will seek to expand their knowledge about jellyfish and other beings, while also raising the hope of discovering new species.

Extremely fragile, jellyfish are very difficult species to study – as it is a detailed process, the act of capture is almost always compromised. Therefore, little is known about its impact on the ecosystem and the food web. This difficulty is particularly real in the case of deep waters where, in addition to jellyfish, there is still much to be explored.

How will Portugal benefit from this expedition?

Lasting around a month, this journey is one of 5 deep-sea expeditions aimed at studying the waters of Madeira over the last 50 years. In the region, it is also the longest trip to date and therefore an excellent opportunity to learn more about unique habitats under the sea and the species that live around the island.

This expedition will also allow Madeira to be positioned, strengthen international partnerships and focus on developing experiences, attracting investment and creating new opportunities.

About MARE

MARE – Center for Marine and Environmental Sciences – is a centre for scientific research, technological development and innovation with skills for the study of all aquatic ecosystems, on the continental slope and at sea. Promotes the sustainable use of resources and ocean literacy by disseminating scientific knowledge and supporting sustainable development policies. Created in 2015, it integrates 7 Regional Research Units associated with the following institutions: University of Coimbra (MARE-UCoimbra), Polytechnic of Leiria (MARE-Politecnico de Leiria), University of Lisbon (MARE-ULisboa), Universidade Nova de Lisboa (MARE -NOVA), ISPA – University Institute (MARE-ISPA), University of Évora (MARE-UÉvora) and ARDITI (MARE-Madeira).

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