Are you a diver with a passion for protecting our oceans? You can help in the fight against climate change by helping us find the last remaining undisturbed soft-bottom seabed habitats.
The Convex Seascape Survey is an ambitious five-year research programme that seeks to discover how the ocean performs its important role as the world’s largest carbon sink and regulates the climate. The project sets out to provide answers that can be used in global efforts to slow the effects of climate change. But before our team begins research, we need help finding healthy unimpacted soft sediment ecosystems to study.
The ability of spectacular ecosystems like mangroves, seagrass meadows and kelp forests to store carbon has long attracted attention. But such places only cover 0.2% of the seafloor. This means that while their role in mitigating climate change is important, it is limited. By contrast, soft sediment seabeds contain far bigger carbon stores and cover 38 times more space. Therefore, they’re exceptionally important in this era of rapid climate change.
We are looking for divers with intimate knowledge of the seabed to help us identify important places to study. To help us in the fight against climate change, simply send us underwater photographs or video footage of what you believe to be a healthy, intact, and undisturbed soft sediment seabed habitat.
The ocean has long been a victim of climate change. But what if it could become the solution?
The ocean plays a remarkable but unappreciated role in our survival. Ocean habitats extract carbon dioxide at rates of up to four times higher than that of terrestrial forests, one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for climate change. Having absorbed over 35% of man-made carbon emissions from the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial era, the ocean is a sink for our carbon emissions. This allows it to act as a buffer for the effects of climate change and shield the planet from devastating disasters. Essentially, the ocean is responsible for regulating the Earth’s climate.
One of the many ways human activities fuel global warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate, is by generating greenhouse gases. These create catastrophic affects, such as increased ocean temperatures, sea-level rise, and ocean acidification. Not only do these threaten the ability of the ocean to store carbon, but the existence of our most promising ally in the fight against climate change. The next decade of action is crucial to prevent climate tipping points. But what can we do to help?
Protecting and restoring marine ecosystems could increase their capacity to store carbon. The ability of spectacular places like mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and kelp forests to store carbon has long been recognised. But such places only cover 0.2% of the seafloor. This means that while their role in carbon storage is important, it is ultimately limited. By contrast, soft sediment seabeds contain far bigger carbon stores and cover 38 times more space. Therefore, they are exceptionally important in this era of rapid climate change. Despite this, less than 2% of sedimentary carbon stocks are fully protected and carbon stores remain vulnerable to human disturbance. If we locate these “carbon rich” areas, it may provide the key to increase the capacity of the ocean to absorb carbon emissions. We must identify and safeguard marine carbon stores to make the ocean our ally in the fight to slow climate change.
The Convex Seascape Survey
The Convex Seascape Survey is a global five-year research programme that seeks to discover how the ocean performs its vital role as the world’s largest carbon sink and thereby regulates the climate. With science led by the University of Exeter, the project is facilitated by the Blue Marine Foundation, in collaboration with other partners. The project will analyse the amount of carbon locked in soft sediment seabeds and investigate how human activities affect these carbon stores by comparing disturbed and undisturbed areas. This project will provide answers that can be incorporated into global efforts to slow the effects of climate change. But before our team begins research, we must find healthy unimpacted soft sediment ecosystems to study.
Over thousands of years, human activity has transformed the land. Underwater, most changes have taken place in the last 200 years. The seabed is no longer what it was, having been raked by towed fishing trawls and dredges, drilled for oil and gas, had pipelines and cables laid, harbours and seawalls built, and shipping channels dredged. Many of these changes took place before the first divers or scientists with cameras ever laid eyes on the seabed. This means, it can be difficult to find a healthy, undisturbed soft sediment seabed.
We need your help to find areas of soft sediment seabed that have for one reason or another, remained relatively undisturbed or have recovered from past human impacts.
Where are we interested in studying?
We are particularly interested in the world’s continental shelves. From near coastal areas to the edge of the shelf, down to depths of about 200 metres. These areas represent a massive potential carbon store that has been scarcely studied and is poorly understood.
What can you do to help?
Are you a diver or underwater surveyor with a passion for protecting our oceans? You can help us by simply sending underwater photographs or video footage of what you believe to be a healthy, intact, and undisturbed soft sediment seabed habitat and answering a few questions about where they were taken.
We are looking for citizen scientist divers and underwater surveyors with intimate knowledge of the seabed gained through work or leisure. Citizen science offers an alternative to traditional methods of data collection for scientists. It is a fantastic way of including members of the public in conservation efforts by enlisting their help to discover important information about our oceans. As a citizen scientist, you could help identify places to study in detail to better understand the role of marine life in capturing and storing carbon and recovering lost baselines of what undisturbed seabed habitats once looked like.
Where can you find a healthy, undisturbed sandy, muddy seabed?
A soft sediment seabed consists of fine sediment. It is essentially a sandy or muddy seabed habitat. Because human influence is so pervasive today, undisturbed sandy or muddy seabed habitats can be difficult to find. Such places may exist in areas that have been deliberately protected, such as marine parks. Or, they may have received de facto protection, for example around shipwrecks that fishing boats avoid, in exclusion zones around oil and gas rigs, or in areas reserved for military exercises. They may be found near long-established wind farms where seabed life has recovered following protection from fishing.
If you already have underwater photographs or videos of what you believe is a healthy, intact, sandy, or muddy seabed habitat, upload them to the Citizen Science portal on the Convex Seascape Survey website at www.convexseascapesurvey.com/citizen-science/.
We accept any method used to collect underwater photographs or video footage. Including photographs or video footage from Diver operated videos (including underwater cameras such as GoPros), Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), Remote underwater videos (RUVs) and Towed Video Systems (TOWV).
Your observations are critical to the success of the Convex Seascape Survey. To help us in the fight against climate change, simply send us underwater photographs or video footage of what you believe to be a healthy, intact, and undisturbed soft sediment seabed habitat.
When you have collected your underwater photos or videos, visit the Citizen Science portal on the Convex Seascape Survey website to upload your underwater data. Remember to include the date and precise location (dive site, region, and country). There are no wrong submissions so if you are unsure of the seabed health, send us your photos or videos anyway! Every submission counts towards our important project.
For further information visit the Convex Seascape Survey at: www.convexseascapesurvey.com/citizen-science/
We endeavour to respond to any questions as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please email us at A.Kemp4@exeter.ac.uk.