The results of the massive resource called - The Development of a Framework for Mapping European Seabed Habitats - or MESH, can be viewed online.
Important for the project was knowing the environment factors that determine the existence of certain habitats in a particular location These are defined by a combination of unique conditions such as current, depth of water, temperature and the rock structure under the seafloor. Understanding this makes it possible to predict the existence of habitat at a particular location and avoid expensive field surveys; along with evaluating large areas of seabed that would otherwise be impractical to survey...
Introducing the Seaeye Tiger to the MESH project was the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) from Northern Ireland. The AFBI were early to recognise the benefits of using a rugged and reliable world-class ROV, already proven in the tough oil and gas industry, to handle the equally demanding marine science environment, particularly working in those places that are deep and difficult to reach.
Sponge community at the base of Stanton Banks
The Saab Seaeye Tiger - able to reach deep and difficult locations, and hold steady whilst filming
For the MESH project, challenging proof came at the Stanton Bank, off the West Coast of Scotland. Here the task was to examine the habitat at the point where the rock face meets the soft seafloor. An acoustic survey had been undertaken, but there was no idea what actually lay at this difficult to access location. By sending down the 1000 metre rated Seaeye Tiger, they were able to manoeuvre the vehicle to the precise point of study. There its directional thrusters were powerful enough to hold the ROV steady in the currents whilst sending back high quality video film.
Tackling such conditions proved the value of AFBI's decision to up-grade from their towed video systems to the Seaeye Tiger and thereby undertake a far greater range of observation tasks than would be possible with a lightweight vehicle like the Hyball.
Information from the MESH project means that organisations competing for the seabed resources around Europe can now determine the impact of their decision by simply going to www.searchmesh.net/webGIS for the interactive mapping system, and zoom into the area of particular interest.