On 23 June the UK Marine Environmental Mapping Programme (MAREMAP) was launched at the National Maritime Museum in London. MAREMAP is a new NERC initiative that will lead to an improved understanding of the marine environment around the UK. It is co-ordinated by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), the British Geological Survey and the Scottish Association for Marine Sciences, in partnership with University of Southampton and Channel Coastal Observatory.
MAREMAP aims to tackle the urgent requirement for increased mapping coverage of the UK Marine Area, in order to address three topical issues: effective conservation of marine habitats and species; sustainable exploitation of natural resources; and identification and assessment of submarine hazards. Dr Russell Wynn of NOC, who is Joint Co-ordinator of MAREMAP, said: "Less than 15-20% of the UK offshore area has been mapped at sufficient resolution to address the above issues. MAREMAP will therefore bring together the expertise and resources of NERC, to deliver a co-ordinated national marine mapping programme".
MAREMAP will apply a uniquely multi-disciplinary approach to marine mapping, incorporating geology, geophysics, biology, oceanography and technology. The programme will have several key themes, including 1) geological and habitat mapping from the coast to the deep sea, 2) mapping of submarine hazards and archaeological sites, 3) investigating how seafloor environments change through time, and 4) use of innovative technology and techniques in marine mapping. In addition to collecting new data, the MAREMAP team will work on existing bathymetric maps to produce free-to-access products such as seafloor habitat maps and 3D geological models.
The launch event included a lively Q&A session, engaging a wide range of attendees from government agencies and the industrial and academic sectors. The event was opened by Prof Ed Hill, NOC Director, and included presentations by Dr Russell Wynn and Dr Brian Bett of NOC, and Dr Justin Dix of University of Southampton. Prof Hill said: "It's time to start filling the ‘white holes' in the map of the UK Marine Area - the lack of high quality, high resolution seabed and habitat maps will progressively compromise both the progress of science and the ability to effectively manage these seas in an integrated way using ecosystem-based approaches".
The MAREMAP web site is currently under development and will be online in late July. The inaugural deep-water MAREMAP research expedition to the Hatton-Rockall area will be on RRS James Cook in spring 2011.