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NOC contributes to major new government report on future of the sea - National Oceanography Centre

A major new report looking at the future of the sea, published by the Government Office for Science, sets out the opportunities available for the UK to capitalise on its existing strengths in research, technology and the diversity of ocean industries.

The report’s expert advisory group included the National Oceanography Centre’s Executive Director, Professor Ed Hill, and Director of Science and Technology, Professor Angela Hatton.

Speaking at the launch of the report Ed Hill said, “I am pleased to welcome the Government Office for Science’s Foresight Future of the Sea report. As the report shows, marine science is a real UK strength – we are currently third in the world for the number of marine science publications. However, there is still more work to be done to achieve greater knowledge of the marine environment and the impacts of climate change. This will be critical for making a success of the future that this report anticipates.”

The report identifies four major areas that can deliver opportunities for the UK by exploiting its science and innovation – an improved understanding of the sea, greater co-ordination, a long-term approach to decision making and the increasing global nature of the challenges we face.

Autonomous vessels, robotics and other emerging technologies are creating a new generation of economic activity. They will allow us to observe and map previously unexplored areas of the sea and improve our understanding of the marine environment. The increase in potential from autonomous vehicles means that areas such as data transfer, sensing, communication technology and improved data transfer between autonomous vehicles and satellites, will be of growing importance across the marine economy.

Science, industry and government all have a shared interest in a productive, healthy and well-understood sea. There are many opportunities for closer collaboration to achieve greater marine exploration, protection and economic output.

The marine environment changes over inherently long timescales and emerging industries require a long-term commitment in order to demonstrate success. For these reasons, a long-term approach to decision making is important from both an economic and environmental perspective.

Read the report: The full report from the Government Office for Science can be found on the GOV UK website here.


Grey reef shark's ecological role not to be poo-pooed, new study reveals - ZSL

© Katie DavisSharks transfer crucial nutrients from their open ocean feeding grounds, to shallower coral reefs via their faeces - according to a pioneering study that is published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Working in the waters surrounding Palmyra Atoll, a remote reef and wildlife refuge south of Hawaii, scientists used acoustic tags to track the movements of the grey reef shark (​Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos​) - a predatory species known to be associated with coral environments, but whose wider ecological role was previously not fully understood.

© Katie Davis

Combining their existing knowledge about the sharks' feeding habits in open ocean (pelagic) environments, the team were able to estimate the quantities of nitrogen deposited around the reef, via the sharks' faecal material. Astonishingly, they discovered that this specific population of reef sharks - believed to number around 8,300 - contributed to an approximate total of 9.54kg of nitrogen into the reef ecosystem, each day.

This is a substantial amount of nutrients, which contribute to reef primary productivity, "which in turn effectively act as a fertiliser for thousands of other species that call these reef environments home", said Dr David Jacoby, senior co-author from ZSL's intitute of Zoology.

Commenting on this study, Dr David Jacoby went on to say: "While estimating quantities of shark poo may not sound like the most glamorous of pastimes, the findings of this research have fascinating implications for our understanding not only of fraigile coral reef ecosystems but also the ecological significance of grey reef sharks - a species currently classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN ​Red List.

​"Coupled with their better-known role as predators, our study underlines another, less obvious role played by reef sharks in improving the resilience of these fragile habitats and again underlines the vital importance of conserving these and other wide-ranging predators."

Access the paper: Jessica J. Williams, Yannis P. Papastamatiou, Jennifer E. Caselle, Darcy Bradley, David M. P. Jacoby Mobile marine predators: an understudied source of nutrients to coral reefs in an unfished atoll DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2456

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