Mission Atlantic – Mapping and assessing present and future status of Atlantic marine ecosystems under Climate Change and Exploitation

In support of the Bélem statement MISSION ATLANTIC brings together scientists, managers and stakeholders from Brazil, South Africa, North America and the EU to address a question of joint concern: “How do drivers of change (climate, acidification and societal development) and other pressures (exploitation and pollution) impact the state and resilience of the Atlantic Ocean ecosystems and alter the distribution and sustainability of services provided to humans?” To answer this question, MISSION ATLANTIC develops and systematically applies operational Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) frameworks at regional and basin scales, using a nested approach of key case study areas.

IEA frameworks are cross-sectorial research platforms between science, policy makers and industry. Using an IEA framework, the project will map, model and assess the Atlantic Ocean ecosystems by collecting new observations, and developing and applying new tools and technologies, based on dynamic and statistical models, advanced machine learning techniques for big data analyses, and ecosystem assessment tools. The IEAs will employ existing data, as well as new data from field work and monitoring programs, to identify and select key regional and basin scale indicators for pelagic and benthic habitats (e.g., hydrological characteristics, trait distributions, carbon fluxes, nutrient cycles, connectivity). Those indicators will be used to assess the status and development of Atlantic marine ecosystems and to determine historical trends relative to stressors.

Furthermore, using future projections from climate end- to-end ecosystem models MISSION ATLANTIC will evaluate future risks and vulnerabilities of crossing tipping points into undesirable ecosystem states. Notably, the project will establish regional stakeholder platforms for effective interactions between researchers, industries, policy makers and authorities across the Atlantic. These platforms are vital to perform IEAs and will be delivered via MISSION ATLANTIC partners experienced in “science – governance” interfacing. Training and professional development opportunities for blue economy practitioners will be provided via mobility, PhD programmes and using an adaptive e-learning platform around IEA theory, technology and examples, thus ensuring program legacy.

MISSION ATLANTIC investigates how multiple local, regional and basin scale pressures within and across important areas interact and affect the resilience of the Atlantic Ocean to future climate and societal changes. The project will tackle this question by advancing knowledge on ecosystem processes as well as applying new data analyses and state-of-the-art predictive capacity to develop an operational regional and basin-scale Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA).

A systemic (holistic) approach, with modelling tools and a set of carefully chosen ecosystem indicators (e.g. physicals, hydrological, chemical, biological characteristics) are used to evaluate the cumulative impacts of multiple natural and anthropogenic drivers on the health and productivity of Atlantic ecosystems. The IEAs we propose are the ideal integrative and interdisciplinary frameworks for dealing with the challenges faced by present and future ecosystem-based management approaches and will allow sustainable and societally acceptable management solutions that secure the future of Atlantic Ocean ecosystems. A participative approach is used linking scientists with multiple stakeholders, including policy makers, industry representatives and other societal interest groups (e.g. NGOs). Physical, chemical and ecological processes, as well as the human dimension will be monitored, mapped and modelled in context to each other to provide understanding of ecosystem status, its multiple drivers, its resilience and potential tipping points. Despite known basin scale variance in data availability, these ambitious tasks can be delivered within the time frame of the present project by selecting specific case study areas (CS, Fig. 1) representing a variety of biomes along a large latitudinal gradient from the pole to the tropics, spanning different environmental conditions and pressures, and at different IEA operational readiness levels. We will carry out IEAs for each CS, and synthesise results to identify the commonalities and specificities across regions and identify the ecosystems status at Atlantic Ocean scale.



  • 04/23 – Networking Friday with MISSION ATLANTIC. More info here. Recording available here.
  • 05/28 – Launch of “StrathE2E”, a free-access model of food webs in continental shelf seas. More info here.
  • 06/02 – “Atlantic Pole to Pole: Climate Science 2 Policy”. All-Atlantic2021 side event, co-organised by MISSION ATLANTIC, Blue-Action, SO-CHIC, and TRIATLAS. More info here.
  • 06/03 – “The future Atlantic Ocean – forecasting ecosystem functioning from microbiomes to fisheries”. All-Atlantic2021 side event, co-organised by MISSION ATLANTIC, Blue-Action, SO-CHIC, TRIATLAS and AtlantECO. More info here.

Project’s website: https://missionatlantic.eu

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No 862428 (MISSION ATLANTIC). This output reflects only the author’s view and the Research Executive Agency (REA) cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.