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Toward an All-Atlantic Ocean Observing System

25 March 2019


© AtlantOS

25 March 2019, Paris (France) / Kiel (Germany). During a four-day long symposium at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France the EU-Horizon 2020 funded Project on “Optimizing and Enhancing the Integrated Atlantic Ocean Observing System“ (AtlantOS), launched to deliver on the Galway Statement commitments, will celebrate the success of four years of work involving 62 partners from 18 countries and the investment  of 20 million Euros. During the symposium, a plan and ambition for the next decade of ocean observing in the Atlantic Ocean Basin to deliver on the needs of the Atlantic communities will be presented. The international meeting will be attended by scientists, policy makers, users, funders, the private sector and NGOs. AtlantOS is coordinated by GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany.


We still have too few ocean observations for our needs to document the impacts of climate change, to better predict weather an ocean induced hazards and to inform society on sustainable ocean economic opportunities. In particular we lack good, long timeseries, data from the deep sea and data on the biology and biochemistry of the ocean. Although the Atlantic is one of the ocean basins with a higher coverage compared to other regions, there are still many gaps where we have no or limited data. One goal of the EU-Horizon 2020 Project on “Optimising and Enhancing the Integrated Atlantic Ocean Observing System“ (AtlantOS) was to enhance the observing system in the Atlantic Ocean by transitioning from a loosely-coordinated set of existing ocean observing activities producing fragmented, often monodisciplinary data, to a sustainable, efficient, and fit-for-purpose Integrated All-Atlantic Ocean Observing System as indicated in the Galway Statement.


“Today we celebrate the launch of the international All-Atlantic Ocean Observing System programme that connects countries from around the Atlantic Basin and observing efforts from south of the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Sector of the Southern Ocean,” states Professor Dr. Martin Visbeck from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany. “We spent two years consulting with the Atlantic Ocean community to arrive at a strategic document that outlines the principles of integrated sustained observations as the basis for effective implementation and benefit sharing for the next decade” adds Brad deYoung of Memorial University, Canada, co-author of the AtlantOS Program strategy.


“The implementation of this ambitious AtlantOS programme is the product of the Atlantic cooperation developed to respond to the urgent needs of our Atlantic communities. It is embedded in two international policy agreements signed by the EU with international partners: the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation with the USA and Canada and the Belém Statement on Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Cooperation with South Africa and Brazil”, remarks John Bell, Director at the European Commission Directorate General of Research and Innovation (RTD). “I look forward to the fit-for-purpose All-Atlantic Ocean Observing system serving the needs of society in 2030 and beyond”.


“The All-Atlantic Ocean Observing System (AtlantOS) highlights the importance of basin scale implementation arrangements to implement a truly Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS)” notes Dr. Toste Tanhua from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany, “as the co-chair of the international GOOS steering committee we are excited about basin scale programs and see similar developments emerging in the tropical Pacific, the Arctic, Southern Ocean and the Mediterranean”.


“Biological ocean observations are critical to assess the loss of biodiversity in the ocean” explains Prof. Isabel Sousa Pinto, University of Porto Portugal and co-chair of GEO Marine Biodiversity Observation Network, “and AtlantOS will deliver critical data and information for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and to monitor the health of the ocean ecosystems”. 


“The work of the EU-Horizon 2020 Project on “Optimizing and Enhancing the Integrated Atlantic Ocean Observing System“ (AtlantOS) has built on the Framework of Ocean Observing and highlighted the need to integrate existing subsystems, to improve data access and use modern methods to design and build future ocean observing systems”, adds Eric Lindstrom from NASA and chairman of the OceanObs19 conference, “In September, the international OceanObs19 conference will take up the ideas and concepts from the AtlantOS project and from this Symposium and discuss them at the global level.”


“Ocean observing and data and information gathering is the foundation for sound ocean science and ocean understanding” remarks Prof. Peter Haugan, Programme Director at Institute of Marine Research of Bergen University and Chair of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, “Efforts such as AtlantOS will provide critical data and information to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), with its vision to - develop scientific knowledge, build infrastructure, and foster partnerships for a sustainable and healthy ocean.”


“A project such as AtlantOS, with so many partners, posed many challenges”, states Professor Dr. Martin Visbeck from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany, who coordinated the project. “Nonetheless, it was a unique opportunity to significantly advance ocean observing in the Atlantic”, Visbeck continues. The goal was not just to make more measurements but also to advance observational technologies, to better coordinate and integrate existing observing networks and data systems and to establish a broader All-Atlantic Ocean Observing System with a long-term perspective, Prof. Visbeck explains.


“The symposium will bring stakeholders from across the ocean community to articulate and refine the joint All-Atlantic ambition for ocean observing. It will provide input to the G7-Ocean group, the International OceanObs’ 19 Conference and the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), according to scientific coordinator of AtlantOS”, Dr. Anja Reitz from GEOMAR. About 200 participants from 20 countries will attend the symposium, held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris France from 25-28 March.


“Sustained, integrated and shared ocean observations and information improve our understanding of ocean, coastal and climate systems, and help us to manage human interventions and prepare for or avoid harmful impacts” adds Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) and Assistant Director General of UNESCO. “However, the scale of observational effort required to meet climate and human-induced challenges, large-scale ecosystem management and the development of a more sustainable ocean economy are beyond the capabilities or mandate of any single nation. Global trans-basin investment and coordination are required to ensure a fit-for-purpose ocean observing system.”


“Brazil has been fully engaged in AtlantOS since the beginning, highlighting the importance of the collaborative and equitable linkages between South and North in developing and supporting our observing ambitions in the Atlantic within the framework of the Belém Statement” remarks Andrei Polejack, General Coordinator for Oceans, Antarctica and Geosciences from Brazil. “From the South African perspective, understanding the connection between Atlantic Ocean change and our coastal regime is critical to better manage our fisheries and other ocean economic activities” adds Yonah Seleti, Department of Science and Technology, South Africa. “Island states, such as ours, rely on local and regional ocean information to inform their ocean development strategies.” says Dr. Paulo Veiga, State Secretary for Maritime Economy, Cabo Verde, “We engage with the AtlantOS programme to enhance international collaboration and local expert trainings.”


“We want to showcase achievements to better integrate existing data sets and improvements in international coordination of measurements. Of course, a 4-year programme can only be a starting point. The legacy of our project lies in a long-term strategy and perspective, for a basin-scale AtlantOS Program”, Martin Visbeck points out. AtlantOS the project has already contributed in a significant way to international programmes such as Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), a major component of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), its Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), and specifically its emerging “Oceans and Society: Blue Planet” initiative.


“Ocean observations are key to better understand ocean processes such as natural climate variations and climate change, future development of the marine ecosystem, the sustainable use of ocean resources and for the protection against marine hazards. Without observational data, we will not be able to understand these processes nor to develop plans to protect our ocean which is essential and indispensable to our global ecosystem and economy”, Professor Visbeck concludes.



Links: AtlantOS Symposium Website Galway Statement Belem Statement Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance AtlantOS Website Paris Declaration on All-Atlantic Ocean Observing Interview mit Prof. Dr. Martin Visbeck über das AntlantOS Programm




Anja Reitz, AtlantOS Coordinator, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany, Tel +49 431 6002234

Albert Fischer, GOOS - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, Paris, France, Tel +33 1 45 68 05 30