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Seafloor observatories - currently represented by the ESONET (European Seafloor Observatory Network) Network of Excellence within FP7, which followed the ORION-Geostar3 project within OMARC (see WP8 below). These projects, which are planning the installation and maintenance of seafloor observatories on and in the deep seafloor, will take ocean monitoring into a new dimension by providing long-term records of a wide range of environmental parameters, including relevant biological observations for ecosystem research. The data will provide records of earthquakes via instrumented boreholes at key locations on plate boundaries; information on seafloor ecosystems and how they vary with time; direct measurements of sedimentary processes such as sediment transport via currents and turbidity currents; and measurements of water mass properties. The EMSO project (European Multidisciplinary Seas Observation), to develop the key infrastructure for seafloor observatories, is listed in the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). EMSO has been kicked off in September 2008 to establish the legal and governance framework for the infrastructure serving scientists and other stakeholders within and outside Europe for long-term deep-water observation and investigation. This framework will enable the deployment of the infrastructure and its long-term management. In Ireland, the SMARTBAY project provides such an example.
Extending the understanding of marine biosphere and geosphere research by adding a fourth dimension, i.e. temporal variability, to the relevant processes will provide a huge step forward towards the sustainable use of this environment.