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Subseafloor sampling and scientific drilling

Subseafloor sampling and scientific drilling – recently represented by an ERA-Net (ECORD-Net; see www.ecord.org) related to the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (www.iodp.org), the ESF EuroMARC program (www.esf.org/activities/eurocores/programmes/euromarc.html), and the IMAGES program (www.images-pages.org/).

Obtaining samples from the sub-seafloor is crucial to develop a significant progress in the Earth and environmental sciences. Over the past 30 years, European researchers have played a leading role in international marine coring that has been central to most of the important advances in global dynamics science with far-reaching implications for Earth scientists and society. Contributions to important scientific discoveries have included the study of microbial communities (deep biosphere) and discovery of frozen methane (gas hydrates) below the sea floor, the evidence of past extreme and rapid climate variations, high-resolution climate perturbations, and the understanding of mechanisms of ocean biogeochemical cycles. The potential impact and effect of such processes on European and Global environments have been recognised, though still poorly understood. It is obviously an emerging need for European science to enhance mission-specific subseafloor sampling programs related to IODP and ECORD expeditions or IMAGES long piston coring.

ECORD, the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling, has used a variety of platforms to sample the Arctic Ocean, cold-water coral reefs in the Atlantic Ocean, warm-water coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean and archives for global sea level change to unravel paleo-environmental conditions (see Work Package [WP] 7 below). IMAGES (International Marine Global Change Study) is mostly related to climate evolution and paleo-environmental effects, which sheds important light on current ecosystem processes. There have been successful EC-funded subseafloor sampling projects (e.g. PROMESS) and ongoing activities such as the ESF project "The European Polar Research Icebreaker Consortium ERICON - AURORA BOREALIS". Enhancing these efforts is a key to progress towards a wide, cross-disciplinary understanding of geobiosphere processes in extreme environments that have the potential for global change.