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Objectives / Background

The EU Green Paper “Towards a future maritime policy for the Union: a European vision of the oceans and seas” will eventually lead to an EU Maritime Policy. The two mainstays of this policy are the Lisbon Strategy (related to economic growth) and the improvement of the status of the ocean (related to maintaining a healthy marine environment). Most recently, a number of initiatives have followed up on these strategies, namely the IMP green paper (June 2006), the Aberdeen declaration (June 2007), and a current ERA-Net CSA (see below). Therefore, our research plan is strongly linked to the development of the maritime policy and its environmental pillar, i.e. the Thematic Strategy for the Protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment.

The main focus of the DS3F initiative will be the interface between the geosphere and the hydrosphere, comprised of the seafloor and the upper kilometer subseafloor. This portion is easily drillable, where - depending on the geodynamic setting – processes as variable as ocean crust formation including ore deposition, sediment dewatering during compaction, gas hydrate processes, catastrophic landsliding, mud volcanism, earthquake slip, or growth of cold-water coral reefs may occur. It is equally the depth window where processes fuelling ecosystems on the seafloor, but also in the subseafloor (deep biosphere), are most active. In addition, exploration drilling for gas hydrates, extraction of mineral resources and hydrocarbons and CO2 sequestration usually takes place here. This scientific coordination action will involve stakeholders and socio-economists who will explore socio-economic research needs and form a bridge between scientists and policymakers. The DS3F initiative aims at providing coordination strategies for future European activities in subseafloor sampling in environmentally sensitive areas. It will improve an understanding of the functioning of deep-sea ecosystems and improve strategies for a prediction of their future evolution. It will contribute to the development of new techniques and methods to study the deep-sea geo-biosphere system and its interaction with climate in the past, present and future. Products of this initiative will develop from (1) specific workshops as well as one multi-disciplinary conference bringing together Europe’s experts in seafloor observations, deep-sea ecosystem development and subseafloor drilling with environmental agencies, policy makers and industry; via (2) an electronic platform for enhancing information flow and synergies between deep-sea research, seafloor observation and drilling programs; and towards (3) a “white paper” assessing future needs in understanding the functioning of deep-sea ecosystems and for predicting their evolution in the context of climate change and anthropogenic use and impact of the deep-sea.

Individual projects addressing various aspects of deep-sea and subseafloor developments are already underway and one of the important objectives of the DS3F initiative is to link those to the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) for integrated societal relevant future research activities.

The main fields of the existing projects are: