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A Trans-AtLantic Assessment and deep-water ecosystem-based Spatial management plan for Europe (ATLAS)


The ATLAS project is striving to improve our understanding of complex deep-sea ecosystems and their associated species, including those that are new to science. Researchers are looking to predict future changes to these ecosystems and species and their vulnerabilities and adaptation capacity in the face of climate change. As well as carrying out pioneering research and discovery, ATLAS is developing a scientific knowledge base that can inform the development of international policies to ensure deep-sea Atlantic resources are managed effectively. This will contribute to the European Commission’s long-term “Blue Growth” strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole.

The four overarching objectives of ATLAS are to:

  • advance our understanding of deep Atlantic marine ecosystems and populations;
  • improve our capacity to monitor, model and predict shifts in deep-water ecosystems and populations;
  • transform new data, tools and understanding into effective ocean governance;
  • scenario-test and develop science-led, cost-effective adaptive management strategies that stimulate Blue Growth.


To achieve project goals, ATLAS has assembled 12 cross-cutting case studies to provide the first coherent, integrated basin-scale assessment of Atlantic deep-water ecosystems and their Blue Growth potential. These all lie along critical paths of major Atlantic current patterns, with some case study areas currently proposed or classified as Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) or Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs). The case studies give the biogeographic, regulatory and jurisdictional range needed to meet ATLAS’ objectives.

The policy brief Recognising connectivity and climate change impacts as essential elements for an effective North Atlantic MPA network was published in 2019. Practical implications for the planning of MPA networks include the need to recognise marine exploited areas and deep-sea areas where biodiversity may be more resilient to climate change.

Project information


University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom)


Aarhus University (Denmark), the Institute of Marine Research – IMAR (Portugal), Regional Directorate for Sea Affairs  (Portugal), British geological survey (United Kingdom), Gianni Consultancy (Netherlands), the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (France), Marine Scotland (United Kingdom), University of Breme (Germany), Iodine-Consultancy in Marine Environmental Economics (Belgium), Royal Netherlands Institute for the sea (Netherlands), Dynamic Earth (New Kingdom), Oxford University (United Kingdom), University College Dublin (Ireland), University College London (United Kingdom), National University of Ireland, Galway (Ireland), University of Liverpool (United Kingdom), University of Southern Denmark (denmark), Arctic University of Norway (Norway), Scottish association for marine science (United Kingdom), Sea scape consultants (United Kingdom), National Spanish Institute of Oceanography (Spain), University of North Carolinaat Wilmington (United States), AquaTT UETP (Ireland), Fisheries and Oceans (Canada).

Source of funding

This project is funded by the EC Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme

Reference information


Published in Climate-ADAPT Mar 15 2018   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Dec 12 2023

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