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    PAP LangzeitstudiePAP Time Series

PAP Time Series

PAP stands for Porcupine Abyssal Plain

Project leader: David Billett, National Oceanography Centre Southampton




The Porcupine Abyssal Plain is situated in the Northeast Atlantic off the southwest coast of Ireland and was named after the HMS Porcupine, which is famous for dredging the deep sea for living animals nearly 140 years ago. The PAP Time Series project is one of very few projects following processes on the abyssal seabed, the overlying water column, and the air above over time at a fixed location. The first data on plankton abundance are already more than 50 years old, and continuous data on the flux of particles (i.e., mainly decaying plankton) to the seafloor have been recorded since 1989. Benthic communities, which tend to integrate the often fast changes in the water column over space and time, have been observed over the same time period. Data from the project provide very valuable information related to global climate change and its impact on all human activities related to the sea.


The site off Ireland was chosen because it is flat, calm and remote yet easily reached by research vessels.The site is observed with instruments and sensors that are deployed, left in the water or on the seafloor for about a year and then retrieved and replaced or redeployed after servicing. Parameters continuously measured are temperature, salinity, current speed, nutrients, and others. A Bathysnap camera (photo) takes pictures at regular time intervals.



One of the most exciting discoveries was the so-called Amperima event, a dramatic 100-fold increase in abundance of the sea cucumber Amperima rosea in 1996 which since has proven to be more than a short-term explosion of the community. The reason for this shift was most likely a change in the quality of the particles falling to the seafloor. It is most remarkable that the change may have been very minor, yet caused a major change in the composition of large animals living on the seafloor some 3 miles below! Read more at the PAP homepage


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