South & Central Atlantic Regional Scientific Research Working Group

The Central and South Atlantic RSR-WG is coordinated by Dr Kirsty McQuaid (South Africa), Dr Maila Guilhon (Brazil) and Prof Kerry Howell (UK). The RSR-WG consists of over 80 members and meets on a biannual basis.

Activities within the RSR-WG initially focused on producing a review of the deep-sea and shelf benthos of the Central and South Atlantic. The review, titled “Review of the Central and South Atlantic Shelf and Deep-Sea Benthos: Science, Policy, and Management” and published in 2023, synthesises contributions from 45 co-authors from 18 nations. This represents the most comprehensive summary to date of some of the world’s least explored ocean space. The review identifies particularly data-poor areas and proposes recommendations for future research and management in the region. Read more here.

Cold-water coral reef at 350m on the Angolan margin (credit: MARUM ROV Squid, Bremen, Germany)
Desmophyllum pertusum reef at 556m on Tanoûdêrt Canyon off Mauritania (credit: Tomas Lundälv, Tjärnö Marine Laboratory, University of Gothenburg, Sweden)

Members of the RSR-WG have also been busy at sea, undertaking research cruises to gather data and build knowledge of Central and South Atlantic deep-sea ecosystems. This has included exploration of coelacanths and their ecosystems, baseline environmental studies of the Argentine deep sea, biodiversity surveys of Ascension and St Helena Islands, and a capacity building cruise led by Early Career Researchers in South Africa.

The current focus of the RSR-WG is developing Expressions of Interest for Schmidt Ocean Institute’s calls for collaborative, multidisciplinary research. This is in support of the Challenger 150 Programme’s plans to map Atlantic deep-ocean life. To date several applications have been submitted for the South-western Atlantic to explore deep-waters in Argentina and Uruguay. Further Expressions of Interest are being developed for the Central and South Atlantic according to Schmidt Ocean Institute’s strategic framework. This remains the key activity of the RSR-WG, with a view to supporting collaborative exploration of least known areas led by local experts.

South African Early Career Researcher Luther Adams (credit: Kerry Sink, South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa)
Soft corals and sponges at 1880m on the flanks of Cadamosto Seamount in Cabo Verde (credit: iMirabilis2, IEO, CSIC/EMPEC/iAtlantic project)
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