UT Estonian Marine Institute researchers discovering unexplored open sea

In their fieldwork, researchers of the University of Tartu Estonian Marine Institute have for the first time surveyed in detail over 500 km2 of seabed in the Estonian economic zone of the Baltic Sea. During the works discoveries have been made which have not been documented by anyone.

 Seabed

Unknown shipwreck which according to experts of the protection of national heritage might be a submarine from the II World War era.

The workgroup of the University of Tartu Estonian Marine Institute is carrying out an extensive inventory of the seabed habitats and nature values in the Estonian economic zone, marginal sea and closed sea. During two fieldwork seasons (2014–2015) they have gathered information on the characteristics and biota of the seabed in the centre of the Baltic Sea, in Väinameri and the north–eastern part of the Gulf of Riga.

“Although the project is still ongoing we have already made several interesting findings, primarily in the previously unexplored open sea,” said Lead Research Fellow of the UT Estonian Marine Institute Georg Martin.

For the first time, 500 km2 of seabed in the Estonian economic zone was surveyed in detail. As a result, the occurrence of bacterial mats in the deep–sea bottom and completely unique reef–like landforms created by iron and manganese concretions were documented.

“The existence of these large scale 3D structures had never been described in scientific literature before,” said Martin and added that: “In the course of the fieldwork we also discovered a yet unknown shipwreck which according to experts of the protection of national heritage might be a submarine from the II World War era.”

According to Georg Martin, the biological material collected in the fieldwork is still being analysed in the laboratory and the majority of the video recordings from the seabed are yet to be processed: “There will definitely be new and interesting information in these materials as well.”

Martin said that even though the project’s fieldwork has been hindered by extremely bad weather conditions, they are hoping to complete the planned works on time and the summaries of the work should be ready by April 2016.

“We can already say that the expectations to discover something new and extraordinary during the exploration of the so called “blank spaces on maps” were completely justified. Considering that the Estonian economic zone is 11 300km2 and there is basically no information about its nature values, there is still much more work for future projects.”

The work is done in the course of project NEMA (Inventory and development of monitoring programme for nature values in Estonian marine areas) which is funded by the EEA Grants and Estonian Environmental Investment Centre.

Project website: http://nema.bef.ee/en/

Additional information: Georg Martin, Lead Research Fellow at UT Estonian Marine Institute, e–mail: georg.martin@ut.ee.

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