German research vessel sailing for Sargasso Sea
A German research vessel, which was docked in St George's, has set sail for the Sargasso Sea.
Scientists on-board the RV Maria S Merian will be assessing the hydrographic and ecological situation of the central Sargasso Sea pelagic community, its key components and major trophic pathways, according to a document published by the University of Hamburg.
The research cruise aims to investigate to what extent plastic particles have accumulated in the ecosystem and food web of the Sargasso Sea and what the interaction between plastic particles and microorganisms is in that area.
Special focus will be given to the early life history of two Atlantic freshwater eel species with a view towards discovering the causes for the decline in the European eel stock.
According to the mission outline, the Atlantic garbage patch in this area will also be assessed and analysed for interactions between microbial processes and microplastic particles, which may impact the fitness of eel larvae.
Additionally, the apparent decline of the Sargassum macroalgae will be investigated.
After completing the research cruise, the vessel is expected to return to Bermuda at the end of April, before heading further north to collect physical-oceanographic data in the Flemish Pass.
The research cruise to the Sargasso Sea was planned for last year, but had to be cancelled after the vessel experienced technical problems and returned to Bremerhaven, Germany.
According to the German Research Foundation, the Maria S Merian is “a multidisciplinary research platform equipped with outstanding facilities which allow the use of all modern methods of investigation of the sea-bottom, the water and the atmosphere.”
“The size of the vessel and its ice-breaking reinforced hull allow it to operate not only in the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic but also in the subpolar Arctic Ocean.
“With accommodation for 22 research personnel, the Maria S Merian is Germany's fourth largest research vessel.”