The CARCACE project deepwater platforms - modular designs for in situ experiments
1 THE CARCACE PROJECT1.1 General scientific backgroundMost deep-sea communities are limited by lowfood availability (Gage & Tyler 1991). Even inhighly productive surface waters, deep-sea ani-mals are generally adapted to a relatively low sup-ply of carbon. Some deep-sea animals, however,can alter their metabolism, growth rate, feedingbehaviour, and reproduction to exploit episodicpulses of organic enrichment, such as animal car-casses, plant debris, and wood (Gage & Tyler1991, Levin 2002). Decomposing whale carcasses,for example, deliver large pulses of organic mate-rial to the seafloor and serve as habitat islands forunique assemblages of deep-sea macrofauna(Smith & Baco 2003). Varying in time and space,these discrete resource patches are thought to con-tribute to habitat complexity and increase biodi-versity in the deep-sea environments (Baco &Smith 2003, Dahlgren et al. 2004, Braby et al.2007).In situ studies on whale carcasses showed atleast three successional stages following the arri-val of a fresh whale carcass at the deep-sea floor.After soft tissues removal by necrophages andscavengers, opportunistic species take advantageof the organic enrichment of the sediments andexposed bones. This is followed by a sulphophilicstage where chemoautotrophy is sustained by sul-phide coming from the anaerobic breakdown ofbone lipids (Smith & Baco 2003). Depending onthe size of the whale, its bones can contain enoughoil to support chemosynthetic species for as longas 80 years. Because whale falls share a number oftaxa with other chemosynthetic habitats, such ascold seeps or hydrothermal vents, they have beenhypothesized to act as steppingstones in the evolu-tion and distribution of chemoautotrophic com-munities (Smith et al. 1989, Distel at al. 2000).During both the opportunistic and the sulphophilicstages, whale falls also harbour a number of po-tentially endemic species (Smith & Baco 2003),the most outstanding being perhaps the recentlydescribed bone-eating worm Osedax (Rouse et al.2004).The ecology, biogeography and evolution ofdeep-sea whale fall communities have in the last10 years become topics of broader interest to theoceanographic and marine biological communi-ties, setting the stage for more detailed ecologicaland phylogenetic studies. Surprisingly, all long-term studies of whale carcasses and other large or-ganic falls on the deep-sea have been restricted tothe Pacific (Smith & Baco 2003, Milessi et al.2005, Braby et al., 2007, Fujiwara et al. 2007) andthe role of these habitats in the Atlantic Ocean hasbeen overlooked. In the Atlantic, the only observa-tions of mammal carcasses were either on shallowwaters (Glover et al. 2005) or short-term observa-tions (Kemp et al. 2006), which being of utmostimportance to understand these habitats, are notsufficient to evaluate the deep-sea community re-sponse to intense pulses of organic falls nor theirThe CARCACE project deepwater platforms – Modular designs for insitu experimentsD. Ribeiro & A. HilárioCESAM and Biology Department, University of Aveiro, PortugalABSTRACT: The CARCACE project aims to study ecosystems created by large organic falls in the deep-seaand it required the deployment of cow carcasses at 1000m depth in the Setubal Canyon. The carcasses wereattached to a platform designed to enable the deployment of a variety of instruments and experiments. A totalof 5 survey dives will take place every six months using ROV’s or research submersibles. Various prototypesof instruments and innovative systems can be tested during theses dives. Sediment traps, current meters, hy-drophones, cameras and miniaturized automated labs, are some examples of the instruments that can be at-tached to the platforms. It will also be possible to conduct long-term studies of materials resistance, whichwill be subjected to 100 atmospheres for up to two years. Cooperation with various entities that can providetechnologies for the project, through “Barter Agreements” has been initiated and some examples are pre-sented.
importance as sulphide-rich habitat islands at theAtlantic Ocean deep-sea floor.Present and past population connectivity be-tween cold seeps in both side of the Atlantic andhydrothermal vents in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge(MAR) is currently under debate (Cordes et al.2007) but the importance of large organic falls hasnot been discussed yet. A first insight into the rolethat organic decomposition play in providing habi-tat for chemoautotrophic invertebrate symbioses inthe deep Atlantic was given by the discovery ofvestimentiferan tubeworms, at the site of a ship-wreck 30 miles of the coast of Spain at 1160 mdepth (Dando et al. 1992). Vestimentiferans arepredominant constituents of Pacific vent and bothPacific and Atlantic seep habitats but their absencefrom hydrothermal vents in the Mid AtlanticRidge (MAR) and cold seeps in the Northeast At-lantic remains one of the most intriguing questionsfor scientists studying deep-sea chemosyntheticenvironments.Only a strategic selection of new study sites hasthe potential to resolve a global map of deep-seachemosynthetic environments biogeography anddefine biogeographic boundaries. The deep Portu-guese margin and the Azores area are not due toreceive large organic inputs from land but encom-pass an important area of the distribution of ceta-ceans in the Northeast Atlantic both resident (e.g.Hyperoodon ampullatus) and migrating (e.g.Balaenoptera physalus) (Harwood & Wilson2001, Silva et al. 2003) and therefore are excep-tional places to study the impact that marinemammal carcasses might have in the deep AtlanticOcean.During the CARCACE (Colonization of mam-mal carcasses in the deep Atlantic Ocean), mam-mal carcasses will be deployed at a 1000 m depth,one in the S. Jorge channel (Azores) and anotherin the Setubal canyon. These two in situ experi-ments will allow a comparison between the colo-nization dynamics and species composition be-tween areas with different geological andhydrological settings and address questions relatedto species distribution, dispersal strategies andphylogeography.Table 1. Cruise planning for the experimental site in theSetubal Canyon.Mission Date VesselDeployment 5thMarch 2011 NRP Alm. Gago CoutinhoSampling November 2011 To be determined (TBD)Sampling March 2012 TBDSampling November 2012 TBDSampling March 2013 TBDFigure 1. Deployment of five cow carcasses in the SetubalCanyon in March of 2011.1.2 Objectives and working planStudies of any new environment generally fallinto three consecutive phases: composition, struc-ture and dynamics. During the CARCACE projectthese three phases will be followed to address awide range of questions in the biology of habitatsprovided by large organic falls. The objectives forthis study are 1) describe deep-water mammal car-cass’ fauna in the Atlantic, 2) investigate func-tional anatomy of organic-fall specialists, includ-ing potential bacterial endosymbioses, 3)determine phylogenetic relationships of organic-fall specialists and their closest relatives to evalu-ate evolutionary hypotheses 4) analyse the trophicstructure of colonizing metazoan assemblages 5)elucidate the importance of large organic falls as astepping-stone habitat for vent and seep species inthe Atlantic.To achieve these objectives it was initiallyplanned to deploy two carcasses of stranded ma-rine mammals in two places where marine mam-mals occur naturally and possibly died. However,because of logistic constraints it was decided touse cow carcasses (Fig. 1) as an alternative simu-lator of a large organic fall. Cow bones have beenused in other areas of the world’s oceans (e.g.Monterey Canyon) and have been colonized by thesame groups of animals that colonize whale falls(Jones et al 2008). The Setubal Canyon and the S.Jorge Channel, both at approximately 1000 mdepth, were chosen as study sites. These sites havebeen selected to maximize integration with a vari-ety of geological and biological data obtained inother projects, and also because of their proximityto shore and the laboratories involved in the pro-ject, which will allow an efficient use of ship-timeand virtually undisturbed retrieval of bones withlive fauna for laboratory experiments and observa-tion. Each experimental site will be visited everysix months during a period of two years (Table 1),video surveyed and sampled using a Remotely
Operated Vehicle (ROV). This approach will al-low the identification of succession patterns, asubject of broad ecological interest because suc-cession provides insight into deep-sea communityresponse to extreme point-source enrichment, bothnatural (e.g. from whale falls) and anthropogenic.The timescales over which large quantities of or-ganic material might become assimilated into theseafloor community, and the recovery time of thelocal community after dissipation of enrichmentare issues of relevance to deep-sea carbon flux andto predicting the effects of analogous anthropo-genic organic enrichment in the deep-sea floor(e.g. relocation of sewage sludge, fishery discards,and disposal of animal waste).2 NEW DESIGNS FOR PLATFORMS2.1 Specific challenges of CARCACE projectData collection at deep-sea organic falls re-quires an access to advanced manned or un-manned submersibles, reducing the possibilitiesfor a rigorous sample design. On the other hand,recurrent sampling is essential because of thedramatically different faunal communities at dif-ferent stages while the community develops, andsampling at different spatial scales are importantto address questions related to species distribution,dispersal strategies, phylogeography, populationgenetics and population dynamics. On top of theseconstraints, the study of artificially sunken organicmatter, as in the CARACE project, requires thedeployment and the sinking of a large quantity oforganic matter to the seafloor, which is usuallydone by means of a concrete weight or railwaybars. Also, the risk that relatively large predatorsfeeding on the carcasses that would end up scatter-ing the bones over a wide area on the seafloorshould be avoided.To optimize the deployment activities we pro-pose to design a platform that allows to maximizethe amount of organic material deployed and at thesame time fitting positioning and environmentalmonitoring equipment. We developed an initialcustomized deployment strategy that was intendedto allow the assembly of a particularly large lan-der, and the subsequent attachment of at least twotons of organic matter, without having to use largeoceanographic ships.2.2 Innovative designsA special platform was designed as a digitalprototype using Autodesk Inventor. This floatingplatform uses the JETFLOAT commercial system,together with a proprietary new support infrastruc-ture design from BAROMETRICS (a companythat is currently being set up). This system allowsthe platform to be towed at higher speed than itwould otherwise be possible. Four ramps are usedto transport and deploy large bovines. In the centerof the platform there is a moon-pool and a specialA-Frame structure that will allow the descent of aspecial partially-assembled lander. At a depth of15 meters, a team of divers completes the assem-bly of the large lander. The lander has some mov-ing parts, and it follows a design philosophy rela-tively similar to the project “intelliSTRUCT”being researched at SINTEF from Norway thatapply the principles of Tensegrity (Tensional In-tegrity Structuring), that are also known as float-ing compression. Muscles and bones allow vari-ous complex movements of the human body usingthese mechanical phenomena.We are also exploring other possible overlapareas between naval engineering and biology, us-ing the concepts from Biomimicry research. Boththe initial and final designs of the first platformhave features to allow easy interfacing with possi-ble future advanced underwater robotic systemsdesigned along the lines of the studies of root sys-tems for ground anchoring developed by thebiomimetics group of the Advanced ConceptsTeam from the European Space Agency (Dario etal 2008).Uncertainties with the time needed to fully testthis new design, together with the additional timethat would be required to obtain the necessary seaworthiness certification, led to the postponementof the construction and deployment of this newfloating platform for the first mission. Instead,during a design review meeting, a more simple de-sign was chosen and built, focusing on the maintask that need to be preformed by the platform,which is, above all, to be able to anchor in a reli-able manner for three years, all the organic mate-rial that will give rise to the chemosynthetic eco-system.Since the intensity of the currents at 1000 m inthe Setubal Underwater Canyon is unknown, dur-ing a design review meeting it was decided that itwould be desirable to have a concrete block (Fig.2) weighing two tons to serve as a reliable anchor-ing system able to cope with the possible exis-tence of occasional strong currents.
Figure 2. General view of the instrument platform, with thecentral quadripod, a passive sonar reflector, and 16 mooringattachments that were used to attach the 5 cows.2.3 Innovative organizational optionsOne innovation of the first underwater platformfrom the CARCACE project consists of the useof “barter agreements” at national level in a waythat enabled a faster pace of the final design,construction, and deployment. Barter agree-ments are frequently used as tools for interna-tional cooperation. These arrangements allowfor no-cost exchanges of ship-time and majormarine equipment, and promote a more efficientand cost-effective use of each countrys re-sources by giving the scientific communities ac-cess to a wider range of marine facilities andgeographical areas in a given year than wouldotherwise be possible. At the national level, andamong private companies and universities,however, these tools are not used as frequentlyas they could be. The authors believe that it ispossible to deepen and broaden the use of this“enabling tool” at the national level. Besides thebarter agreements, there is also the possibility toincrease the impact on the market of each mis-sion or research dive. This is based on themaximization of a new parameter based on the“stakeholder” concept (R. Edward Freeman,1984): “stakeholder density per mission”. Inspace projects, due to the very high cost of or-bital launches this value is usually very high. Inoceanographic projects, oftentimes, it tends tobe relatively lower. For example, there are somecases where research dives take place usingtools and infrastructures that could easily ac-commodate additional biological experimentsand materials resistance tests. Likewise, differ-ent universities occasionally miss out on possi-ble cooperation efforts. Coordination among re-search groups with very different interests maybe difficult but it is possible to bypass this po-tential difficulty by establishing joint efforts atthe private level. New cooperation strategies arebeing explored through the application of neworganizational paradigms developed from stud-ies of the evolutionary importance of altruism atthe biological level (Nowak & Highfield 2011).This also has the additional advantage to openup new possibilities for private research to takeplace alongside usual academic research. Someof the new trends in aerospace design, towardsfaster, cheaper, better missions, as described inthe book “The Logic of Microspace” (Fleeter,2000) were incorporated on our design and willcontinue to guide our approach to new oceano-graphic instrumentation design.3 FIRST MISSION3.1 Construction of the concrete platformThe reinforced concrete platform weights 2000Kg and has embedded structures to hold scientificinstruments and/or experiments (Fig. 3). Theseare: four suction conduits; four cylindrical wellsaround the central area; ten smaller experimentholders near the edges; one larger experimentholder tube. Along the edges, there are eightgroups of markers designed to provide a visual re-ference to ROV operators.3.2 Deployment of the first platformOn the 5thof March, 2011 the first platformwas deployed at 38º16.85’N; 09º06.68’W at 1004m depth using the Portuguese research vessel NRPAlmirante Gago Coutinho (Fig. 4). Before deploy-ing the platform we surveyed the site seafloor withthe vessel’s multibeam echosounder.The deployment was made on a flat area of theSetubal Underwater Canyon, located near the Es-pichel Cape.3.3 Initial Barter AgreementsAlthough many exploratory contacts have been es-tablished with a wide variety of stakeholders, onlythree barter agreements have been established upto now. The possibility to develop and suggest anew standardized legal mechanism to supportthese particular efforts is being studied, possiblywith the adoption of intellectual property man-agement solutions using some of the “CreativeCommons” (Aliprandi, 2010) principles.
Figure 3. The reinforced concrete platform has four longersuction conduits on the corners. In spite of the 19 embeddedstructures, there was still space available for more instru-mentation to be housed inside.Figure 4. NRP Gago Coutinho from Instituto Hidrográficowas chosen due to the ability to use Dynamic Positioning.An acoustic transponder was used to release the concreteplatform with several embedded experiments.3.4 Support from National VeterinaryAuthoritiesThe need to find a way to attach the cows to theplatform, so that, on one hand they would not be-come detached by predators, but that would beflexible enough to mimic the bone layout of awhale fall, led to the cooperation with ProfessorSaraiva Lima, a veterinarian from “Faculdade deMedicina Veterinária”. A metal cable was intro-duced through the oesophagus of the five cows inorder to anchor them permanently to the platform.Industrial straps were also used.The national veterinary authorities (DirecçãoGeral de Veterinária - DGV) were instrumental inallowing access to the carcasses of cows that diedof natural causes, and provided key clarificationsabout the legal framework required to enable theuse of bovines for scientific purposes. The car-casses were collected at the farms where they diedand taken to a factory (ITS - Industria Transfor-madora de Subprodutos, S.A.) where the bowelswere removed and the carcasses washed and sown.Several cetaceans that die and wash up on theshores create complex disposal problems to thecoastal sanitary authorities due to their large size.There is a possible future role for marine biolo-gists to help with this problem by suggesting suit-able locations where the whale carcasses can besunk with great benefit for this research project.3.5 Sponsorship from SECILIn order to seize the opportunity to evaluate thebehaviour of concrete at a depth of 1000 meters,SECIL developed a special kind of cement. After2013, there is the possibility to recover the plat-form, thus allowing an unprecedented occasion tostudy the behaviour of concrete structures atgreater depths than usual. SECIL also used thisopportunity to test six different types of concretesthat were placed inside mesh bags attached to theplatform (Fig 5). These samples will be retrievedduring the sampling dives of the CARACE pro-ject.Figure 5. Besides providing a special type of cement thatwas developed for this experiment, there are six differentsamples attached to the platform inside bags that will allowtheir retrieval by ROV’s. There is also an additional sampleof a cement rod encased in PVC.3.6 Cooperation with Marsensing CompanyMarsensing is a spin-off from the UnderwaterAcoustic Signal Processing Laboratory of theUniversity of the Algarve. The goal of this col-laboration is to test the possibility to document theevolution of the deep chemosynthetic ecosystemwith new advanced bioacoustic tools. The plat-form was designed to allow the future placement
of batteries that will be able to power the hydro-phones for six months (Fig. 6).Figure 6. Hydrophone casing being placed on one of the cen-tral cylindrical slots, for watertight testing.3.7 Cooperation with Adobe Engenharia S.A.The fast fabrication of the platform was enabledby the initiative of a private company that is cur-rently developing prototypes for underwater in-struments and innovative support structures (Fig.7). The company has the technical capability tocontribute to the study of new anchoring systems,through soil deformation analysis.Figure 7. Adobe Engenharia has the capability to build avery wide variety of support infrastructures quickly. Thisquadripod lifted the full weight of the concrete platformflawlessly.4 NEXT MISSIONSThe recent acquisition of a deep-sea ROV bythe Portuguese Task Group for the Extension ofthe Continental Shelf (EMEPC) provides an op-portunity to the Portuguese scientific communityto develop research on the deep-sea, especially onin situ observation and experimentation.As an example, the concrete platform that is cur-rently deployed at a depth of 1000 meters has fourembedded green tubes that have a diameter delib-erately compatible with the suction sampler fromthe “Luso” ROV. This feature will allow samplingunder the platform in an area that otherwise wouldbe inaccessible. Several other aspects have beendesigned in order to maximize accessibility andinteroperability to various underwater systems.4.1 Four Survey DivesSeveral different commercial ROV’s are beingevaluated as potential tools. The location of theinstrumentation platform, being relatively near theshore, allows a wider selection of support vesselsthat will be able to make a short detour from theirmain mission and therefore provide flexible op-portunities to conduct the survey dives. Each sur-vey dive must bring back six pushcores of sedi-ments, as well as a variety of underwaterorganisms that will be collected in order to studythe evolution of the chemosynthetic ecosystem.In order to document the gradual emergence ofnew life forms on the experiment site, the divesare scheduled to take place every six months.4.2 Experiments that can be deployedA special emphasis is to be given to materials re-search, in part because of the relatively rare oppor-tunity of monitoring over time the various changesthat will occur. The variety and quantity of ex-periments currently envisaged is relatively similarto the ones that were deployed on the Long Dura-tion Exposure Facility - LDEF payload that or-bited the earth for five years from 1984 to 1990(Clark et al 1984).4.3 Instruments that can be deployedSimilarly to what is happening with coastalaquatic environments there is a vast array of in-struments that can be used to monitoring deep-seaecosystems (Miller et al 2005). Sediment traps,current meters, acoustic beacons, hydrophones, oreven cameras and miniaturized automated labs,are some of the examples of the instruments thatcan be attached to the deepwater platforms.
4.3.1 Mounted on the concrete platformCurrently there are several empty slots on theconcrete platform. Along the sides, there are 10cylindrical support structures of 50 mm diameterfor sediment traps or other apparatus that may beavailable. Three rectangular empty slots can beused to place various boxes. There are 12 attach-ment points on the legs of the quadripod. Four up-per attachment points can also be used. Three in-ner cylindrical cavities under the quadripod legsare still available (the fourth is occupied by theMarsensing Hydrophone watertight test).4.3.2 Mounted on the ROV CageOftentimes ROV cages are used with severalempty areas that could easily carry various sensorsand experiments. In some cases, waterproofingtests of small subsystems can be performed. Theexperiment from Marsensing that is currently un-derwater, for instance, only needed this kind of“experimental dive opportunity”.4.3.3 Piggyback payloads on ROV’s and subsIn order to increase “stakeholder density” per dive,a number of different ways to attach secondary in-strument experiments is being designed. In somecases, customized booms will allow a consider-able increase to the scientific yield of each dive.Lightweight hydrodynamic fairings will be addedif necessary, to avoid any serious disruption ofperformance.4.3.4 Deployed by additional mini-landersBy using PVC tubes filled with concrete, con-nected by cables, it will be possible to buildsmaller support structures. This will allow theplacement of additional payloads around the initialinstrument platform.5 FUTURE PROJECTSThe systems currently being developed cangradually become national standards. There is apossibility to cultivate self-sufficiency in some ar-eas of oceanographic instrumentation. Some com-ponents could be built under license from well es-tablished subsea technology companies. APortuguese system similar to the Spanish OBSEAproject (Carreras et al 2009) or the AmericanMonterey Accelerated Research System cabledseafloor observatory, is currently being envisagedfor the Luis Saldanha Marine Park area. The loca-tion of the first concrete platform that was de-ployed on the 5thof March 2011 could become theterminal node of a future network of “near shore”cabled underwater observatories, linking the sea-floor around the Sesimbra region. Another systemcould be located in the Nazaré underwater canyon,allowing for a wide variety of oceanographic pa-rameters.Scientists from CESAM and other institutionswill be invited to provide various instrumentationand scientific support to the initial nodes of a pro-totype version of a cabled underwater observatory.All the systems and infrastructures developed andtested during the CARCACE project can be usedto support theses developments. Scientists to-gether with partners in the telecom industry cancontribute to the efforts currently underway for theharmonization of Ocean Observing Systems (DelRio & Delory 2010).Some of the foreseeable large data output fromall theses instruments and experiments can be ana-lyzed with the involvement of the general publicunder “Citizen Science” projects relatively similarto the “Stardust@home” supported by NASA, theUniversity of California in Berkeley and thePlanetary Society.6 CONCLUSIONSThe scientific goals of the CARCACE project aredemanding and require the systematic develop-ment and continued deployment of advanceddeepwater platforms. Several new designs are be-ing developed. The existing barter agreements, to-gether with additional cooperative ventures, usingnew organizational paradigms, may help over-come several obstacles that limit the scope and thedepth of joint efforts among different stakeholdersat the national level. The capabilities currently be-ing developed may enable the launch of a newproject to create an innovative underwater cabledobservatory network that can allow the creation ofnew products and services.7 AKNOWLEDGEMENTSThe CARCACE project is financed by the Euro-pean Regional Development Fund (ERDF)through the COMPETE programme and by na-tional funds through FCT (project ref:PTDC/MAR/099656/2008). AH is financed by theFCT grant SFRH/ BPD/22383/20058 REFERENCES− Aliprandi, S (2010) Creative commons: a userguide. Lulu.com Publishers. 84 pp.− Baco AR, Smith CR (2003) High species rich-
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