The Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) and Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS) has announced that 7 INSITE projects are set to receive £5 million of funding over the next 3 years.
INSITE (INfluence of Structures In The Ecosystem) is a JIP initiative, which seeks to provide all stakeholders with the science needed to better understand the effect of man-made structures on the North Sea and hence better inform any decision making process.
The recent awards come after an Announcement of Opportunity from NERC in 2019 inviting researchers to submit proposals for a new programme of science in support of the INSITE objectives. Peer reviewed by an international panel of independent experts, the projects have been granted funding until 2023.
The programme will build on INSITE’s Foundation Phase and aims to tackle the critical gaps in scientific understanding of the role that man-made structures play in marine ecosystems. The overarching question that the programme is looking to answer is “How critical are man- made structures (MMS) in the North Sea to ecosystem structure and function?” This will be addressed through three challenges:
- Understanding the role of man-made structures as an inter-connected hard substrate network in the North Sea.
- Understanding the role of man-made structures as artificial reefs in the North Sea.
- Ecological monitoring and assessment of man-made structures as whole systems in the North Sea ecosystem.
The research projects, focusing on the North Sea region, will be led by scientists across a number of UK-based centres of excellence including universities and marine research institutions.
Peter Oliver, Chair of the INSITE Executive Committee and Senior Environmental Scientist at Chevron’s Energy Technology Centre said: “The Foundation Phase of INSITE research made significant in-roads to our understanding of the role of MMS. This new work will further that understanding.”
“The purpose of the INSITE Programme has always been to provide a substantive resource for decision making. The scale of funding this new programme has attracted is an indication of its importance in informing strategy for MMS in the marine environment. We congratulate all the teams that have had grants confirmed and look forward to supporting them.”
Alongside the NERC grants, INSITE continues to support research with additional funding and in-kind support from a number of industry sponsors. This support will further enhance the development of INSITE Interactive, the data portal developed by the group in response to the expressed need from scientists for improved access to industry-held ecological data.