Deep-sea Sponge Grounds Ecosystems of the North Atlantic
an integrated approach towards their preservation and sustainable exploitation

Coordinator: University of Bergen, Norway (Prof. Hans Tore Rapp).
Co-coordinators: Florida Atlantic University, USA (Prof. Shirley Pomponi) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Prof. Ellen Kenchington)
Consortium: 25 EU, USA and Canadian partners
Timeframe: 4,5 years (March 2016 – August 2020)
Budget: ca. 10 M€

SponGES is a research and innovation project funded under the H2020 Blue Growth BG1 call aimed at “Improving the preservation and sustainable exploitation of Atlantic marine ecosystems”. Its overarching goal is to develop an integrated ecosystem-based approach to preserve and sustainably use deep-sea sponge ecosystems of the North Atlantic. Its consortium, an international and interdisciplinary collaboration of research institutions, environmental non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, will focus on one of the most diverse, ecologically and biologically important and vulnerable marine ecosystems of the deep-sea – sponge grounds – that have received very little research and conservation attention to date. This initiative, supported by the consortium strong competence and its operational and (bio)technological capacity, will specifically aim at:

  1. Strengthening the knowledge-base on North Atlantic sponge ground ecosystems by investigating their distribution, diversity, biogeography, function and dynamics;
  2. Improving innovation and industrial application by unlocking the biotechnological potential of these ecosystems;
  3. Improving the capacity to model, understand and predict threats and impacts and future anthropogenic and climate-driven changes to these ecosystems;
  4. Advancing the science-policy interface and developing tools for improved resource management and good governance of these ecosystems from regional to international levels across the North Atlantic.

SponGES will contribute to the implementation of major strategic instruments such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), EU Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic Ocean Area, the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation, as well as international agreements established to conserve Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) and Ecologically or Biologically Sensitive Areas (EBSAs).