UK Shelf Edge as shown by GEBCO
UK Shelf Edge as shown by GEBCO ©

The shallow shelf seas that surround our continents are the main interface between coastal regions and the deep oceans and play a vital role in the upkeep of the planet.

The offshore margins of shallow seas link the terrestrial, atmospheric and oceanic components of the carbon cycle — the backbone for life on the planet. They are also thought to influence key biogeochemical fluxes, including nutrients, thereby playing a pivotal role in the biodiversity within our coastal seas and ultimately regional fishery resources.

With a growing proportion of the world's population living in close proximity to coastal regions, it is crucial to improve our understanding of these shelf edge environments and the oceanographic processes bridging them.

Despite their relative proximity to land, large gaps still exist in our knowledge of shelf margin exchange processes. The sporadic nature of oceanographic research tends to result in snapshots, both in terms of time and space.

FASTNEt will utilise the very latest technological advancements in an attempt to improve our current knowledge of shelf margin processes. An ambitious programme of work will combine traditional research cruise measurements with cutting edge autonomous sampling strategies, which will generate year–round measurements. This information will feed into powerful computer models, which will help scientists to further plug the gaps in current understanding and help to predict future scenarios.