Tamar estuary, UK

Case study area

Plymouth Sound is part of the Western Channel Observatory (WCO) situated on the north-west European Shelf that straddles several biogeographical provinces. The marine laboratories in Plymouth have sampled at several sites within the western English Channel for over a century in open shelf (e.g. station E1) and coastal (e.g. station L4) waters. Both stations are seasonally stratified generally from mid-April until September and the biological response changes from year to year being regulated by subtle variations in temperature, light, sea-water chemistry and meteorology. Station L4 is characterised by summer nutrient depletion, although intense summer precipitation increasing riverine input to the system results in pulses of increased nitrate concentration and surface freshening. Both stations have both a spring and autumn bloom, although at station E1 the autumn bloom tends to dominate in terms of chlorophyll concentration. Two autonomous scientific data buoy systems are deployed in the WCO and provide high frequency, quality-assured data sets. Powered from the environment in which they monitor and equipped with the latest sensor technology these systems provide a wealth of information on atmospheric and oceanographic parameters. Regular in situ field calibrations provide assurance of the hourly measurements, which in turn have unveiled the dynamic nature of the WCO stations. From short lived plankton blooms to freshwater runoff the buoys have brought a new level of understanding to this prestigious long term time series.

Plymouth Smart Sound delivers an impressive validation and demonstration facility for innovative maritime technologies. Ideally located in the UK’s “Ocean city”, Smart Sound provides direct waterfront access to a large and diverse marine environment. Co-ordinated through the Marine Business Technology Centre, Smart Sound provides affordable trials on state-of-the-art offshore facilities and boasts considerable expertise in autonomous systems and environmental sensor technologies. Multi-platform trials are delivered through large offshore buoy platforms, autonomous vessels and towed sensor arrays all engineered to facilitate prototype evaluation. Subsurface trials can also be accommodated with offshore water depths of 75m, providing an ideal environment for multi-platform mission trials.