Deep-Sea Benthic Ecosystems Offshore West Africa


Dr. Doris Meyerdierks (HWK) 


Dr. ir. Veerle A.I. Huvenne (Alumna EARTH), National Oceanography Centre (NOC), Southampton, UNITED KINGDOM
Dr. Covadonga Orejas Saco del Valle (Alumna EARTH), Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO-CSIC), Gijón, SPAIN


  • Prof. Dr. Dierk Hebbeln, Dr. Claudia Wienberg, and Dr. Jürgen Titschack, MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. André Freiwald, Senckenberg am Meer, Wilhelmshaven, Germany
  • PD Dr. Thor Hansteen and M.Sc. Mia Schumacher, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany
  • M.Sc. Beatriz Vinha (Alumna EARTH), University of Salento, Lecce, Italy
  • Dr. Christian Mohn (EARTH Fellow), Aarhus University, Denmark 




It has often been said that the deep ocean is the last frontier on Earth: we know more about the face of the Moon or Mars than we know about our own deep sea. Unfortunately, nowhere on the planet this is more the case than in the deep-sea offshore Africa: deep-water research and exploration is expensive, and requires equipment, funds and skills that are often not available in Africa. Still, those deep waters host an unknown wealth in terms of biodiversity and ecosystems, with many species and biodiversity hotspots still awaiting discovery. Particularly benthic assemblages supported by so-called ecosystem engineers (corals, sponges, ...) are of great importance.  At the same time, however, human activities are already impacting these remote waters and are threatening these precious ecosystems: large fishing fleets, including bottom trawlers from industrialised nations are operating offshore Africa, oil & gas extraction activities are expanding, and climate change, with its associated warming, ocean acidification and de-oxygenation, does not know any territorial boundaries. With this in mind, there is an urgent need for more focused research in the region, for robust information to support conservation measures and for capacity building, in order to increase our understanding of biodiversity patterns and their drivers, and protect these important ecosystems. The proposed Study Group will bring together researchers specialised in several aspects related to the study of deep-sea environments, in order to progress our knowledge of West African deep-water ecosystems and provide the necessary input towards conservation and capacity building in the region. The main focus areas will be the ecosystems around Cabo Verde, Mauretania, Angola, and the Walvis Ridge.


With this Study Group, we aim to continue existing collaborations, and build new connections, in order to develop future research projects and scientific publications on the topic of the deep-sea ecosystems offshore West Africa. Each of our meetings will focus on one of the chosen study areas and will include invited speakers with expertise for that specific area. Overall, we aim to:

  • advance ongoing research on the various deep-sea ecosystems offshore West Africa, with a particular focus on the waters off Cabo Verde, Mauretania, Angola and around the Walvis Ridge
  • generate new ideas / research questions / work hypotheses to develop further collaborative research initiatives in those areas (i.e., research projects, oceanographic expeditions, Ph D Thesis, master thesis).
  • explore funding possibilities at national, European and international level for further research initiatives,
  • gather and collate information aiming to propose Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)and / or Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs), as well as Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs).
  • develop capacity building activities with researchers of the focus countries (i.e., Cabo Verde, Mauritania, Angola) 


June 9 to 10, 2022: Preparatory Workshop of the Study Group (in presence)
March 2 to 3, 2023: Kick-off Meeting (hybrid)
November 8 to 10, 2023: 2nd Meeting (hybrid)