MarGate: An underwater experimental area and test facility off Helgoland

The project MarGate was initiated in 2009 by the AWI Centre for Scientific Diving at Helgoland to provide an easy accessible marine underwater experimental area for:

  • In situ research projects of the AWI Centre for Scientific Diving (AWI-CSD) and its national and interntional coperation partners.
  • Testing sensors and underwater facilities for scientific and industrial applications under offshore conditions. 
  • Conducting a diver supported long-term study on the effects of artificial constructions for coastal protection measures (tetrapods) on the biota under real conditions.

The area is about 270 x 100 m in size, located between 5 and 10 m water depth and is marked by (6) red surface buoys as maritime exclusive zone for ship traffic. Six tetrapod-fields (four-footed concrete breakwaters, see graph) have been installed in  5 and in 10 m water depth (with support of the construction company HC Hagemann Hamburg, Germany) to study the effects of artificial breakwaters on the shallow water fish and macro-invertebrate community.

Since summer 2012, the MarGate field contains the first German underwater node system developped in the framework of COSYNA. This system provides continuous and managable power and network acces under water at 10 separated underwater matable docking ports each providing 48V/200W and 100 MBit/1 GBit network connection. Each port can be individually addressed and managed by its registered user (= sensor owner) from everywhere of the world to control and manage even complex sensor units fully remotely.

As basic hydrographical parameters from the area, the AWI operates multiple sensor systems for the main abiotic and biotic variables (temperature, salinity, depth, tide, turbidity, oxygen, chl-a fluorescence, 3D-current) in near real time (about 1 h delay).

Additionally, the AWI-Centre for Scientific Diving provides highly-trained year-round scientific diver suport for the set-up and maintenance of the sensors and experimental set-ups in the area.

Since 2010, numerous national and international studies (incl. Bachelor- and Master thesis) have been done in the underwater experimental field "MarGate" from short-term studies lasting for only several weeks to long-term studies planned and conducted for several years.

Since 2015, the MarGate underwater experimental field is classified as official marine underwater test site of the EU project JERICHO NEXT which grants financial support for international access.

For further informations and questions how to get access to the AWI infrastructure MarGate please contact philipp.fischer_at_awi.de (AWI Centre for Scientific Diving) or elimar.precht_at_awi.de (Technology Transfer at AWI).

Projects in the underwater experimental field MarGate

2017 - ongoing (AWI & BFN)RESTORE - Restoration of the stocks of the European oyster (Ostrea edulis) in the German North Sea.
2017 - ongoing (NIOZ & AWI & Jericho NEXT)ReMoBiB - Real time Monitoring of Bivalve Behavior.
2016 - ongoing (MARUM/Intercoast & AWI)CONCRETE - The ecology of natural vs. artificial hard substrata in marine coastal environments: Substrate characteristics as facilitator of settlement and community stability.
2016 - ongoing (Thünen & AWI)ZooEx - Possibilities and challenges in the fully automatted year-round operation of a new generation of optical zooplancton recorder in the North-Sea.
2015 -ongoing (HZG & AWI)Testing active sampling devices for costal heavy metal pullution.
2014 - 2016 (BSH & AWI)Testing passive sampling devices for costal heavy metal pullution.
2013-2014 (MARUM & AWI)Photophysiology - Testing sensors for the assessment of tidal and diurnal cycles in phytoplankton photophysiological parameters by Fast Repetition Rate Fluorometry (FRRF).
2012 - ongoing (HZG & AWI & 4H-Jena)COSYNA - Coastal Observing System of the Northern and Arctic Seas.
2011 (MARUM & AWI)SedObs - Comparative tests with respect to studying the near-surface transport and exchange processes with the new COSYNA Lander SedObs and ship-based measurements
2009 - ongoing (AWI)Impact of coastal defence structures (tetrapods) on demersal fish and decapod crustaceans.