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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 January, 2005, 12:39 GMT
Secrets of seabed to be revealed
Pembrokeshire Coast
The project will create a map of the seabed between Wales and Ireland
The huge task of mapping the seabed between Wales and Ireland is under way.

Over the next three years, experts from both countries will work together to draw up a detailed plan of the area.

The information will then be used to help conserve the habitat and its wildlife, and protect vulnerable ecosystems.

It will also be available to companies which are considering building offshore windfarms or extracting material from the area.

The bed of the Irish Sea is described as a varied landscape with rocky reefs and deep muddy areas.

Last month, a team of Irish engineers unveiled a futuristic vision of a 50-mile rail tunnel under the sea, linking west Wales and Ireland.

The habitat mapping project scheme, HABMAP, was launched with two days of workshops discussing technical issues at the University of Wales, Bangor.

We want to give a complete picture of the sea
Meinir Wigley, Countryside Council for Wales

Meinir Wigley, from the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), which is coordinating the project, said they were trying to fill all the gaps in their current knowledge.

"We want to give a complete picture of the sea - the main issue is the conservation and wildlife," she said.

"It will help with planning issues, and the advice we give, hopefully speeding up procedures for aggregate extraction and windfarms offshore."

Dr Karen Robinson, research officer at HABMAP, said experts would work "by collating what is already known, then filling in the gaps using a combination of predictive modelling and survey work".

"Much of the mapping will be done using advanced technology - developing computer models to predict what we might find on the seabed in terms of the communities that live there.

"These computer-generated models will then be used to produce digital maps of the seabed, that will be validated during a number of survey cruises."

This scheme has been given more than 600,000 funding, and has been backed by the Welsh Assembly Government.

As well as the CCW, other partners include the National Museums and Galleries for Wales, University of Wales Cardiff, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork and the Marine Institute.

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23 Dec 04 |  South West Wales
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08 Dec 04 |  Science/Nature

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