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7, Place de Fontenoy
75352 PARIS 07 SP, France


Nurturing the democratic debate.  
12-09-2003 3:25 pm Most of the world’s marine biodiversity, and untold reserves of energy sources, such as methane gas, are to be found at the frontier between land and deep ocean known as the ‘ocean margin.’ But, to date, we do not know the true extent of these resources, or whether they can ever be commercially exploited. To address these, and related issues, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and Division of Earth Sciences have joined with the European Commission (EC) to organize a scientific conference on ‘Ocean Margin Research’, to be held in Paris from September 15-17.
The ocean margin is becoming the subject of increasingly intense industrial and scientific investigation. According to some estimates, for example, methane stored as ‘gas hydrate’ (trapped inside frozen water molecules), has an energy potential equivalent to twice the known reserves of oil, coal and gas combined. And these reserves seem to be abundant in the ocean margins of many parts of the world, including Alaska, Antarctica, Europe, the Gulf of Mexico, Japan, and Norway.

At present it is not technically feasible to exploit gas hydrates on a large scale. And there are concerns that deep ocean drilling for hydrates could destabilize the ocean floor and release methane into the atmosphere. A greenhouse gas ten times more powerful than carbon dioxide, it is thought that massive releases of methane in the distant past could have accelerated global warming and precipitated the end of the last ice age.

Other issues to be addressed at the conference include: ocean margin ecosystems and their associated biodiversity, deep-water corals, techniques for imaging the sea floor in ocean margins, and a review of various research and training initiatives in this pioneering field.

The conference will be held from September 15 – 17 at: CAP 15 - Centre d´Affaires et de Congrès de Paris 15, 1-3, quai de Grenelle, 75015 Paris. Telephone: + 33 1 44 37 42 00

For further information, see http://www.ig.uit.no/konferanser/omarc/

A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday September 17 at 5 p.m. at CAP 15, (Salle Newport), in the presence of Christian Patermann, Director of the EC’s research programme on the environment and sustainable development (DGXII), Jürgen Mienert, Professor of the Department of Geology at Tromsø University (Norway), Patricio A. Bernal, Assistant Director-General and Executive Secretary of UNESCO’s IOC and Jean-François Minster, President and Director-General of IFREMER.

Source Media advisory No 2003 - 73


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