The seeds for the collaboration behind the paper on page 354 of this issue were sown some 20 years ago, while Miquel Canals was doing his PhD at the University of Perpignan in France. Back then he was studying the Gulf of Lions in the northwest Mediterranean Sea, mapping the region with what he now describes as “rudimentary tools”.
Over the intervening years, Canals, now at the University of Barcelona in Spain, and his colleagues at Perpignan have revisited the area, refining their measurements using more sophisticated equipment.
By pooling their limited resources — including a number of small grants — they have managed to investigate the mechanisms by which sediment and organic matter are flushed from shallow to deep water through submarine canyons.
“None of the groups had enough equipment to do it by themselves,” Canals says. They found that the movement of sediment could be triggered by a form of current that is driven by sea density. Their measurements of the effects of this current, the sediment movement, the changes to the ocean floor, and the presence of deep-water coral, have already led to a large grant from the European Union, which should keep the groups occupied in the gulf for quite a few years to come.