The Helgoland Underwater Observatory (HUWO), part of the JERICO-RI North Sea Pilot Supersite, begins to collect real-time images of plankton


Following successful deployment and testing in December 2020, the Helgoland Underwater Observatory (HUWO) equipped with a CPICS plankton and particle imager as well as CTD, oxygen sensor and ADCP, is now fully operational. This structure is one key element of the JERICO-RI North Sea Pilot Supersite (PSS) and is maintained jointly by Hereon (formerly HZG, K.O. Möller) and AWI (P. Fischer).

The HUWO’s main element is a lander structure, which can be programmed to move vertically through the water column with remotely controlled winches, utilising the buoyancy of floats attached to its outer edges for the upward movement and straps connected to the winch and anchored to a base on the seafloor to move down. Cameras and sensors are mounted on this vertical profiler. Utilising this set-up, a continuous time-series of plankton diversity, biomass, and behaviour in the North Sea near Helgoland is currently being collected.

All Images are sent in real-time to shore and are classified automatically using AI and different machine learning approaches. These observations allow conclusions regarding the biodiversity, impact of climate change, ecosystem productivity and the occurrence of invasive species at the PSS.

The HUWO is located in the Margate experimental field at a water depth of up to 10 m (tidal range around 2.5 m). Additional physical, meteorological and chemical data collected in the same area can be closely associated with data collected at the HUWO.