AMT began in 1995, with scientific aims to assess mesoscale to basin-scale phytoplankton processes, the functional interpretation of bio-optical signatures and the seasonal, regional and latitudinal variations in mesozooplankton dynamics. The programme provided a platform for international scientific collaboration, including the calibration and validation of SeaWiFS measurements and products. The measurements of hydrographic and bio-optical properties, plankton community structure and primary production completed on the first 12 transects (1995-2000) represent the most coherent set of repeated biogeochemical observations over ocean basin scales. This unique dataset has lead to several important discoveries concerning the identification of oceanic provinces, validation of ocean colour algorithms, distributions of picoplankton, the identification of new regional sinks of carbon dioxide and variability in rates of primary production and respiration.
In 2002, the programme restarted (2002-2006) and broadened, to address a suite of cross-disciplinary questions concerning ocean plankton ecology and biogeochemistry and their links to atmospheric processes. The programme was funded by a NERC Consortium Grant and its objectives included the determination of how:
- The structure, functional properties and trophic status of the major planktonic ecosystems vary in space and time;
- Physical processes control the rates of nutrient supply to the planktonic ecosystem and;
- Atmosphere-ocean exchange and photodegradation influence the formation and fate of organic matter.
Between 2008-2012 AMT was funded through NERC's Oceans 2025 programme. This began with AMT18 which took place in October-November 2008. The programme is now in it's fourth phase with funding from NERC's National Capability. The programme is hosted by the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in collaboration with the National Oceanography Centre. It provides an exceptional opportunity for nationally and internationally driven collaborative research and provides a platform for excellent multi-disciplinary oceanographic research. As an in situ observation system, AMT informs on changes in biodiversity and function of the Atlantic ecosystem during this period of rapid change to our climate and biosphere.