European researchers are studying the remains of prehistoric human settlements beneath the waves which may open up new research collaboration opportunities for the commercial industry.

The new European Marine Board (EMB) paper called Land Beneath the Waves: Submerged Landscapes and Sea-Level Change looks at how the successive ice ages of the last one million years have seen the sea level drop at times by up to 120m.

More than 2,500 submerged prehistoric artefact assemblages have so been found around Europe, but EMB said that only a few have been properly mapped by divers or assessed by experts.

Its paper concludes that seabed prehistoric remains are being destroyed by both natural erosion and industrial disturbance.

The EMB said that because existing researchers are few and far between, a new focus needs to be placed on Continental Shelf Prehistoric Research, as well promoting collaboration with engineers, climate change experts and numerical modellers.

It said that the report should be useful for policy makers, research funders and scientists and could help in deciding policy priorities needed to support this type of research in future.

The EMB Working Group comprises of experts from 11 European nations and is chaired by Dr Nicholas Flemming of the UK National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

By Anne-Marie Causer