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Fifth Framework Programme - External Advisory Groups

Opinion of the External Advisory Group for the key actions "Sustainable Management and Quality of Water" and "Sustainable Marine Ecosystem"

This report is also available as PDF-file: marine1.pdf (34 Kb)

1) Introduction

The EAG met on three occasions in November and December 1998 to examine the Commission's preliminary discussion document on elements for preparing the Work programme for the two Key Actions.

2) Conclusions

The Group concluded that the proposed Work Programmes for the Water and Marine Ecosystems Key Actions are consistent with the aims and RTD priorities set out in the Council's provisional orientation of 13 October concerning the specific RTD programme on "Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development".
It identified a number of specific issues which, once incorporated and implemented into the respective Work Programmes of the two Key Actions, would further enhance their overall impact and effectiveness in addressing the R&D needs of the European Community. These issues concern strategic elements, deliverables/targets, as well as the contents and relative weights of the different themes and sub-themes.

3) Major strategic issues

R&D under FP5 should be proactive, problem-solving and future-oriented by developing the necessary knowledge base, instruments and technologies. FP5 should not limit itself to today's problems only, but should also include the exploration of important future societal, environmental and economic issues.
The understanding of the role and the impact of the socio-economic component on the water and marine systems should be addressed in a more visible way through research on the interaction of environmental and socio-economic dynamics, elaboration and analysis of scenarios in time and incorporation of spatial dynamics into policy formulations.
In the framework of a systemic/holistic perception of the river-coast system, both Key Actions must provide an appropriate interface to allow for the coupling of the catchment area with the coastal zone arising from the inter-dependency between these regions.
Establishing water and ecosystem quality targets, substantiated in measurable criteria and indicators, should be given high priority in both Key Actions.
Pressures other than pollution, such as land use changes, fishing and introduction of alien species represent a threat to aquatic systems and as such they should also be addressed in both Key Actions.

4) Targets, deliverables and implementation

The targets proposed are expressed in rather general terms thus enabling different approaches to be supported. Additional areas that should be included and points requiring clarification are given below, together with comments regarding implementation of the various themes and sub-themes.
A range of deliverables should be envisaged (e.g. modelling for simulation and prediction, decision support tools, policy instruments, scenario studies, demonstration projects, production schemes and technologies, instrumentation and indicators). Potential specific deliverables for a number of sub-themes are also provided. The size of the project consortium should be considered in relation to the objectives of the project and the adequacy and effectiveness of the management structure to address them appropriately. Care must be taken to ensure that the size of the project does not undermine the envisaged role of the SMEs in FP5.
While clustering of "complementary" projects might prove extremely useful in eliminating unnecessary duplication and wasting of resources by enhancing synergy and contributing to the creation of larger thematic networks, it could, however, become counter-productive if, instead, merging of projects is imposed against the will of proposers.
The Group advocated that efforts should be made during the implementation of these two Key Actions to ensure that any new developments are environmentally friendly.
Measuring tools, such as analytical methods and warning systems are urgently needed, in order to increase the availability of cost-effective and comparable data at the European level.
For an effective dissemination and exploitation of the research results and for orienting RTD efforts towards the problem-solving objectives, the formation of durable links between RTD performers and potential multi-sectoral groups of end-users should be encouraged through appropriate mechanisms (such as establishment of thematic networks).

- Water Key Action

The Group concluded that the targets described in the draft Work Programme respond to the aims and priorities set for the programme. The amendments proposed below aim at further enhancement of scientific and societal relevance of the Work Programme.
The theme "Development of integrated water resources management and systems"- should address more explicitly the interaction between spatial development, land-use/land-cover and water issues. The Key Action should call for the development of decision support tools and for research addressing the effectiveness of different measures and policy instruments regarding water related functions through the analysis of underlying economic, social and institutional mechanisms.
Research should also be directed towards the development of a capacity for predicting the influence of river engineering and economic/urban development on long term changes in river morphology and on receiving coastal ecosystems.
Wetlands form important buffer zones for water regulation (mitigation of floods, droughts, stormfloods) and the accumulation and degradation of polluting substances. Research and demonstration projects should be targeted on wetland development and restoration of degraded wetlands.
The theme "Monitoring and early warning to combat pollution and safeguard water resources" should cover also floods, droughts and other extreme events.
Research aiming at the reduction of diffuse pollution should be focused to overall changes in agricultural management systems, e.g. crop rotation, nutrients (incl. sludge) and pesticide use rather than to the use of fertilisers and pesticides only.
Setting targets for the quality of water and aquatic ecosystems is a crucial phase in all water management. Research should be directed towards social and economic, as well as ecosystem quality aspects of target setting. A better understanding of ecosystem functioning and the ability to distinguish between natural variation and anthropogenic impacts are required. These call for solid scientific knowledge on the critical levels of nutrients and of the most important contaminants. Research is also needed to assess the extent to which monitoring of chemical can be replaced by monitoring of ecological parameters and biological effects. A new sub-theme should be formulated covering target setting, indicators, critical loads and the present sub-theme "Ecological quality".
Regarding the theme "Water management and technologies for stocks in water deficient regions" not only arid and semi-arid regions, but also coastal regions are highly water stressed due to fresh-water shortage and saline intrusion. The recharge processes and pollution of shallow groundwater resources should be considered as well. Specific research targets should include the development of decision supporting tools for optimising water allocation (schemes), and the development of land-use strategies, including the design of storage and distribution systems, to improve the efficiency of water use.

- Marine Ecosystems Key Action

The emphasis of this Key Action to understand the functioning of marine ecosystems is well justified, since it is a prerequisite for the development of long-term, viable management strategies that would ensure the sustainability of the system. The amendments proposed below aim at further enhancement of scientific, technological and societal relevance of the Work Programme.
In "Improved knowledge of marine processes, ecosystems and interactions" research under the sub-theme Transport pathways and impacts of pollutants, key elements and nutrients in the marine environment should also include assessment techniques for organic micro-pollutants and novel substances and their impacts, including ecotoxicological effects, on the marine ecosystem.
The strong natural variability of coastal and marine ecosystems tends to mask anthropogenic impacts on these systems. Research should be directed to the development of the capability for detecting signals of anthropogenic activity in the marine and coastal ecosystems, and for predicting and assessing the impact of anthropogenic activities on the functioning and biodiversity of these ecosystems.
Under the theme "Reducing the anthropogenic impact on biodiversity and marine ecosystems" both societal and marine processes need to be addressed. The sub-theme "Combating the effects of anthropogenic activities on the marine environment" research should be directed towards the development of policy instruments, management strategies and technologies that promote a sustainable coastal development.
Within "Monitoring and managing coastal processes and the coastal zone" monitoring of eutrophication- and pollution-related problems, as well as algal blooms, should be explicitly mentioned. Not only physical and chemical processes, but also biological processes and socio-economic changes are important for the development of coastal zones. Therefore scenario studies for socio-economic change (incl. land-use change) in the coastal zone and resulting impact on coastal and marine resources, should be included in this theme.

5) Co-ordination

Ecosystem by its very nature transgresses the majority of the FP5 key actions. Wherever these links are very strong, like it is the case with the Water and the Marine Ecosystem Key Actions, the possibility of organising joint calls, common evaluation of proposals etc should be explored.
As a matter of principle, the Commission should ensure that appropriate links are being established and maintained throughout the implementation of these two Key Actions with all other relevant Key Actions in FP5.

6) Priorities for 1999

The Group was not aware of the exact budget allocations to the two Key Actions for 1999 and hence had to base its priority judgement simply on the experts' opinions about the urgency for the different themes to get started. As no unanimity was reached, priorities were ranked according to the number of votes each theme received. On this basis, the Group identified the following list of priorities for 1999:

- Sustainable management and quality of water

  1. Integrated management of water resources and systems,
  2. Pollution detection and monitoring,
  3. Ecological quality,
  4. Optimisation of systems in water-deficient regions,
  5. Rehabilitation of contaminated sites, sediments and groundwater

- Sustainable Marine Ecosystems

  1. Mechanisms of marine biodiversity evolution,
  2. Better assessment of naturally occurring mechanisms of ecosystem functioning,
  3. Recovery of degraded systems and the necessary framework conditions,
  4. Combating the effects of anthropogenic activities on the marine environment,
  5. Transport pathways and impacts of pollutants, key elements and nutrients in the marine environment.

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External Advisory groups | Fifth Framework Programme | 17.02.2000

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