Deepening our understanding of Europe's coastal waters
The ocean plays a vital role in our lives, both environmentally and economically. In order to protect this precious resource, EU-funded research is helping to deepen our understanding of the interlinking factors impacting Europe's coastal waters.
© Boyarkina Marina #181878464, source:stock.adobe.com 2020
The worlds oceans play a key role in regulating weather and climate. Coastal zones, in particular, are a rich source of marine production yielding over 50 % of the seas global output. They not only provide an invaluable source of food and income in the fishing and aquaculture sectors but are also a very important leisure and environmental resource.
The EU-funded JERICO-NEXT project set out to build on the earlier network of European coastal observatories developed under the JERICO project. Its aim was to harmonise and combine information collected from across Europe to create a more comprehensive and complete picture of the status of Europes coastal waters. Furthermore, the project team was also interested in researching the various factors which may impact the environmental health of oceans in the future.
The coastal waters are affected both by what is going on in the wider ocean and by activities on land in coastal areas, says project coordinator Patrick Farcy of the French Institute of Research for the Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER).
The complexity of the coastal ocean cannot be well understood if the interconnection between physics, biology and ecology is not taken into account. Such an integration required new technological developments allowing for the continuous monitoring of a larger set of parameters, he explains.
As part of JERICO-NEXT, local information nodes were developed all over Europe and a range of novel sensors was made more generally available to provide further details on each region as well as on the interplay between regions.
Each region experiences different challenges. We do not face the same issues in the Scandinavian Sea as in the Mediterranean, for example. Factors such as temperature, salinity and CO2 concentration vary considerably, Farcy says.
The project network adopted the use of more accurate sensors along with new methods of measuring carbon flows, the aim being to identify and measure the presence and distribution in ocean currents of micro-algae, pesticides or other pollutants, like sweeteners and antibiotics, in European coastal waters.
This cooperation between coastal observatories in Europe is now contributing to the coastal part of the European Global Ocean Observing System (EuroGOOS) and the data collected is feeding into the EU's ambitious Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The overall goal is to contribute to developing a marine protection policy for European waters that is clear and scientifically well informed.
According to Farcy: It is also important to have access to the best and most precise information on coastal conditions so that we can inform the public as quickly as possible of potential issues, such as toxic algae blooms, contamination of certain seafood sources, and so on.
The JERICO-NEXT website provides a wealth of free and open-access data on a wide range of factors affecting coastal waters Europe-wide, including coastal carbon fluxes; chemical contaminants and biological responses; pelagic biodiversity phytoplankton, eutrophication; macro-benthic biodiversity; coastal forecasting; hydrography and transport.