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Energy, the Environment and
Sustainable Development

Sustainable marine ecosystems



An Illustrative project

As a result of human activity, certain coastal waters are experiencing serious eutrophication - that is the presence of excess nutrients - which can provoke an uncontrolled growth of micro-organisms. The proliferation of Phaeocystis, for example, is a particular feature of North Sea coasts, where certain beaches are regularly invaded by masses of foam - fortunately non-toxic. The European project, ESCAPE, which has studied this phenomenon, has shown that, in addition to this tangible damage, the proliferation of phytoplanktons promotes the growth of dimethylsulphate (DMS), a natural sulphuric gas which plays a major role in the formation of acid rain and climate change.


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Implications for society

Expo'98 in Lisbon has shown us - or reminded us - of the extent to which man's relations with the oceans have marked his entire history, and remain a vital influence on his present and his future. Marine ecosystems - still a mystery to most - conceal a rich and as yet largely unknown biological and mineral potential.

Yet, despite its immensity, the marine environment is fragile. This is proved every day by the depletion of fish stocks, the disruption of ocean currents, and the biological death of certain inland seas.

Implications for the economy

Marine resources play an important role in the economic life of European countries and in the lives of many of their citizens. Around 70000 enterprises operate along Europe's coasts, most of them SMEs, generating an annual turnover of 20 billion euros. Almost 5% of the EU's wealth is produced by marine industries and services.

Implications for Europe

Coastal waters are managed and governed by individual Member States. Despite this, the existence for many years of a common fisheries policy, essential to the life of this sector, proves that any approach to the continent's marine environment can be conceived only on a European scale.

From the Baltic to the Mediterranean, from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, the EU is supporting a large number of projects in which centres specialising in all areas of marine research cooperate.

Targeted fields of research
  • Developing scientific knowledge - Influence of physical and environmental factors on ecosystems; study of extreme environments; study of sedimentation systems; impact of waste discharging on the marine environment, etc.
  • Impact of human activity on marine ecosystems - Mechanisms by which marine biodiversity evolves; lessening the effects of contaminants and eutrophication; technologies for studying and monitoring marine environments; exploration of living resources; etc.
  • Monitoring and management of coastal phenomena - Effect of pollution, flooding and erosion on the long-term morphology of coastal zones, morpho-dynamics of estuaries and interactions between these and coastlines; potential use of new land reclaimed from the sea; etc.
  • Operational forecasting for marine activities - Pilot monitoring, forecasting and management systems for ensuring the safety of marine operations (marine parameters, mathematical models, evaluating the relevance of environmental parameters, etc.)

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