Accurately mapping the marine environment

EU-funded researchers have successfully harnessed new methods for gathering marine data, potentially leading to better conservation and associated benefits for the local community.

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Fieldwork with underwater video  © ULTRA Fieldwork with underwater video © ULTRA

" One of the nice things about the ULTRA project was that it brought together local authorities in the area, for example through joint field work. Going out for a field trip on the sea in a relatively small boat brings people together. The project used local expertise to solve logistical and technical challenges for ground control measurements, which required very close collaboration. Several relationships established within the project are still very much active. "

Johnny Berglund, Project manager at the County Administrative Board of Västerbotten

The ULTRA project brought together Finnish and Swedish partners to develop new applications for LIDAR, a laser-based remote sensing technology that has barely been tested in the marine environment.

The Finnish and Swedish team aimed to demonstrate that the technology could be adapted to help scientists explore and map the seafloor around the Kvarken region, enabling them to make more accurate conservation recommendations.  

The end result is that knowledge and data gleaned from the project have been used to establish a new marine protected area.

Secrets under the sea

With climate change and the increasing encroachment of man, there is an urgent need to efficiently manage vulnerable marine areas. A key issue, however, is that a lack of sufficient knowledge makes it challenging to base conservation decisions on facts.

One reason for this is that obtaining information about marine areas is difficult. It requires specialised technology. Furthermore, gathering data can be expensive and time consuming.

Harnessing laser technology

A previous project demonstrated that the need for better data – and faster methods of collection – on marine areas was an urgent conservation requirement, and identified LIDAR technology as having potential. The goal of ULTRA was to investigate this potential further.

The project was divided into four parts: data collection; analysis of collected data; modelling; and analysis of results. After collecting data and producing models for the chosen marine areas of Sävarfjärden and Rönnskär, information was sent out to the Swedish and Finnish organisations involved, in order to assess the information and to identify effective monitoring methods.

Benefits of cooperation

The ULTRA project achieved its goal of using LIDAR technology to gather in-depth marine information, and also made progress in bringing together cross-border partners to analyse the data.

The organisations that took part received valuable experience, and the results are being integrated into conservation actions concerning national marine areas.

Indeed, the ULTRA project is a good example of an EU-funded initiative that links high level policy with practical local-based solutions. Project manager Johnny Berglund at the County Administrative Board of Västerbotten believes that ULTRA has also helped to cement cross-border relationships.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “ULTRA” is EUR 490 640, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 241 045 through the “Bothnia-Atlantica 2007-2013” Operational Programme for the 2007- 2013 programming period.

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