The seas and oceans are an intrinsic part of the earth and climate systems. They cover 70% of our planet, provide 95% by volume of its biosphere, support more than 50% of global primary production and harbour an enormous diversity of life adapted to extremely broad-ranging environmental conditions. The oceans are a driver of our climate but are also affected by climate change and ocean acidification. They are under increasing pressure from human activities and pollution, and growing coastal populations. The combination of natural and human-induced changes taking place in our seas and oceans including, for example, rising temperatures, the melting of Arctic sea ice, ocean acidification, increasingly extreme weather events, transfer of non-indigenous marine species, changes in biodiversity and species distribution, and depletion of fisheries stocks, may have potentially profound impacts on our societies and economies in the medium-term. European research focused on the seas and oceans is central to addressing these challenges by delivering knowledge and tools to enable Europe to prepare for, and adapt to, these changes. Moreover The growth of new and existing industries such as marine renewable energy, marine biotechnology, fisheries and aquaculture and sustainable maritime transport must be supported by research and innovation, involving a range of actors to develop technologies and best practices in support of a thriving European maritime economy.
A key issue is how will society be placed in the coming decades to tackle these threats and turn challenges into opportunities? The Rio Ocean declaration (16 June 2012) called for an “integrated approach addressing the interlinked issues of oceans, climate change, and security” and for countries to “Establish the scientific capacity for marine environmental assessment, monitoring, and prediction, including the implementation of……the global ocean observing system”. Routine and sustained ocean observations are crucial to further our understanding of the complex and vast oceanic environment and to supply scientific data and analyses sufficient to meet society’s needs. In particular for the coastal environment, needs are even higher as the natural variability is interlinked with the human induced and efforts to identify and distinguish the various components are crucial. Furthermore most economic activity is based at the coastal ocean.
Europe spends €1.4 billion p.a. for marine data collection: €0.4 billion for satellite data and €1.0 billion for in- situ observations, respectively. In the case of the latter, the traditional and expensive practice of vessel-based data-gathering is progressively giving way to monitoring via “observatories” – complexes of distributed, autonomous, real-time sensor systems. Burgeoning technology and pressing societal needs will soon make such observatories the backbone of European marine observing activity because of their ability to provide copious quantities of diversified data over large areas at reasonable costs.
Around European coastal seas, the number of marine observing systems is quickly increasing under the pressure of both monitoring requirements and oceanographic research. Present demands for such systems include reliable, high-quality and comprehensive observations, automated platforms and sensors systems, as well as autonomy over long time periods. In-situ data collected, combined with remote sensing and models output, contribute to detect, understand and forecast the most crucial coastal processes over extensive areas within the various national and regional marine environments.
Coastal observations are an important part of the marine research puzzle of activities and applications. However significant heterogeneity exists in Europe concerning technological design of observing systems, measured parameters, practices for maintenance and quality control, as well as quality standards for sensors and data exchange. Coastal observatories have been developed in Europe in a rather uncoordinated way. Usually based on national funding and priorities these observatories have very diverse design and architecture and have established very different practices for their operation and maintenance. For certain subsystems (e.g. FerryBox) past EU projects have established a network of operators through which experience and best practices have been shared but this is not the case for other observing platforms, and certainly not for integrated coastal observatories.
Considering the importance of observing systems and the substantial investment made until now, an important task of JERICO is to describe best practices in all phases of the system (pre-deployment test, maintenance, calibration etc); to adopt common methodologies and protocols and to move towards the harmonisation of equipment which will help in reducing maintenance and calibration costs. These efforts are described and analysed in depth in this deliverable.