More measurements will improve knowledge of the status of Europe's coastal waters

A new EU project will improve observations of the status of Europe's coastal waters, including algal blooms. Existing observation systems will be linked together and new methods will be developed. SMHI is one of 33 institutes that are collaborate in the project, which will continue for four years.

One problem in marine environmental monitoring is capturing the natural variations in the sea.

"At the moment we may have algal blooms in the sea that we do not capture with our environmental monitoring, since it can occur in different places and can have such a rapid progression that the whole blooming process occurs between sampling occasions," says Bengt Karlson, a researcher at SMHI.

Algal blooms
Algal blooms between Gotland and Öland on 10 August 2015.
Foto Kustbevakningen

Help from new technology

In the Baltic Sea and the Kattegatt/Skagerrak there are coastal buoys and offshore buoys that will be used to increase the sampling frequency. A coastal buoy is shown in the picture.

New video techniques will be used to examine the propagation of algal blooms during expeditions with the research ship R/V Aranda. To increase the sampling frequency, oceanographic measuring buoys are also used in the Baltic Sea and Kattegatt/Skagerrak, profiling floats, and a so-called Ferrybox system on the cargo ship TransPaper.

Bio-optical sensors provide new methods of studying algal blooms. Technology for automatic phytoplankton analysis will be used in the project.

"We will use different Imaging Flow Cytometers. They can be described as a sort of automatic underwater microscope. Using them, we can count and identify different phytoplankton - we are most interested in harmful algae," explains Bengt Karlson.

Molecular biological methods, including barcoding, are also used in the project.

Study on mussel farm on the Bohus coast

"Next autumn we are going to carry out an intensive study at a mussel farm on the Bohus coast. We will examine the links between the stratification of the water column, the currents, the occurrence of harmful algae and the presence of algal toxins in mussels," says Bengt Karlson.

Measurement of carbon dioxide and other parameters related to sea acidification is another important part of the project. Physical processes in the sea will also be studied.

SMHI is also working with the improvement of models and observations of surface currents in the Skagerrak by radar.

The JERICO-NEXT project has its background in the EU Marine Directive. The project started on 1 September 2015 and will continue for four years. It is funded by the EU's Horizon 2020 research programme. The project includes 33 different institutions.

SMHI will work closely with the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), the Institute of Marine Research in Norway and the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) as well as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the United States, among others. The project is led by IFREMER in France.