European scientists develop tools to understand marine biodiversity
2016-11-11 15:44:39   copyfrom:    hits:

(Photo: DEVOTES Project)SPAINFriday, November 11, 2016,02:50 (GMT + 9)More than 250 European researchers have collab
 

(Photo: DEVOTES Project)

 

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Friday, November 11, 2016, 02:50 (GMT + 9)

 

More than 250 European researchers have collaborated in the development of new tools to understand marine biodiversity and assess EU sea environmental status in the framework of an initiative promoted by the European Commission.

This is the DEVOTES project (Development of innovative tools for understanding marine biodiversity and assessing good environmental status), which ends now after four years of activity and a budget of EUR 12 million, of which EUR 9 million has been funded by the Seventh Framework Program of the European Union.

The work has resulted in the development and validation of innovative tools that interrelate ecological theory and reality in an integrated way (including remote sensing, modelling and genomics) in order to progress in understanding the changes that occur in ecosystems and biodiversity.

The group of experts, led by biology doctor Angel Borja, AZTI researcher, has proposed an operational definition of what a satisfactory environmental status means and has completed new models of relationship between activity, human pressure, welfare state and responses of Administration, including indicators to assess biodiversity in a harmonized way across the four regional seas (Baltic Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea).

During this period the shortcomings of the current EU monitoring network have been completed and analyzed and a software (DEVOTool) has been produced. It collects more than 600 indicators used in the EU for the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (DMEM) establishing a framework for Community action in the field of marine environmental policy. In addition, 29 indicators have been proposed and tested, 16 of which are new and 13 have been improved, covering all components of the ecosystem and biological descriptors of the Directive.

The assessment has included descriptors such as alterations of biodiversity, introduction of alien species, fishing situation, disturbance of food chains, water eutrophication and seabed status. In addition, the main human activities at sea and the socio-economic factors that regulate these activities have been taken into account.

The work developed by the researchers has included the development of new monitoring systems (biosensors for pollution early warning, systems for harmful microalgae colony detection) and the sequencing of numerous species of microbes, plankton, medium and macrofauna (available in GenBank). Among the tasks carried out, new monitoring and evaluation methods have been tested through remote sensors, acoustics and genomics, and different forms of information integration have been proposed to evaluate the environmental status of the community seas.

Among the tools obtained, one is a new type of software, called NEAT (Nested Environmental status Assessment Tool). This tool has been validated in 10 case studies across Europe.

NEAT integrates a previous tool (DEVOTool), also produced by this project, which includes more than 600 environmental indicators used or under developed by European states. In addition, through regular updates and meeting users’ demands, this software includes new applications that will allow online biodiversity assessments.

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