On January 21st, 2016, the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) Committee approved the European Multidisciplinary Seafloor and water-column Observatory’s (EMSO) request to become an ERIC, thus closing step 2 of the multi-year application process. It is now in the hands of the European Commission to give the final approval and publish the Statutes in the Official Journal of the European Union. France, Greece, the UK, Ireland, and the host country Italy are now full members of the ERIC, whereas Portugal, Romania and Spain are completing the application process.
EMSO is a pan-European distributed research infrastructure, composed of fixed-point observatory nodes, whose aim is to provide coherent long-term time series to study and monitor seas and oceans of European interest. Ocean processes impact human society directly. Changes relating to resource availability, climate change, habitat destruction, and geo-hazards have increased society’s need for an improved understanding of the driving factors and the effects of such changes. With the EMSO ERIC, European scientists are joining forces to better address and interpret phenomena across the geosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere that will allow us to understand our oceans.
With observatory initiatives from Canada, USA, Japan, China, Taiwan and Australia, EMSO rides a global wave of understanding that ocean processes drive our planet. EMSO also represents a fundamental contribution to the long-term vision of the European Ocean Observing System (EOOS). It will contribute in situ observations for the COPERNICUS Initiative (former GMES-Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), and is aligned with the challenges and key priorities of Horizon 2020 and, in particular, with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The data collected by EMSO will support policy and legislation of organisations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Group on Earth Observation (GEO), just to mention a few.
The EMSO Preparatory Phase (FP7) project led to the Interim phase (involving 13 countries) of forming the legal entity, the EMSO ERIC. The open user community is supported through ESONET-Vi (European Seas Observatory NETwork – The Vision), following on the extensive scientific community planning contributions of the ESONET-NoE (FP6) project. The further progress made through the FixO3 project (FP7) will also benefit the development of this shared infrastructure.
EMSO observation data is collected from the ocean’s surface, through the water column to sub-seafloor across geo-hazard, physical, biogeochemical and ecological themes, with various emphases depending on location. EMSO open ocean observatory locations were identified according to the scientific priorities of the European marine science community, through multiple coordination projects. These locations were selected because their ongoing key natural processes require long-term monitoring to understand their dynamics at the continental scale. EMSO spans from polar to sub-tropical climatic zones and from the open ocean (Atlantic) to closed basins (Mediterranean, Sea of Marmara and Black Sea) thus offering a broad spectrum of study areas across diverse environments. Tests sites are also integral parts of the observatory network and they are fundamental facilities for testing devices (software and hardware) to be incorporated into EMSO nodes. The present operational modes of the nodes include cabled and autonomous observatories, both with their benefits; while continuous data flow is provided by cabled nodes that receive power and communications directly from land, autonomous observatories are powered with long-lasting batteries and store the acquired data locally. Some of the latter periodically transfer some data via acoustics or cable communications from the deep ocean to a surface buoy, which in turn sends them to land stations by satellite.
Any number of new nodes can be added to the infrastructure as it is implemented. The EMSO Assembly of Members, the decision body composed of representatives of each participating Country, will approve new nodes on the basis of set requirements These nodes can either be of current Member States or of new Member States.
A real breakthrough for EMSO ERIC in the field of coordinated ocean information networks is the EMSO DEVelopment H2020 project (EMSODEV). EMSODEV is developing the EMSO Generic Instrument Module (EGIM), an integrated suite of sensors that will harmonise core measurements performed throughout the infrastructure. This will create an innovative, standardised, and harmonised system of scientific measurements and time series, significantly contributing to the European collection of Essential Ocean Variables (EOV). As such, this will also strengthen Europe’s role as a key player in the development of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS).
As the EGIM is open and modular, EMSO ERIC can also offer it as a service to Industry for “client specific” purposes. It can be used, for instance, for impact assessment of marine renewable energy concepts; for resource evaluation of marine turbines; for monitoring oil and gas spill accidents; for impact assessment of marine mineral resource extraction fields; for subsea monitoring of sediment debris flows (current and turbidity); for geo-hazard monitoring of oil and gas production fields; and for monitoring fish behavior in key areas.
Marine Science communities at national levels are progressively joining together to network, share and exploit their research infrastructures, efforts and skills in support of EMSO. It is particularly important to have this national-level coordination as the ERIC structure is according to national membership. For example, Italian and French communities have established joint research groups, namely EMSO Italia and EMSO France, gathering all the research institutions and universities under the leadership of INGV in Italy, IFREMER and CNRS in France. These research groups help to increase awareness of the EMSO opportunities and broaden the scientific user base.
EMSO is forging ahead through the next challenge in Earth-Ocean Science: How to coordinate ocean data acquisition, analysis and response across regional, national, and global scales. EMSO not only brings together countries and disciplines, but also allows the pooling of resources and coordination to assemble harmonised data into a comprehensive ocean picture, which it then makes openly available to researchers and stakeholders worldwide.
For more information on EMSO please go to our website: www.emso-eu.org.