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Energy, Climate change, Environment

Many chemical substances in the marine environment are invisible to the naked eye and can only be detected and tracked using specialised sensors or by analysis in a laboratory. A good understanding of seawater chemistry and its natural variability, in a given region, is fundamental to detect short, medium and long-term changes in the marine environment and to assess whether those changes pose a risk and require mediation.



Objectives of EMODnet Chemistry

The overall objective of EMODnet Chemistry is to provide an overview and access to marine chemistry data sets and data products related to eutrophication, contaminants, and marine litter for six major European sea regions: Norwegian (incl. Barents), Baltic, N.E. Atlantic (Celtic Seas, Iberian coast and Bay of Biscay and Macaronesia), Greater North Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea. These information are specifically relevant for Marine Strategy Framework Directive Descriptors 5 (eutrophication), 8 (chemical pollution), 9 (contaminants in seafood) and 10 (marine litter), based on the guidance of the MSFD Common Implementation Strategy. This work is based upon input gathered and collated from national monitoring efforts and from research institutes activities from all European coastal states.



Key services provided by EMODnet Chemistry

The EMODnet Chemistry portal is currently built on a network of 48 connected marine research and monitoring institutes and oceanographic data management experts from 32 countries and 5 International organizations (the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the Regional Sea Conventions). Many National Oceanographic Data Centres (NODC) are actively involved in managing, indexing and providing access to ocean and marine data sets, acquired from research cruises and monitoring activities in European marine waters and global oceans. As a result, EMODnet Chemistry can provide users with the following key services:

  1. Data Access Service: provides functionalities to search for and download data sets;
  2. Products Discovery Service: provides functionality to search for and download the available data products through a catalog service compliant with Inspire Directive and the OGC protocol;
  3. Products Viewing and Downloading Service: provides a visualization service to view and download data products such as maps and plots.


The EMODnet Chemistry scope is extremely wide in the range of parameters, addressing high heterogeneity and complexity. To illustrate the situation:

  • 3 matrices (water, sediment, biota) for 16 groups of variables (such as fertilisers, heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls, and others, including macro and micro litter in the sea, on the seafloor and on beaches) each having multiple parameters, measurement methods, laboratory methods, collection protocols, instruments used etc.
  • Different data distributions in time and space;
  • Different organisations leading environmental and research data in the different countries;
  • Heterogeneous data policy.

The approach applied has been first of all to gather relevant marine chemistry data sets (with a focus on eutrophication and contaminants), collected by marine environmental monitoring activities and by scientific research activities, and populating these in the SeaDataNet Common Data Index (CDI) Data Discovery and Access service. The CDI metadata model is INSPIRE compliant and supported by SeaDataNet Controlled Vocabularies. The CDI service has a central catalogue service, while access to linked data sets, managed by the distributed data centres, is facilitated for users by a shopping basket mechanism.

Data quality is a key issue when merging heterogeneous data from different sources. EMODnet Chemistry implemented a data validation loop for both eutrophication and contaminants, taking care that all identified errors and inconsistencies are documented and reported back to the originating data centres for local corrections and updating in their local databases and consequently in the CDI harvesting system.


Data Sources

The partners of EMODnet Chemistry bring together extensive experience in collecting, processing, and managing chemistry data. This experience is combined with expertise in distributed data infrastructure development and operation, and in the provision of discovery, access and viewing services following INSPIRE implementation rules and international standards (ISO, OGC).


EMODnet Chemistry data product development

A set of dedicated products are developed and customized to the peculiarity of the data. Nutrients in the water column are widely monitored; the space and time coverage allows to compute basin-scale interpolated maps. Contaminants shows enormous heterogeneity in the sampled parameters, in the analysis methods, in the species group and biota part monitored; the dedicated products aim at featuring these heterogeneities, and to be a useful tool in environmental impact assessment analysis requested by many EU directives (in particular MSFD and WFD). Marine litter maps are generated for beach and seafloor litter, covering official monitoring and other data sources on dedicated layers.

Time series data are visualized as Dynamic plots, which can be customized in order to display vertical profiles of chemical properties in time- or depth-ranges selected by the user. All metadata on all used observations are linked to the plot.


Improvements in the current development Phase III (2017-2020)

The present work of EMODnet Chemistry will be enlarged to:

  • Provide data layers to support main stakeholders involved in Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) assessment and reporting activities (Member States, EEA and Regional Sea Conventions).
  • Provide information on nutrient loads (nitrogen & phosphorous) to regional seas from major rivers.
  • Continue data gathering and development of data products on a European scale for beach litter, seafloor litter (i.e. litter collected by fish trawl surveys) and floating micro litter.
  • Analyse and extend the litter data management to new topics like floating macro litter, seafloor images or micro litter in sediment.