EMODnet 2024: An EU asset powering Marine Data Services in Europe and beyond
Dear EMODnet partners, colleagues and friends,
A very Happy New Year to you all! The EMODnet New Year’s letter is something of a tradition, written by the Head of the EMODnet Secretariat. In 2024, the baton passes to me, Kate Larkin, as I took on the role of Head of Secretariat in Spring 2023. On behalf of the EMOD-network I wish the previous Head, Jan-Bart Calewaert, well in his new activities in the global ocean data domain, whilst he remains a trusted advisor to EMODnet.
As we end the first month of the New Year it is time to take stock of EMODnet’s landmark achievements in 2023, and to look forward to 2024 – a year which is set to be an extremely exciting and impactful one! Building on the 2023 launch of the EMODnet unified service, the Open Sea Lab 3.0 Hackathon, and the EMODnet Open Conference and Jamboree 2023 with its Call to Action, EMODnet will continue to evolve in 2024, with several key developments. EMODnet Data Ingestion will fully centralise into the EMODnet Portal - completing the unification of all EMODnet services. EMODnet’s collaborative work with Copernicus Marine Service on European Digital Twin Ocean (DTO) data infrastructure will reach a new level, with the third Digital Twin Ocean Forum, planned for 12-13 June 2024. There will be further technical and user interface upgrades to the EMODnet Portal, EMODnet webinars and demonstrations at stakeholder events spanning National to Regional, European and Global. And the year is set to culminate firstly with the next Open Sea Lab Hackathon (4.0) and finally with the launch of a community EMODnet Vision to 2035, for which stakeholders will be consulted during the course of the year. Stay tuned for more information on all of these activities, and get ready to have your say in shaping EMODnet’s future!
2023 At a Glance
One Ocean, One EMODnet
Just 12 months ago in January 2023, EMODnet launched its unified service, with a single Portal, map viewer, metadata catalogue and many more functionality and feature upgrades. This marked a new level of operational maturity for EMODnet. The centralisation of all seven thematics, with the respective portals being switched off, cemented EMODnet as an operational in situ marine data service of the European Commission, and one of the main Marine Knowledge initiatives of the European Union.
This was first-and-foremost a technical milestone, delivered by the EMODnet Central Portal team coordinated by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and the EMODnet Secretariat, working with thematic Coordinators and technical experts. Crucially, this was an immediate game-changer for the user, with a simplified user-interface, further optimising access to multi-disciplinary marine data, for all. Users responded, with demand in 2023 reaching close to 140,000 unique visits, and > 200,000 sessions as a result of many returning customers - a number which continues to grow and diversify. Not only this, but the unification in 2023 centralised EMODnet methodologies, tools and guidelines. These are key resources developed by EMODnet experts that EMODnet offers to all users openly and freely as part of its public service.
As a key component of the EMODnet’s external communication strategy, over 160 international stakeholders then joined the “EMODnet Centralisation: One Ocean, One EMODnet” webinar, discussing the advantages of the centralisation, demonstrating the new features and functionalities and presenting EMODnet’s position in the European and Global marine landscape. For those who could not be there, or if you would like to rewatch the webinar, the video is available on the .
EMODnet’s central role in the European Digital Twin Ocean
In Europe, the 2023 service unification was a crucial step enabling EMODnet’s key role in jointly delivering the backbone to the European Digital Twin of the Ocean, working in close partnership with the Copernicus Marine Service. 2023 was a core year for these developments with EMODnet (led by Central Portal Coordinators, VLIZ) and Copernicus Marine Service (led by Mercator Ocean International) working together in the project with activities spanning from technical developments towards a common data lake to stakeholder communication and engagement, to bring the community together and onboard as the European DTO takes shape.
EMODnet’s contribution to the global ocean data ecosystem
The technical delivery of the EMODnet centralisation and particularly the central metadata catalogue was also a vital step forwards in marine data and metadata interoperability. This led to a number of positive repercussions and results. Today, the EMODnet service is not only available from a single Portal, it is also connected to global ocean data and metadata catalogues and initiatives, with users around the world now able to discover EMODnet also via the IODE of IOC-UNESCO Ocean Data and Information System (ODIS), the Group on Earth Observations System of Systems (GEOSS) and more!
EMODnet’s user-driven service gets a stress-test at the Open Sea Lab Hackathon, third edition
The first flagship EMODnet event in 2023 was the organisation of the third edition of the Open Sea Lab (OSL 3.0). The event was held fully online, with activities kicking off in February 2023, and the main event taking place in March 2023. This was ideal timing following the recently launched new EMODnet Portal, and gave an opportunity for EMODnet to receive valuable feedback from diverse users. At OSL 3.0, data and ICT experts, and users from the private sector, policy, wider society and beyond joined forces to explore and stress-test EMODnet’s unified services and resources, whilst developing innovative blue user-driven solutions based on EMODnet resources. The benefits of a virtual hackathon were clear with a total 165 participants from over the world, forming 39 teams. A (visual) summary of the event’s highlights are provided through the OSL 3.0 report and . The three winning teams were invited to showcase their solutions to marine and maritime stakeholders at European Maritime Day (EMD) 2023, with some also attending and speaking at the EMODnet Open Conference 2023.
New products and services: Seven thematics, hundreds of parameters.
In 2023 the seven diverse EMODnet thematics continued to push the boundaries of open data and innovation in marine data, data products and services. With new contracts and/or two-year cycle renewals across the board, it was a productive year, with the delivery of a lot of new data, updates to existing datasets and data products, and new data products. In addition, whilst EMODnet’s core mandate remains delivery of pan-European coverage for multi-disciplinary marine data, many thematics already offer a global coverage in partnership with other key initiatives. Some thematics also focused on extending the coverage in other regions worldwide, e.g., the Caribbean Sea and the Caspian Sea, among others.
All updated and newly released datasets and data products are openly accessible and available from the central map viewer, metadata catalogue and/or web services. Let me share with you some highlights: EMODnet Bathymetry produced an upgraded version of the EMODnet Bathymetry Digital Terrain Model (DTM), which was released in early 2023. This new version is a further upgrade to the existing DTM as it integrates bathymetric data from even more data providers and diverse sources to deliver several key upgrades including higher resolution and updated coastlines of European seas, coupled with extended geographical coverage, including the Caribbean arc. During the previous contract of EMODnet Biology (which culminated in Spring 2023), the number of available occurrence records from the EMODnet portal increased to approximately 34.7 million. Among the newly developed data products, is a product indicating alpha diversity in phytoplankton on the greater Baltic Sea area. For EMODnet Chemistry, new marine litter maps were produced, visualising the spatial and temporal distribution of marine litter, including floating microliter. These maps were based on new marine litter data collections published earlier in 2023. New dialogues were also forged with citizen science initiatives e.g., Erasmus Maris, to further diversify the data provision into such data layers and products into the future. EMODnet Geology extended its data product offer by the publication of a new data product on seabed erosion that includes available seabed erosion studies and related background information. Furthermore, existing data products were updated with new data from wider regions, resulting in an extension of the geographic coverage to the Caribbean Sea, also thanks to increased partnership in the region, including with the Mexican Geological Survey. Marine Spatial Plans from Estonia and Spain were added to the Marine Spatial Planning dataset created by EMODnet Human Activities, which also added new data to the thematic offer, spanning upgrades to numerous existing datasets (e.g. oil and gas licensed, algae production sites, and environment). EMODnet Physics provided updates to several existing data products, including the Coriolis Ocean datasets for reanalysis and the dataset on Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole (MEOP), whilst paving ahead in dialogues with data collectors towards expanding the low-cost ocean observation capabilities and data provision to EMODnet, including from citizen science initiatives. Finally, a new release of EMODnet Seabed Habitat’s flagship product, EUSeaMap v. 2023, was released in the last quarter of 2023. The data product was updated in all existing product regions and extended to the Caribbean Sea and Caspian Sea. Additionally, a new Essential Ocean Variables product for mangrove cover was developed as well as a harmonized layer for coastal wetlands in Europe, which further expands the full EMODnet offer for the coast and land-sea interface.
During 2023 the total number of data submissions received by EMODnet Data Ingestion increased by about 200, pushing the total number to over 1,500 at the end of 2023. Towards the end of 2023, over 1,400 of these received submissions were published ‘as is’ on and available from the on the EMODnet Data Ingestion portal. Received dataset submissions range from single datasets to large integrated data from publicly funded research, the private sector, civil society and citizen science. EMODnet Data ingestion also initiated work in 2023 to centralise its services, in partnership with the EMODnet Central Portal technical team (VLIZ and EMODnet Secretariat) and EC DG MARE.
EMODnet’s expanding number of datasets continued to power the EC DG MARE European Atlas of the Seas. EMODnet remains the main data provider of this important data visualisation, web-mapping and ocean literacy tool which now contains >270maps, with content available in the 24 official EU languages. The Atlas Teachers’ Corner and Atlas communities on the EC Maritime Forum were also revamped, together with concrete joint activities with the EU4Ocean European Ocean Literacy initiative.
A growing network, connecting new communities in Europe and globally
EMODnet continues to provide a user-driven service employed by a wide range of stakeholders. The new use cases published on the Central Portal are testament to this. In 2023 we were also delighted to welcome three new EMODnet Associated Partners, i.e. ; ; and .
We call upon you all to continue informing us of potential organisations, associations or companies that might be interested to join the EMODnet Associated Partnership – a free and flexible network offering closer access to EMODnet experts for win-win collaborations.
Increasing visibility is given to the EMODnet data providers that are crucial stakeholders in the EMODnet marine knowledge value chain. While the list mainly includes data aggregators, infrastructures and services, it already provides a snapshot of the > 600 intermediate data providers, acknowledging that serving these are many more hundreds and even thousands of in situ ocean observation, marine monitoring and data collection efforts.
In 2023, EMODnet organised dedicated events and dialogues to provide input on the needs of businesses and the Blue Economy. As a key user community with multiple sectors, many Blue Economy operators are still less familiar with the wealth of marine data and resources provided free of charge by EMODnet, or of the opportunity for EMODnet to support their data sharing and ingestion efforts. For these reasons, EMODnet organised an online ‘EMODnet for Business’ workshop focusing on Marine Data for the coastal tourism sector, which provided the opportunity for cross-sectoral dialogue and sharing of experiences from key coastal tourism stakeholders regarding their in situ data needs and existing and emerging uses of EMODnet and wider open source marine environmental and human activities data for coastal tourism operations and applications. The workshop was attended by over 40invited experts from diverse coastal tourism stakeholder groups spanning the private sector (industry), research, policy, non-governmental agencies, and more. At the 2023 edition of European Maritime Day, EMODnet co-organised two stakeholder workshops, one of which focused on marine data driving marine innovation.
In early 2023, the Secretariat brought together more than 50 representatives from the former EMODnet Sea-basin Checkpoints, EMOD-network and wider experts at an online stakeholder workshop to discuss the added value of the Checkpoint methodology, and its relevance to Europe and beyond. The outcomes of the stakeholder consultations and workshop were summarised in a short report with examples of the user-oriented stress-test methodology being used by European Research Infrastructures, and data adequacy information being used in assessing Ocean Observing gaps assessments.
EMODnet maintains regular interaction with Copernicus Marine Service in the context of the European DTO (see above) but also in the context of inter-service dialogue which takes place operationally on a daily basis in terms of data flows, at six-monthly coordination meetings, as well as close dialogue in the regular inter-service Marine In Situ Collaboration Inter-service Working Group. On 29 November 2023, during the EMODnet Open Conference, a joint EMODnet – Copernicus Marine Service communication was released on the European in situ marine data service landscape. The statement explains the complementarity between the two EU marine knowledge assets, and how the services work together, following a high-level agreement between DG DEFIS and DG MARE and the signature of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2016.
EMODnet for the UN Ocean Decade
At the global level EMODnet continued to expand its concrete contributions of interoperable data and information as enablers and best practices to international initiatives, among others in support of the , the and more. In Spring 2023, EMODnet was approved as an implementing partner to the , and continued regular organisation of meetings of the informal working group ‘EMODnet for the Ocean Decade Coordination and Implementation Group’ (E4D-CIG) which aims to connect the many EMODnet partners and their activities, towards a more consolidated and impactful contribution of EMODnet to the UN Ocean Decade. EMODnet experts serve on multiple stakeholder groups of the UN Ocean Decade including, contributing to the Ocean Decade Data and Information Strategy, and its respective Implementation Plan. the UN Ocean Decade Data also participated in meetings across a range of highly relevant UN Ocean Decade Programmes (e.g. COASTPREDICT, DITTO), Collaborative Centres (e.g., Data Collaborative Centre, Collaborative Centre for Ocean Prediction), and Actions (e.g., TURTLE).
Highlights from the EMODnet Open Conference, Jamboree and Call to Action 2023
2023 culminated in the third EMODnet Open Conference and Jamboree Conference, which took place 27-30 November 2023 in Brussels. This flagship event offered a platform for the full EMOD-network and wider stakeholders to come together in-person, the first opportunity in many years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions. The event was attended by over 340 partners, associated partners, and wider stakeholders of EMODnet. The week kicked off with a Partner Jamboree with the >120 partners exchanging on their latest service developments and joint activities, and a Jamboree dinner which included a speech from Kestutis Sadauskas, Deputy Director-General of EC DG MARE. The Open Conference was a public event, moderated by Karen Coleman. With a line-up of over 75 speakers across the 1.5 days, the event highlighted EMODnet’s crucial role in the European Marine Data Ecosystem, focusing on a "Digital and Green Future". Keynote speeches from Charline Vitcheva, Director-General of EC DG MARE, and Delilah Al Khudhairy, Director, EC DG MARE, emphasised the added value that the EC recognises in EMODnet as a service, recognition of the need for a more sustainable fully functional EMODnet, and the invitation for the community to develop a vision and roadmap for the future. If you missed a session or want to revisit the insights, the Plenary video recordings together with event photos as well as Plenary and Townhall speaker presentations are now available on the . A full conference report and summary video will follow very soon.
During the Closing Session of the EMODnet Conference on 30 November 2023, I had the honour of presenting the EMODnet Call to Action on behalf of the EMODnet Partnership. The Call to Action takes stock of EMODnet’s evolution to-date into the operational European Commission in situ marine data service it is today. It recognises the key user groups which depend upon EMODnet and identifies a number of key areas where EMODnet will continue to evolve through well-identified opportunities on the way to 2035. It also recognizes that to continue delivering on existing services and expanding services to address the needs of the Green and Digital Transitions, EMODnet requires community and political action to ensure sustainability and resources appropriate for a fully functioning, operational service of the European Commission. Finally – and crucially - it calls upon EMODnet partners, associated partners, key actors and the wider community to work together to deliver a Vision to 2035
EMODnet 2024 and a shared vision to 2035
The energy and momentum created at the EMODnet Open Conference and Jamboree 2023, together with the EMODnet Call to Action launched at the event, has set the stage for an EMODnet Vision to 2035. This will be co-designed involving stakeholder consultation with the > 120 EMODnet partners, associated partners and wider community. And with a new Commission forming at the end of the year, and the next Multiannual Financial Framework just a few years away, now is the perfect time for you to have your say in shaping EMODnet’s future!
EMODnet services also continue to evolve. In 2024, this will include the completion of ’s centralisation into the EMODnet Portal. This will see the unified thematic services (launched in January 2023) being complemented with its Data Ingestion service, completing the centralisation of all EMODnet components into one single Portal. This will also signal a new milestone in the EMODnet operational EC service, further simplifying the sharing and ingestion of marine environmental and human activities in situ data from diverse ocean observation and data collection efforts, including the private sector.
The continued evolution and upgrade of EMODnet and its concrete activities and connectivity across the marine knowledge value chain also supports EMODnet’s ongoing contribution to a coordinated and streamlined European Ocean Observing System and EC Ocean Observation Initiative. Work in 2024 will pave the way for optimising ocean best practices, metadata and data standards, towards a service that crucially is seamlessly connected with data collection efforts, whilst also fully acknowledging data originators and providers, towards fully transparent data provenance that is set to further expand the user-base, particularly EMODnet’s use to support EU policy.
Promoting data sharing and ingestion of in situ marine data into EMODnet will also remain a priority in 2024. One of the first upcoming activities towards this direction is the “EMODnet for Horizon Europe and EU Mission: Restore our Ocean and Waters projects" Webinar taking place on 28th February 2024. This is aimed at Coordinators, partners, policy makers and wider representatives of European Horizon Europe and EU Mission Ocean projects collecting in-situ marine data that do not yet have an established pipeline. The workshop is invitation-only to encourage interaction and dialogue workshop. Anyone interested in this webinar should contact the Secretariat (email@example.com) for more information.
EMODnet’s collaborations with citizens and wider society were showcased at the Open Conference 2023, and have started with a bang in 2024, with EMODnet announcing its role in the largest ocean citizen science initiative to-date as a partnership with Scuba Schools International (SSI), the German Ocean Foundation and EC DG MARE, amongst others. The initiative will see a vast increase in citizen-science derived ocean data being submitted to EMODnet, to be integrated and offered in EMODnet’s pan European data layers and products in the near future. EMODnet will also continue to power the EC digital information and communication tool the European Atlas of the Seas (EU Atlas). In 2024, the use of the Atlas on mobile devices will be optimized, and the user-experience will be further developed, including improvements to the print tool to allow the creation of Atlas maps in High Definition, for printing of posters or creating graphics for presentations, together with expanding the existing “My Maps” tool, to allow users to add their own data and to annotate maps, among other emerging features.
Thank you to the EMOD-network for the year just gone, and the year(s) to come!
All of the incredible achievements, progress and plans for the continued evolution of EMODnet are down to one thing, and one thing alone: The people that make up the EMOD-network. The >120 organisations and hundreds of experts implementing EMODnet, and the many wider stakeholders, infrastructures and networks that collect ocean observations and provide data management services, to enable the operational EMODnet service that we have today.
2024 is set to be another bumper year for EMODnet, with several key developments across multiple pillars of activity. The overarching evolution of EMODnet in 2024 aligns well with the wider 2024 Commission programme: delivering today, preparing tomorrow, with EMODnet continuing the seamless delivery of its operational service, whilst working with stakeholders to plan future evolution to support EU policy, the Global Ocean agenda and stakeholders worldwide, delivering a community Vision that prepares EMODnet for a fully functional, sustainable and impactful future.
On behalf of the entire Secretariat and wider EMODnet partnership, I wish you all a happy, healthy and ocean-filled 2024 and I personally look forward to engaging with you on EMODnet’s future priorities so we can collectively set the community vision for EMODnet’s evolution over the next decade and beyond. And before that, I invite you to visit emodnet.ec.europa.eu and see what EMODnet can do for you!
Kate Larkin, Head of the EMODnet Secretariat