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Energy, Climate change, Environment

EMODnet Chemistry for a better quality of contaminants data in sediment

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Benthic organisms on a marine soft-bottom (© T. Makovec, NIB, All rights reserved)

Several research institutes from different countries contributed to the proposal, including the National Institute of Oceanography and Applied Geophysics and the Higher Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, from Italy, the National Institute of Biology, from Slovenia, the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, from Greece, and others from Croatia, Greece and France.

The research group focused on the Eastern Mediterranean, one of the world's most heavily trafficked seas with a densely populated and industrialised coastal region, and two types of pollutants: trace metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Both can be of mineralogical or anthropogenic origin. In particular, trace metals can originate from soil erosion or the discharge of mining effluents, as well as from urban and industrial activities at sea and on land. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons occur naturally in marine sediments, but can also result from hydrocarbon spills during shipping or after accidents.

The study involved three steps. First, the research group conducted a comprehensive review of the existing scientific literature, which led to the establishment of minimum and maximum concentrations of pollutants in the area under study. These limits were then compared with an existing data set for the Adriatic-Ionian Sea to assess their appropriateness and improve their consistency and quality. Finally, a further analysis of the literature was carried out to determine the background concentrations (i.e. the concentrations that would be present in an uncontaminated natural environment) of a number of substances for which there is little information in some areas of the Mediterranean. A complex but necessary work in order to make the data increasingly homogeneous and thus allow a coherent and large-scale assessment of marine pollution.

The datasets used in this paper are from the project entitled 'Harmonisation and Networking for Pollutant Assessment in the Ionian and Adriatic Seas', funded by the INTERREG VB-ADRION programme (2018-2020). Under this project, research institutes and environmental authorities from the coastal countries of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas have contributed to the collection, harmonisation and production of accessible datasets on marine pollutants through EMODnet Chemistry. They have also participated in the exchange of knowledge, information and best practices.

’The results of the study confirm that data and information management needs to be improved to support a harmonised assessment of the state of the environment at regional and sub-regional levels, for example for the whole Mediterranean region. While much remains to be done, great efforts have been made in the last decades to implement and consolidate European data infrastructures such as EMODnet to overcome this fragmentation of data availability and homogeneity.

Marina Lipizer (OGS)