EMODnet Chemistry: the gateway to HELCOM beach litter data
The Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (the Helsinki Commission, HELCOM) is an intergovernmental organisation established to ensure the implementation of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (). The Convention, signed in 1974 by all Baltic Sea coastal countries, seeks to promote the sustainable use of the Baltic Sea resources, preventing pollution from any source and preserving biological diversity. The Helsinki Commission includes the following Contracting Parties, signatories of the Convention: Denmark, Estonia, the European Union, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden.
Challenges faced by the user
HELCOM’s vision for the future is “…a healthy Baltic Sea environment with diverse biological components functioning in balance, resulting in a good ecological status and supporting a wide range of sustainable economic and social activities”.
The ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ holistic assessment report (HOLAS) is a powerful instrument adopted by the Commission to achieve this objective. Since 2010, HOLAS reports have provided a comprehensive overview of the ecosystem health of the Baltic Sea region from 2003 onwards. HOLAS allows environmental managers and politicians to root their decisions on evidence-based, up-to-date knowledge of the status of the Baltic Sea. The second assessment, issued in 2018, was based on 37 indicators concerning core themes, followingly: biodiversity, eutrophication, hazardous substances, and maritime. HELCOM is currently carrying out the third holistic assessment (HOLAS 3) of the Baltic Sea, covering the period 2016-2021. The results are expected to be published in 2023. The Commission decided to add the beach litter indicator in order to start assessing the status of marine litter pollution. To populate the indicator, HELCOM had to face the challenge of collecting, standardising, validating and storing beach litter data from Contracting Parties.
EMODnet services used
In 2021, HELCOM chose EMODnet Chemistry as the web-based platform to manage Baltic Sea data on beach litter for the HOLAS 3 purposes.
According to the agreement between the parties, the Commission asked all countries that are signatories to the Helsinki Convention to submit 2016-2021 data from national coastal litter monitoring to EMODnet Chemistry. The Commission recommended to follow the EMODnet Guidelines and forms for gathering marine litter data and apply the beach litter categories and types specified in the guideline. The data will serve to populate the beach litter indicator included in the HOLAS 3.
Since then EMODnet Chemistry has ingested, harmonised and validated data that had been collected from 2016 to 2021 on 141 beaches in 9 countries: Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Russia. In this way, it has helped to build an open, quality source of information starting from dishomogeneous datasets and multiple sources. A specific dataset was prepared using the dedicated web-service from the marine litter data management system of EMODnet Chemistry. The unrestricted datasets are freely and readily accessible through the EMODnet Chemistry CDI Data Discovery and Access Service.
Impact of EMODnet
The dataset produced by EMODnet Chemistry based on the data from the HELCOM countries was initially used for further quality control to verify the data collected and to update the data when requested by the respective data providers. In addition, EMODnet Chemistry's work on the data, carried out in close cooperation with the Parties to the Convention, will greatly facilitate the production of the HOLAS 3 beach litter indicator, which is a key element in assessing the environmental status of the Baltic Sea.