4 decades of Belgian marine monitoring: uplifting historical data to today's needs
Original (non-English) name
Projet Mer / Projekt Zee
4 Decades of Belgian Marine Monitoring: Uplifting historical data to today’s needs (4DEMON) : final report Lagring, Ruth - De Witte, Bavo - Sabbe, Koen ... et al. Brussels : Scientific Policy, 2018 (SP2792)
Long-term change in contamination, eutrophication and acidification indicators has been reported from the North Sea and adjoining coastal waters during the last decades. Although corresponding data have been extensively collected during numerous campaigns at sea, no quality-checked, intercalibrated and integrated data sets with sufficient temporal and spatial resolution exist for these parameters for the Belgian Continental Shelf (BCS). This seriously hampers evaluating long-term environmental change in this heterogeneous and complex area, where various factors and processes, operating at different spatial and temporal scales, impact marine ecosystem status and health. Designing and implementing Integrated Coastal Zone Management actions in the BCS requires a thorough and correct understanding of environmental change in the area, and this in turn needs robust historic (and future) long-term data sets.
In the BCS, modern oceanography, with systematic campaigns for assessing the quality of the marine environment, started with the “Projet Mer/Projekt Zee” (PMPZ) in 1970. Within this first phase of the Belgian Federal North Sea Research Programme, all compartments of the marine ecosystem were studied. This initial program was followed by other research actions, programs and monitoring campaigns, resulting in a large set of valuable historic data on the marine environment of the BCS. The use of these data however suffers from two major drawbacks. First, many historic data are still only available on paper, scattered across different Belgian institutions. Second, many of these programs were carried out more or less independently from one another. The lack of coordination, continuity and integration resulted in inconsistencies in spatial sampling coverage and resolution, sampling frequency, data storage, and changes in measurement techniques and conditions. In addition, methodological changes were also implemented because of technological advances [e.g. the routine adoption of High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) methods in phytoplankton pigment oceanography since the late 1980’s] and new opportunities (e.g. the use of remote sensing (RS) for phytoplankton and turbidity monitoring since the mid-1990’s). Assembling data from different time periods, often obtained with different spatial coverage and resolution, and with different methods is typically a source of error that must be estimated and corrected.
The 4DEMON project was therefore designed to build quality-checked, intercalibrated and integrated data sets on the marine environment in the BCS, and use this data for assessing environmental change in this area.