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COMBINE: Cooperative Monitoring in the Baltic marine environment

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The data are withheld from general circulation and disclosure but access may be obtained on a case-by-case basis through negotiation

Monitoring is since long a well established function of the Helsinki Convention. Monitoring of physical, chemical and biological variables of the open sea started in 1979, monitoring of radioactive substances in the Baltic Sea started in 1984. more

Introduction Monitoring is since long a well established function of the Helsinki Convention. Monitoring of physical, chemical and biological variables of the open sea started in 1979, monitoring of radioactive substances in the Baltic Sea started in 1984. Until 1992 monitoring of coastal waters was considered as a national obligation and only assessment of such data had to be reported to the Commission. However, under the revised Helsinki Convention, 1992, it is an obligation to conduct also monitoring of the coastal waters and to report the data to the Commission. This programme will also cater for the needs of monitoring in the Baltic Sea Protected Areas (BSPA). The Environment Committee decided that for management reasons the different program should be integrated into a common structure and thus the Cooperative Monitoring in the Baltic Marine Environment - COMBINE - was instituted in 1992. This Manual is directed to all performing monitoring in the COMBINE Programme. The Manual defines the contributions made by all Contracting Parties and regulates all methods used. The document will be revised when there is a need for changes in the Programme content or for updating of technical annexes. The official version of the Manual for Marine Monitoring in the COMBINE Programme of HELCOM is always available electronically via the HELCOM home page. The validity of copies must always at all times be controlled against the official version by end users. This Manual is updated once a year. Changes to be included in the Manual should be considered by the Monitoring and Assessment Group and after its endorsement submitted to the Secretariat not later than 1 June. These changes will then be valid from 1 January the following year. All changes are highlighted by a separate note, section by section. The Manual has last been updated in January 2008 according to the decisions by HELCOM MONAS 10/2008. Aims for the monitoring The aims of COMBINE, as decided by HELCOM (HELCOM 14/18, Paragraph 5.27) and further elaborated by BMP-WS 2/96, are:
  • To identify and quantify the effects of anthropogenic discharges/activities in the Baltic Sea, in the context of the natural variations in the system, and
  • To identify and quantify the changes in the environment as a result of regulatory actions.
This general statement, which is equally valid for monitoring of inputs as well as monitoring of environmental conditions, is then converted into more specific aims for the different types of monitoring. More specifically the aims of COMBINE mean: For the open sea and coastal area monitoring:
  • Hydrographic variations: to set the background for all other measurements related to the identification and quantification of the effects of anthropogenic discharges/activities, the parameters providing an indication of natural fluctuations in the hydrographic regime of the Baltic Sea must be monitored on a continuous basis.
Problems related to eutrophication:
  • To determine the extent and the effects of anthropogenic inputs of nutrients on marine biota, the following variables must be measured:
    1. concentrations of nutrients, the response of the different biological compartments and
    2. Integration and evaluation of results
For contaminants:
  • To compare the level of contaminants in selected species of biota (including different parts of their tissues) from different geographical regions of the Baltic Sea in order to detect possible contamination patterns, including areas of special concern (or ´hot spots´).
  • To measure levels of contaminants in selected species of biota at specific locations over time in order to detect whether levels are changing in response to the changes in inputs of contaminants to the Baltic Sea.
  • To measure levels of contaminants in selected species of biota at different locations within the Baltic Sea, particularly in areas of special concern, in order to assess whether the levels pose a threat to these species and/or to higher trophic levels, including marine mammals and seabirds.
For the effects of contaminants:
  • To carry out biological effects measurements at selected locations in the Baltic Sea, particularly at sites of special concern, in order to assess whether the levels of contaminants in sea water and/or suspended particulate matter and/or sediments and/or in the organisms themselves are causing detrimental effects on biota (e.g., changes in community structure)."
In more explicit terms this requires several types of investigations. For the study of eutrophication and its effects:
  • long-term trend studies,
  • studies with the budget approach (i.e. budgets or "mass balances" for main nutrients),
  • studies of effects on biota,
  • studies providing 'online' information on sudden events,
  • studies giving background information including baseline studies and joint studies.
For the study of contaminants and their effects:
  • studies of temporal trends of contaminants,
  • studies of spatial variations in contaminant concentrations and patterns,
  • studies providing information on episodic events,
  • studies of effects on biota as well as risk evaluations for target species,
  • studies of environmental fate of contaminants
National commitments Given that the data obtained in the monitoring programme are needed to conduct periodic assessments of the state of the Baltic marine environment, the variables included in the programme have been classified into three categories to ensure that basic information is obtained for all regions of the Baltic Sea, but that specific regional requirements are taken into account as well as resource levels, different competences available, and the desirability and necessity of sharing the workload among the Contracting Parties. The categories also take account of the need for different types of supporting studies on an occasional basis. The three categories are: Category 1: Core variables Explanation: Core variables comprise measurements that have to be carried out on a routine basis to produce comparable and accurate results from all regions of the Baltic Sea as a basic information for an assessment. Category 2: Main variables Explanation: Main variables are of equal importance as the core variables for the Baltic Sea Periodic Assessments and have to be measured on a regular basis. However, for reasons of regional requirements as well as of competence and/or resources not all CPs will be required to carry out all measurements but all measurements will need to be covered on a work-sharing basis. Category 3: Supporting studies Explanation: Supporting studies provide information that facilitates the interpretation of monitoring data collected in Category 1 and Category 2 or provide additional information as required. These investigations are carried out by individual CPs or groups of CPs often in a project- or campaign-like manner. These investigations include, e.g. baseline studies, special monitoring studies, process studies and tests of new methods and techniques. The success of the monitoring programme depends entirely on the willingness of Contracting Parties to commit themselves to carry out the various parts, particularly variables in Category 1 and Category 2, and that they allocate the resources needed. In this context the following table explaining the regional responsibilities for the Contracting Parties should be considered. The main responsibilities are as follows:
  • Baltic Proper: Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and Russia
  • Gulf of Bothnia: Finland and Sweden
  • Gulf of Finland: Estonia, Finland and Russia
  • Gulf of Riga: Estonia and Latvia
  • Sound and the Kattegat: Denmark and Sweden
  • Great Belt: Denmark
  • Bay of Kiel and Bay of Mecklenburg: Germany
Apart from their main responsibilities, however, the Contracting Parties are encouraged to participate in the programme in other regions of the Baltic Sea Area whenever practicable. Each Contracting Party has offered to carry out a certain combination of variables, sampling stations and frequencies as regards to Category 1 and Category 2, and often also offered special studies as in Category 3. These contributions are regarded as mandatory for the Contracting Party in question with the understanding that future national decisions on priorities and resource allocation may change their contributions to the programme.

Biology > Benthos, Biology > Plankton > Phytoplankton, Biology > Plankton > Zooplankton, Physical > Hydrography (e.g. T,S), Water composition > Nutrients
Marine, Long-term monitoring, Microbiology, Monitoring, Phytoplankton, Zoobenthos, Zooplankton, ANE, Baltic, Baltic Proper, ANE, Baltic, Bothnia Gulf, ANE, Baltic, Finland Gulf, ANE, Baltic, Riga Gulf, ANE, Belt Sea, ANE, Germany, Mecklenburg Bight, ANE, Germany, Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel Bight, ANE, North Sea, Kattegat

Geographical coverage
ANE, Baltic, Baltic Proper [Marine Regions]
ANE, Baltic, Bothnia Gulf [Marine Regions]
ANE, Baltic, Finland Gulf [Marine Regions]
ANE, Baltic, Riga Gulf [Marine Regions]
ANE, Belt Sea [Marine Regions]
ANE, Germany, Mecklenburg Bight [Marine Regions]
ANE, Germany, Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel Bight [Marine Regions]
ANE, North Sea, Kattegat [Marine Regions]

Temporal coverage
From 1979 on [In Progress]

Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), moredata manager

Dataset status: In Progress
Data type: Data
Data origin: Monitoring: field survey
Metadatarecord created: 2010-02-15
Information last updated: 2010-02-15
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