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ESONET - European Seas Observatory NETwork

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Summary information

Funding:FP6 - Network of Excellence
Total cost:13990000
Ec contribution:7000000
Start date:2007-03-01
End date:2011-02-28
Duration:48 months
Coordinator:Roland Person (
Organisation:French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea – France
Regio:North Atlantic; Arctic; Black Sea; Mediterranean Sea
Keywords:European seafloor observatory network; oceanographical and phisycal recordings
Project name:ESONET - European Seas Observatory NETwork
Project summary:Abstract
The European GMES programme for Global Monitoring for Environment and Security has identified a need for a subsea component of a proposed surveillance system. This will be directed to monitor the solid earth beneath the sea, processes at the interface between the solid earth and sea and processes in the water column.

ESONET was set up as a concerted action (EVK3-CT-2002-80008) sponsored by the European commission to consider the feasibility of such a system. ESONET is directed to monitoring the submarine terrain around Europe from the continental shelves to the abyss, an area of ca. 3 million km2. This is comparable in size with the total landmass of Europe and is increasingly important for resources, such as minerals, hydrocarbons and fisheries. Only a small fraction of this realm has been explored and new features, and communities of animals (e.g. cold water corals and mud volcanoes) are discovered every year. The biodiversity probably exceeds that of the European land mass. There are natural hazards such as submarine slides and earthquakes with associated tsunamis. Human impacts on this zone are poorly understood. A prerequisite for management, conservation and protection from hazards of this zone is the establishment of a long- term monitoring capability. ESONET through a co-ordinated approach will provide data to users on time scales from instantaneous real-time hazard warning to long term archiving of data for tracking of global change around Europe.

Remote sensing from aircraft and spacecraft has limited capacity for penetrating through sea water; optical sensors only providing data on the surface layer of the ocean. Monitoring of events on the sea floor or in the water column require in situ sensors, power supplies and a data storage or telemetry system. The science of oceanography has developed through the use of instruments such as current meters deployed on moorings or platforms with electrical energy stored in batteries and data archived on various media such as photographic films, hard discs or solid state memory. Data are only available when the system is recovered, there is no real-time capability and the system is limited by the battery life and storage capacity of the data store. Real-time telemetry of data can be achieved either via acoustics through the water, or via radio links to shore or satellite from a surface buoy. These systems are never-the-less limited by the energy available in the observatory and energy costs of data transmission imposes a further energy drain. In contrast, space craft opportunities for use of solar energy are limited to special cases where a sufficiently large array can be mounted on a surface buoy or other structure.

ESONET is complementary to proposed cabled observatory systems being developed in North America (NEPTUNE) and Japan (ARENA) but will use various technologies including noncabled instruments.
Project outputs:ESONET/CA emphasized the importance of the submarine terrain around Europe from the continental shelves to the abyss, an area of 3 millions km2, comparable in size with the total landmass of Europe and increasingly important in terms of resources (food, energy, biodiversity). Also, this area is the place of large natural hazards such as submarine slides, earthquakes and tsunamis, whose impact is enormous particularly in coastal areas. Finally, an important part of the processes that are critical to climate change takes place in the ocean system and its monitoring is increasingly important for the sustainability of humankind. The only systematic way to complement existing spatial and coastal devices was seen as the implementation of a group of multiparametric seafloor permanent observatories, connected directly or indirectly to shore. They were specifically designed to ensure a long term monitoring of chosen critical locations, where the most important biological, chemical or physical processes could be detected or followed up.

ESONET/CA made the first assessment of available European capacity in ocean observatories. It allowed the identification of the potential stakeholders in Europe and elsewhere with interests in the proposed system and it produced a first level configuration of the observatory nodes. It also started systematic connections with similar initiatives in the USA, Canada and Japan, establishing itself as the reference seafloor observatory program.