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Largest-ever environmental research project in the Mediterranean basin concludes

Oceanographers and environmental scientists joined each other in Brussels shortly before Christmas last year to mark the end of the highly successful Mediterranean Targeted Project, funded by the European Commission's Marine Science and Technologies programme (MAST). The Europ...
Oceanographers and environmental scientists joined each other in Brussels shortly before Christmas last year to mark the end of the highly successful Mediterranean Targeted Project, funded by the European Commission's Marine Science and Technologies programme (MAST). The European Commissioner for Research, Philippe Busquin, introduced presentations by leading scientists from the project on 17 December.

Their research demonstrates that not only is the Mediterranean basin the home of several hundred million of people in 32 states and the holiday destination of nearly 160 million tourists per year, but also a very good indicator for the state of the global climate. 'This and the demonstrable influence of such changes on marine productivity in the Mediterranean act as a strong forecast of the likely effect of future changes worldwide', says the Commission.

The Mediterranean Targeted Project also produced results demonstrating the influence of Saharan dust and human input on nutrient levels (algal blooms) and how dramatic increases in water temperature and salinity effect fisheries and tourism, for example. Researchers detected clear evidence - particularly in the northern Adriatic - of the Chernobyl disaster, using new models of the movement of soluble pollutants. The techniques were devised and validated as part of the Mediterranean Targeted Project. These radioactive isotopes are now decreasing in surface waters, say the scientists, although they expect soon to find larger quantities in deep waters.

The first phase of the Mediterranean Targeted Project began in 1993 and ran until 1996. Funded with 11 million ecus, It involved ten projects carried out in 70 laboratories across 14 countries. The second phase, from 1996 to 1999 received 10.8 million ecus and involved 53 partners from 13 countries, making the entire project the largest European environmental project ever co-funded by the European Commission. The network partners have also been successful in training 312 young scientists, one third of which are women, in the last three years.

The project has had a high level of coverage in the popular media and has been most noteworthy for catalysing and coordinating a network of partners from 13 EU countries, plus Morocco and Tunisia, which formerly worked separately on much smaller projects, the Commission explains.

'It is an excellent example of the value of pan-European research collaborations', said Commissioner Busquin, when he introduced the researchers presenting their results in Brussels last December.

Source: European Commission, Research Directorate-General

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