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Research Infrastructures Services Reinforcing Air Quality Monitoring Capacities in European Urban & Industrial AreaS (RI-URBANS)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RI-URBANS (Research Infrastructures Services Reinforcing Air Quality Monitoring Capacities in European Urban & Industrial AreaS (RI-URBANS))

Reporting period: 2021-10-01 to 2023-03-31

Air pollution is the first environmental cause of premature motility and morbidity. In spite of the EU’s success in decreasing urban pollution, the Environmental European Agency reports that, in 2020, 96% of the urban population was exposed to levels of fine particulate matter (PM) above the WHO Guidelines, and 238,000 premature deaths in the EU-27 were attributed to exposure to PM2.5 above this target. Furthermore, the World Bank estimated that the costs associated to air quality (AQ) impairment reach 4.5% of the GDP. The marked decrease of urban pollution in EU changed patterns of pollutants end made more challenging abating their levels (especially those of or with a high secondary proportion) and closing the gaps with the WHO Guidelines. Thus, an advanced AQ monitoring is required to better assess policy actions.
RI-URBANS responds to the need to substantially reduce air pollution across in the EU. The main objective is to demonstrate how Service Tools (STs) from atmospheric Research Infrastructures (RIs) can be adapted and enhanced to better address these challenges in European cities and industrial, harbour, airport and road traffic AQ hotspots. We develop and enhance synergies between AQ Monitoring Networks (AQMNs) and RIs to implement AQ observations in support of an advanced policy assessment. The project combines state-of-the-art scientific knowledge and innovative technical work to develop STs. RI-URBANS also deploys tools and information systems in the hands of citizens and communities to support decision-making by AQ managers and regulators.
The focus is on outdoor ambient nano- (or ultrafine-) particles (UFP, in number concentration and size distribution, PNSD) and PM (in mass concentration) in terms of their sizes and constituents, as well as their source contributions gaseous precursors, and oxidative potential (OP). The project builds on existing initiatives for advanced research-driven observations of aerosol properties currently carried out in European cities to identify, develop and test the innovative STs. RI-URBANS is evaluating novel AQ parameters and source contributions, and their associated health effects, to demonstrate the European added value of implementing these observations. The project addresses all aspects of sustainability, including efficient curation, preservation and provision of access to data, training and capacity building, and how the use of tools will be secured in the future. The implementation of 5 pilots involving 12 cities is used to demonstrate the ability to integrate complementary measurement systems and methods, as well as data quality control, managing and communication using FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Re-usable) principles. The final goal is to provide upscaling and sustainability to the offered AQMNs-RIs interoperable STs, using advanced instrumentation, modelling and source apportionment, and integrating citizen’s observatories and mobile measurements. RI-URBANS strongly relies on the expertise of AQMNs, AQ experts and the European RIs ACTRIS and IAGOS to apply existing methodologies to the urban areas, developing new suited STs, enhancing the synergies with AQMNs through knowledge transfer and offering a sustainable framework for providing dedicated and focused urban STs.
To reach these objectives, RI-URBANS builds upon 4 major strategic pillars (SP, see Figure 1):
● SP1 compiles available RIs and AQMNs advanced observations, tools and protocols; evaluates the datasets and operational conditions, new monitoring and modelling tools; and develops STs in work packages (WPs) 1-3 to be demonstrated in SP2 and upscaled in SP3.
● SP2 (WP4) demonstrates the sustainable and interoperable implementation of STs developed in SP1. Here, 5 pilot concepts are implemented with the participation of the RIs and AQMNs from Athens, Barcelona, Birmingham, Bucharest, Milan-Bologna, Paris, Rotterdam-Amsterdam, Helsinki and Zurich.
● SP3 proposes the roadmap for upscaling the implementation (by RIs-AQMNs) of the STs and data management (WP5) provided by SP1 and demonstrated by SP2, as well as the transfer of these to stakeholders (WP6).
● SP4 includes the support actions on communication, exploitation, dissemination, management and coordination (WP7-8).
In M01-18 the project is progressing as planned, with very few minor deviations reflected in an amendment done on 08/2022. Below are described the work carried out.
WP1 compiled existing datasets on measurements and measuring protocols of the advanced AQ parameters from existing supersites. As planned this included UFP, BC, PNSD, PM speciation (off-line and on-line), NH3, VOCs and OP. Data was worked for QA/QC, harmonised in terms of format and measurement conditions and made it available for the other WPs. Furthermore, an analysis of the protocols used was carried out and compared with the ACTRIS and CEN recommendations. This yielded to the proposal of specific STs, adding also the 3D measurements. Scientific reports (and articles) on the phenomenology of these advanced AQ pollutants have been released.
WP2 compiled data on mortality and morbidity from cities where the advanced AQ parameters were available and started the epidemiological analyses of short-term effects by combining health datasets and those from WP1. An ST on the analysis of OP from PM, based on a large inter-comparison exercise involving a number of cities, has been released. As are STs for the urban mapping of pollutants, including in and around hotspots, with and without citizens’ involvement.
WP3 created the first emission inventory for UFP-PNSD, and complemented the emission inventory of the road traffic sector with non-exhaust vehicle PM emissions, which are accessible in the TNO website. Furthermore, a methodology to improve European urban emission inventories has been released.
WP4 is demonstrating the above reported STs elaborated in WP1-3 in 5 pilots in 12 cities along 2023-2024. Figure 1 shows the 5 STs to be demonstrated in the pilots, with the involvement of local AQMNs.
WP5 is involved in most tasks of WP1-4 to propose a strategy for upscaling the devised and demonstrated STs. A major focus was on data management, with the aim of compiling existing data on advanced AQ parameters towards ACTRIS and made these open.
WP6 is engaging stakeholders to help WP5 in upscaling the implementation of STs, but specially is providing recommendations, from RI-URBANS-ACTRIS to DG ENV and AQUILA, on measurements of advanced AQ proposed in Art. 8 and 10 of, currently ongoing, revision of the AQ EU Directive.
WP7 has been/is very active and efficient in communication and dissemination, by creating website, intranet, offering open data and reports, flyers and video, as projected in the communication plan. The kick off, 1st Stakeholder meeting and 1st Scientific meeting, held in 10/2021, 05/2022 and 10/2022, respectively, were organised and held in collaboration with WP4, 6, and 8.
WP8 made operative in the foreseen deadlines the structure, coordination team, data management plans, communication plan, and ethics guides (WP9), among others.
The innovation resides mainly in carrying out the monitoring and interpretation of advanced AQ parameters. This is transferred to stakeholders and supports the revision of the current EU AQ Directive. Furthermore, it creates a network of urban supersites into ACTRIS that will support the implementation of the revised directive.
Figure 2 Countries and partners
Figure 1 Concept