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Marine Water Quality Information Services – AquaMar

Final Report Summary - AQUAMAR (Marine Water Quality Information Services – AquaMar)

Executive Summary:
The AquaMar project started with the aim of providing downstream services on water quality to its users, with the objective of creating a reference organizational and technical body at European level for these water quality services. The actual service portfolio includes the contribution to the Water Framework Directive and the European Marine Strategy with valid indicators of the status of the water like the chlorophyll P90 indicator; to forecast algae blooms; to support large scale marine infrastructure; to contribute to the Bathing Water Directive, by monitoring those waters and reporting; and to monitor the aquaculture precision farming. In order to accomplish with all these services, several research activities have been carried out, all of them including an extensive and intensive validation phase by means of what has been called “service trials”. The AquaMar project also has established close links with other European projects, including the fusion with the MarCoast services, sharing portfolio of standard products and users.

The Aquamar project was composed in its 70% by SMEs, with the support of the scientific partners, public institutions for the most part.

The AquaMar project concept was based on three central R&D elements:
(1) scientific development of new methods for innovative products. The results of this element are scientific/technical descriptions of new algorithms. They were developed on a theoretical basis and experimented on test cases.
(2) technological implementation of the methodological results raised to a pre-operational status; robust and applicable to all relevant water types and times; properly documented and implemented in various instances; tested with users in a quasi-operational environment.
(3) validation methodology was developed for both development lines, taking the specific objectives into account.

After 3 years of activities the AquaMar project can be considered successful having provided a number of scientific and technological outcomes, developing and testing new added value WQ products, disseminating its results. These achievements were also used as input for drafting a road to realise a sustainable Water Quality Service Network at European scale, in conjunction primarily with MarCoast2.

Project Context and Objectives:
The AquaMar project focused on downstream services turning Marine Core Services products into water quality end-user services. While the current MarCoast 2 project (Marine & Coastal Environmental Information Services), funded by ESA under the GMES Services Element programme, does not include any R&D activities, AquaMar aimed at developing new service lines that can potentially be included into operational services.
Water quality is a key topic for monitoring agencies and the public, and it is subject of several European Directives: Water Framework Directive(WFD), Bathing Water Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive; and regional conventions: Convention for the Protection of the marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR), Helsinki Convention (HELCOM), Barcelona Commission (BARCOM). Marine Water Quality is the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of water in relationship to a set of Standards which vary significantly due to different environmental conditions, ecosystems, and intended human uses. Some measurements can be made on-site in direct contact with the water source in question. More complex measurements require a water sample to be collected, preserved, and analysed in the laboratory. Taking these complex measurements can be expensive. In the past, remote sensing has proven to provide a contribution to water quality measurements, which is limited in terms of number of measurable parameters, but significant in terms of spatial span of the observed parameters and in terms of cost / benefit.
Optical remote sensing techniques provide measurements of apparent optical properties of water (water leaving reflectances) which can be converted into basic biological and physical parameters (transparency, chlorophyll-a concentration, suspended matter concentration), or through statistical analysis and integration with in-situ measurements into higher level indicators (e.g. Percentile 90). Assimilation of remotely sensed quantities into numerical models enlarges the suite of derived parameters (nutrients, algal species composition).
The basic products delivered from optical remote sensing are serving only part of the users’ requirements. The near coastal area, which is the main focus of the WFD, is not properly addressed.
The MSFD and the WFD require integrated parameters and indicators, which are closer to the assessment criteria. In addition to the WFD and the MSFD, remotely sensed products shall be made usable for other directives, such as the Bathing Waters Directive, and for monitoring of offshore activities (like Aquaculture or large infrastructures building). The users require a reliable, long term assured service instead of timely limited R&D projects.

A group of European service providers, all being Small and Medium Entreprises and all already providing basic water quality services has taken up these requirements to "continue and provide more", expressed by the traditional monitoring users, and combined this with ideas to develop new services, also addressing new customer segments (industry, media). The targeted users are the traditional governmental monitoring authorities plus local authorities, offshore and water services industry, media and the general public.

The AquaMar developments were done under guidance by the users, through the User and Customer Executive Board (UCEB), in order to make sure that user requirements were constantly and properly met and in order to establish customer retention to the service network.

The AquaMar project concept is based on three central R&D elements:
(1) scientific development of new methods for innovative products. The results of this element are scientific/technical descriptions of new algorithms.
(2) technological implementation of the methodological results, raised up to a pre-operational status; robust and applicable to all relevant water types and times; properly documented and implemented in various instances; tested with users in a quasi-operational environment.
(3) validation methodology developed for both development lines, taking the specific objectives into account.
These three activities are supported by cross cutting activities, such as development of generic remote sensing methods.

The overall project objective was to build a reference technical body at European scale for water quality services, service quality management and services validation. The aim was to go beyond the state of the art with improved products and novel services, to address new markets and to develop a legal and economic framework for an open partnership of service providers. Validation and quality improvement guidelines as a compulsory requirement for new services.
This will be the foundation of a sustainable service provision at European scale, as requested by operational users.
This objective can be broken down into the following scientific and technical objectives:
1) To conduct R&D activity to develop novel downstream services:
- Indicators for the reporting requirement of the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive
- Algal bloom detection
- Support to large scale marine infrastructure
- Services supporting the Bathing Water directive monitoring
- Aquaculture precision farming
2) To build a sustained technical collaboration with the Marine Core Service for end-to-end services, validation and quality optimisation;
3) To federate the User community at large;
4) To propose, agree and implement a service quality validation process;
5) To propose, agree and implement a process to harmonize service quality evolution;
6) To disseminate best practices to the service provider's community at large;
- R&D results on information products
- Service validation process
- Service quality evolution process
7) To demonstrate impact of the proposed actions on the sustainability of the service network at European scale.

Project Results:
AquaMar developed novel products and methods, to be integrated into MarCoast services as to improve the quality and spectrum of the products delivered to the end-users concerning Water Quality.
The service portfolio of products developed in AquaMar includes: (1) indicators for the reporting requirement of the Water Framework Directive and the European Marine Strategy, (2) algal bloom detection of different species, (3) support to large scale marine infrastructures projects, (4) services supporting the Bathing Water directive monitoring, (5) aquaculture precision farming.
For each of the five innovative service/products lines two trials were performed, allowing for assessing their accuracy and value towards the user requirements and practices and identifying further elements to be developed, with existing technology gaps.
Furthermore some of the outcomes have been successfully implemented into MarCoast2 operational services.

To support this integration, the products development was complemented by R&D on methods for improved standard WQ products, geostatistics, and distribution technologies, to be used across the service portfolio. In parallel, a validation and quality evolution strategy was developed and operatively applied to the MarCoast2 project, including the services sustainability wrt new space sensors.

As a result of these activities, significant S/T progresses have been reached by AquaMar leading to new potential services, some of them implemented in service trials delivered to end-users:
- Definition of algorithms for optimal interpolation and optimal merge of sensor for improving basic WQ products
- Improved methods for trend & cycle detection
- Furniture of a the first chl-a daily global analysis at 4km resolution in the world (distributed in MyOcean II)
- Improved MERIS processing near the coast and for lakes
- Improved CHL-P90 estimator for WFD application
- Development of a method for merging multiple sensor HAB risk maps to improve spatial coverage resolution and accuracy, tested with MERIS and MODIS data
- Method for improving MERIS FR products for Chl-a, TSM and Turbidity by regionalization of the algorithms
- Development of a granulometry product for the characterization of particles size distribution
- Development of data assimilation of chlorophyll-a and transparency ideally suited for downscaled high resolution models
- Definition of a method for integrating various EO techniques and products for supporting the specific requirements of Bathing Water Directive in particular using HR sensors for water quality products, for the characterization of anthropic pressure and for the monitoring of terrestrial fluxes
- Integration of WQ products as support for Aquaculture using existing algorithms in web-based information and assessment systems in use by either or both the service providers and end-users themselves.

Regarding the experimentation, the objectives have been achieved with 10 Service Trials designed and based on test cases including the involvement of relevant users. All of them have been successfully completed and the service/products delivered have been validated, involving 7 consortium partners.

Concerning the validation of water quality products, AquaMar defined a validation protocol tested within the service trial and implemented in the last year on operational services in MarCoast2 and other European projects. Fruitful cooperation with other project contributed to the further improvement of the products validation processes and information dissemination, as for example the adaptation of the Marcoast/AquaMar Validation protocol for FP7 projects Freshmon and Cobios.
Furthermore a Service Validation Information System have been developed allowing service providers, users and validation reviewers to use a single interface to access the validation information and provide feedback at all levels.

Concerning the User community, AquaMar put efforts for the dissemination of best practices to the service provider’s community started through interactions and cooperation between providers to ensure the promotion of ocean colour services within users. Two User Training and Validation Workshops have been held – in conjunction with the last two MarCoast2 Service Validation Workshops – involving many users and discussion the outcomes of the R&D and trial activities.

Potential Impact:
Not exclusively but primarily AquaMar targeted the MarCoast operational services, as a long term perspective for its developments.

AquaMar has contributed to the users’ uptake to support the following legislation:
Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)
· Introduction of MarCoast Chl and Total Suspended Matter into initial state assessment for MSFD in France (France)
· Presentation to and discussion with national board for phytoplankton monitoring (BLMP subgroup, responsible for WFD & MSFD) (Germany)
Water Framework Directive (WFD)
· Improved Chl-P90 products for DG-ENV Belgium requirements (Belgium)
· Integration of MarCoast products into time series (statistics) for WFD areas (Norway)
· Experimental usage of MarCoast products for WFD assessment in 2 case studies (Italy)

Fruitful cooperation with other project contributed to the improvement of the services and
products validation processes, and information dissemination:
· Adaptation of the Marcoast/AquaMar Validation protocol for FP7 projects Freshmon and Cobios
· Development of templates for statistical analysis of validation data sets which were applied in Marcoast-2 validation phase 2
· The harmful algal forecast service was implemented to mobile service Puosu (operated by FMI) and as a part of a FMI press product.
· Interface between the automatic and routine bulk delivery of MyOcean core products and the tuned products required as input data by AquaMar services

Cross-cutting developments contributed to other scientific topics:
· Creation of the first Chl-a daily global analysis at 4km resolution in the world relevant for the following topics: Climate change studies, High frequency monitoring for coastal areas, Validation of bio-geochemical models (or assimilation as forcing condition)
· Implementation and improvement of tools for satellite data processing (e.g. BEAM processor)
· Online web based tools for data processing and service validation processes
· Recommendations for future satellite missions and sensors needed for Marine & Coastal Water Quality long term service evolution
· Strategies for marketing, data policy and business model

At the same time with the R&D activities a user & customer board steered continuously the project, participating in the trials and providing feedback to the validation and research activities. Moreover to stimulating the building of a User community, AquaMar promoted and disseminated results towards scientific, decision makers and end-users and developed public training material on-line on the website. Fruitful cooperation with other projects contributed to the improvement of the services and products validation processes, and information dissemination.

List of Websites: