Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

AQUACOSM Report Summary

Project ID: 731065
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.4.1.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AQUACOSM (Network of Leading European AQUAtic MesoCOSM Facilities Connecting Mountains to Oceans from the Arctic to the Mediterranean)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-06-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Global waters threatened by multiple stressors:
Aquatic ecosystems around the world are under increasing pressure due to eutrophication, pollution, increased temperatures, droughts and other climate change related conditions strongly influenced by the growing human population. On the other side, humans severely depend on aquatic systems for drinking water, food production, recreation and other aspects of ecosystem services. The threats to the world’s aquatic resources have never before been so obvious. Our knowledge about complex aquatic ecosystems is insufficient to produce accurate predictions for effectively managing and mitigating negative impacts on our future marine and freshwater ecosystems.

Mesocosms - an experimental approach to understand and tackle multiple stressors:
It is especially important to understand relationships between cause and effect when assessing consequences of environmental change for developing accurate mitigation and adaptation measures. At the ecosystem scale, cause-and-effect relationships are best studied experimentally in the field, using mesocosms, also called water enclosures. Mesocosms combine the strength of modern experimental design and the realism offered by whole-lake experiments and field investigations, because they can use multiple experimental units to ensure adequate replication, while simultaneously capturing most of the complexity of natural aquatic ecosystems.

AQUACOSM –EU network combining leading marine and freshwater mesocosm facilities:
AQUACOSM fills a global void by forging an integrated freshwater and marine research infrastructure network. AQUACOSM extends the former EU FP7 MESOAQUA network of marine mesocosm facilities by closely integrating 2 small enterprises and 19 institutions that run 37 leading mesocosm facilities covering a range from mountain lakes, to rivers, estuaries and ocean sites, from the Mediterranean to the Arctic. This provides the international research community with a unique infrastructure enabling leading research on aquatic ecology.

AQUACOSM – Transnational Access to European mesocosm facilities:
AQUACOSM will have a significant impact on European aquatic ecology by offering >11500 Transnational Access days to infrastructures for external users around the world, train young scientist and increase the interaction with industry, managers and the society at large.

AQUACOSM specific objectives objectives are to
• Strengthen the European network of mesocosm facilities as an integrated infrastructure providing unique research opportunities for the international science community.
• Support European research communities by sharing existing networked facilities, and capacity building by education and developing Standard Operation Protocols.
• Enhance the Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) of mesocosm facilities by increasing the performance of sensors and mesocosm related technologies for sustainable long-term use.
• Improve the joint use of mesocosms within and outside the AQUACOSM consortium.
• Improve cooperation with other Research Infrastructures (RI) to foster synergies and propose a roadmap for European mesocosm RIs in dialogue with stakeholders.
• Seek long-term sustainability based on science priorities and economic innovation opportunities.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

During the first 18 months AQUACOSM has successfully achieved a number of tasks:
• AQUACOSM has effectively established the first European network of internationally leading mesocosm facilities closely integrating marine, brackish and freshwater sites.
• AQUACOSM has created a web portal (www.aquacosm.eu) that allows information flow as well as management of an online application process for Transnational Access (TA) provision to these facilities. The portal has already also been used for announcement of collaborative activities with facilities outside AQUACOSM – increasing the use of this portal.
• AQUACOSM has opened their facilities for the first Transnational Access (TA) in 2018, recruiting participants from all continents except Africa already in the first call (See Fig. 1 below). Based on the experience from MESOAQUA and the completion of the first call, we expect to provide the full quota of 11500 person days until 2020, and will thus be among the more successful RIs in providing physical access to our facilities.
• AQUACOSM has developed standard operation procedures (SOPs) on data collection, data quality and assurances and processing (freely available, www.aquacosm.eu).
• AQUACOSM has developed a Database Management Plan adhering to the H2020 Open Research Data Pilot, and Guidelines for database management, including controlled vocabulary and a Mesocosm Metadata Catalogue for TA users.
• AQUACOSM has created and successfully tested two prototypes for a standardised free floating mesocosm (the AQUACOSMS, Fig. 2) that shall withstand both moderate wave and ice action. The aim of the AQUACOSMS is to establish a reasonably affordable design that will be freely available for construction of standardized mesocosms anywhere from lakes to coastal systems. The optimised prototype will be tested during the coming period and the final design will be published to promote international standardization.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The establishment of AQUACOSM in Jan 2017 represents the first close international collaboration between a range of freshwater and marine mesocosm facilities most of which were operating independently before. This new collaboration has resulted in the first cross salinity gradient comparative experiments being planned during the first 18 months. The experiments will be performed in 2019 and 2020. These will include the first standardised experiment across these salinity gradients as well as across the entire latitudinal stretch of the EU, from south-east Mediterranean to Svalbard in the Arctic. The planning of these Joint Research Activities has sparked interest in groups outside AQUACOSM. Thus, we have established a momentum of wider collaboration beyond the AQUACOSM project itself that we expect will be expanding considerably during the project period. This wider networking will be supported by a readily sustainable tool, the virtual network at www.mesocosm.eu that is under development .

During the first 18 months several workshops and activities have resulted in a series of documents to promote standardisation between mesocosm facilities (e.g. Best Practice approaches Standard Operation Procedures for data handling as well as analytical and experimental procedures – effectively building on the strongholds form the former different disciplines). These span all environments, and already include input from outside the AQUACOSM community. In addition, several activities have started to increase quality and abilities of technical approaches and instrumentation for example, high-frequency in situ measurements. These activities are expected to result in effective tools moving tomorrow’s mesocosm science significantly beyond the present state of the art also before the end of the project.

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