Brussels, 30 May 2003
An EU project is developing an unprecedented network for ocean monitoring and forecasting among the countries of the Mediterranean region. Its aim is to provide the data and resources needed in order to manage the marine environment of the Mediterranean Sea more effectively.
The Mediterranean network to assess and upgrade the monitoring and forecasting activity (MAMA) is funded under the energy, environment and sustainable development (EESD) section of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5). With a budget of 2.37 million euro, MAMA brings together experts from 28 marine institutions, representing five Member States as well as Malta, Cyprus, Turkey, Palestine, Israel, Slovenia, Croatia, Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Albania, Tunisia, Serbia and Montenegro.
Urban growth, tourism, population expansion, intensive agriculture and the disposal of industrial and domestic waste over the last fifty years have caused dramatic environmental pollution and degradation to the Mediterranean Sea and coastal areas.
However, as Dr Silvanna Vallerga, project coordinator of MAMA told CORDIS News, managing such environmental degradation is not simply a case of trying to tackle the sources of pollution. 'Pollution is just one problem,' she said. A coordinated ocean monitoring and forecasting based on sound science, and reliable assessment is the most effective way of managing, thus protecting the Mediterranean Sea,' said Dr Vallerga.
The system aims for better understanding, as well as an assessment, of the circulation and movement of the seawater. It also involves 'nowcasting' and forecasting climate change. 'Recognising the needs of the population and improving maritime safety and efficiency are also essential to the sustainable development of the region,' explained Dr Vallerga.
While some monitoring systems are already in place, Dr Vallerga explained that their capabilities are limited. The role of the MAMA project has been to identify the gaps in these systems with a view to building, for the first time, a 'basin-wide network' for ocean monitoring, within the framework of the global ocean observing system (GOOS).
'The MAMA network links all the Mediterranean countries: everyone is on board because it is important to assess the present situation in terms of capabilities and human resources,' Dr Vallerga told CORDIS News.
She claimed that the consortium is very pleased with the achievements of the project so far. Since its inception, the MAMA project has conducted a survey in the participating countries, analysing the human, scientific and technical resources available at national level. It has also developed a knowledge base to manage the scientific data collected in the participating countries.
However the most important capacity building exercise has been the establishment of an exchange programme between the personnel from the participating marine institutions. 'Personal contact is key to the success of the network,' noted Dr Vallerga, adding that the exchange programme has helped the network compare experiences and standardise practices.
Dr Vallerga explained that the 'MAMA approach' has received worldwide recognition, and other regions are now interested in implementing a similar ocean monitoring system. Furthermore, participants in the MAMA project are planning to work with partners in the Caspian and Black Sea regions with a view to proposing a project in the Sixth Framework Programme.
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