Experts from the University of Stirling will use satellite and sensor technology to support the regeneration of the Black Sea, as part of a new £7.7 million (€9m) research project.
Funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme, the study – involving 37 institutions from across Europe and the Black Sea region – will bring together science, policy and industry to address the human and climate change impacts on damaged ecosystems.
Professor Andrew Tyler, of the University of Stirling's Faculty of Natural Sciences and Scotland Hydro Nation Chair, is co-lead of the DOORS (Developing Optimal and Open Research Support for the Black Sea) study. His team will lead a core work programme of the project, delivering satellite observation, sensor measurement and modelling capabilities to monitor and understand the Black Sea.
Professor Tyler said: “This is an unprecedented investment in the region to harmonise understanding and build collective action to drive real sustainable change and prosperity in the region.
“DOORS presents an opportunity to not only grow the science and understanding of the Black Sea, but also for UK business and innovation across the digital, environment, and blue growth sectors.”
Bordered by Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine, the Black Sea has a rich cultural history and a wealth of biodiversity and wildlife. However, it is Europe's most polluted sea, containing double the level of marine litter found in the Mediterranean and suffering from extensive eutrophication – high levels of phosphorus, nitrogen, and other plant nutrients. In addition, fish stocks and species diversity are under severe threat as water quality deteriorates, to such an extent that experts believe the Black Sea may become the first major sea devoid of life.
DOORS will develop a common framework of scientific methods for gathering data and the Stirling team will provide the data and knowledge required to support 'blue growth' opportunities – those that will maximise economic growth derived from the sea’s marine and aquatic resources.
Professor Adrian Stanica, Director General of GeoEcoMar in Romania and an Honorary Professor at the University of Stirling, is DOORS Project coordinator. He said: “DOORS is the project that will transform into reality the Scientific Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) for the Black Sea, a strategic document endorsed by the riparian and EU countries during the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council. Now DOORS will generate deeper knowledge and understanding on the processes governing specific Black Sea ecosystems and to understand the thresholds we need to respect to have a healthy and productive sea.”
Alongside the integration of scientific knowledge sharing, it is a fundamental objective for DOORS to engage with wider society. By providing mechanisms for business to link with research, the project will create new job opportunities for emerging blue growth economies through new synergies and mentoring schemes; the first of its kind to be setup in the Black Sea.
Key initiatives that engage schools, universities and those living in the region will promote behaviour change and celebrate best practice, influencing future policy, blue growth and the health of Black Sea communities.
Professor Stanica added: “We hope that by the end of the project, DOORS will open a sea of new opportunities to Black Sea communities. For too long, our sea has suffered from the combined effects of humans and global changes, but also from the twists of recent history.
“DOORS will bring the needed knowledge to support the Black Sea recovery – whilst bringing the opportunities of the Industry 4.0 Revolution closer to the people. We hope DOORS will be the game changer that we have been waiting for.”