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EUR1m project to save Europe’s threatened coasts

University of St Andrews scientists are taking part in 1m euro EU-funded project to assess European estuaries for the effects of global warming and sea level rise.

The experts in coastal systems are working to help predict the impact of global warming and gradually rising sea levels on selected estuaries in Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands.

Leading the St Andrews group are Professor David Paterson and Dr Mireille Consalvey of the School of Biology and Sediment Ecology Research Group (SERG)- Professor Paterson is an expert in coastal systems and is part of a group playing a key role in a major €1 million EU-funded programme to assess the effects of sea level rise on the historic city of Venice.

Professor Paterson said: “Global warming is a major threat to coastal systems, leading to flooding, storm damage and loss of valuable habitat. However, scientists and local authorities cannot always agree on how to assess the “health” of coastal systems or how to judge the effects of global warming for their own coastlines.”

The innovative project, SEE (Simultaneous Estuaries Experiment) is funded through the HIMOM (Hierarchical Monitoring Methods for Tidal Flats) project. It involves a joint team of European scientists agreeing a programme of measurements to compare 5 different estuarine sites across Europe. It is believed to be the first time that coastal systems have been compared across Europe in such a manner.

The 5 sites are the Westerschelde estuary in the Netherlands, which is western Europe’s largest natural estuary; the Eden Estuary on the East Coast of Scotland, a biologically varied estuary of local and European importance in terms of wading bird populations; Barrow / Waterford Estuary in Ireland, which supports a rich birdlife and rare and protected plant species; the Tagus estuary in Portugal, one of the largest estuaries in Europe and the Sylt estuary in Germany.

The consortium have just completed the initial phase of taking measurements of the five areas in question and will use the results to compare the current state of the different systems. From the data gathered, they hope to produce a common set of preventative measures.

The objective is to establish coordinated methods across Europe to better understand the nature and effect of changes in the ecology of the sites that will be first to be affect by global sea level changes.

The investigated test sites are distributed among Europe and are well-chosen in terms of local relevance and European importance. Beside the testing of the HMM methods and the detection of local changes, each test site will be investigated using satellite remote sensing data in order to detect sediment distribution and biological production as well as to lay the foundation for the investigation of long term changes.

The HIMOM consortium consists of eight partners from five European countries. It comprises five academic institutes, one private company and one public authority which is responsible for coastal monitoring.

The SEE project started on 15th May 2003. A detailed log book and images are available online at http://www.brockmann- consult.de/himom (follow links to Forum and then SEE).

ENDS

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NOTES TO EDITORS:

PROFESSOR PATERSON IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW TODAY ON 01334 463467.

· The HIMOM project, co- funded by the European Commission, has the overall goal to develop a hierarchical Monitoring System for intertidal flats. It will be developed along a number of European-wide test sites with the specific aim to detect changes and assess the human influence on these ecosystems.

· The other HIMOM partners are: Brockmann Consult (Germany), GKSS Forschungszentrum Institute of Hydrophysics (Germany), Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO), Environmental Research Institute (University College, Cork), University Groeningen (Netherlands), Instituto de Oceanografia (Portugal) and the National Institute for Coastal and Marine Management (Netherlands).

NOTE TO PICTURE EDITORS:

STUNNING PICS OF THE EDEN SITE ARE AVAILABLE BY EMAIL (JPEG FORMAT) ¿ PLEASE CONTACT GAYLE COOK, CONTACT DETAILS BELOW.

ENDS

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email gec3@st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: Estuaries of Europe PR 020603 View the latest University news at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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