(a complete list of projects can be found at www.lab.upc.edu):
Understanding the link between natural and anthropogenic processes is essential for predicting the magnitude and impact of future changes of the natural balance of the oceans. The next two decades will probably see increasing levels of offshore industrial development and this will almost certainly lead to increased amounts of noise pollution in the oceans. Amongst these developments, offshore windmills are already playing a leading role in presenting a sustainable alternative to fossil energy consumption. However, underwater sound sources produced by the construction and operation of wind farms as well as by Oil and Gas E&P, present the highest intensity amongst those anthropogenically generated in the sea.
These sounds can have physical, physiological and behavioural effects on the marine fauna in the area of action: mammals, reptiles, fish and invertebrates, at various levels depending on the distance to the sound source. Marine mammals could be one of the more sensitive groups of marine species because they have a highly developed auditory system and use sound actively for feeding and for social communication. It is also known that marine mammals are vulnerable to the effects of habitat loss or reduced survival and reproduction rates. Marine mammals have also become “totems” of environmental awareness and sustainability and this has resulted in a controversial standoff between environmental groups influencing the society, and the industry responsible for producing sound in the oceans.
The problem faced by the industry, and more generally by society, is that many economically important activities at sea are at risk because of a lack of information about the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammals and especially a lack of available tools to mitigate these effects.
The challenge here is to implement technological developments that combine the interests of the industry and the good environmental status of the ocean. Originated in the European Sea-Floor Observatory Network of Excellence(ESONET) in 2007, the Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics (LAB), from the Technical University of Catalonia (UPC, Barcelona Tech) is currently leading an international project titled “Listen to the Deep Ocean Environment (LIDO)” to apply and extent developed techniques for noise measurement and passive acoustic monitoring to cabled deep sea platforms and moored stations. The software framework, called SONS-DCL, is currently active at the ANTARES, France (http://antares.in2p3.fr/) neutrino observatory, the OBSEA, Spain (http://www.obsea.es) shallow water test site, the NEPTUNE Canada (http://www.neptunecanada.ca/) observatory, the JAMSTEC, Japan (http://www.jamstec.go.jp/e/) network of underwater observatories and at the NEMO, Sicily (http://nemoweb.lns.infn.it/) site after the observatory has been redeployed. Part of the system is being tested for suitability on autonomous gliders and towed arrays in collaboration with the NURC (NATO Undersea Research Center, http://www.nurc.nato.int/) and is implemented in several autonomous radio-linked buoys. It is also currently analysing all the CTBTO (Preparative Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, http://www.ctbto.org/) data files from 5 hydroacoustics stations in the Southern Hemisphere. The software contains several independent modules to process real-time data streams. Among these, there are dedicated modules for noise assessment, detection, classification and localization of cetaceans and other acoustic events.
- ACCESS, Arctic Climate Change, Economy and Society (http://www.access-eu.org/). ACCESS is a European Project supported within the Ocean of Tomorrow call of the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme. Its main objective is to assess climatic change impacts on marine transportation (including tourism), fisheries, marine mammals and the extraction of oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean. ACCESS is also focusing on Arctic governance and strategic policy options.
- SILENV, Ships oriented Innovative soLutions to rEduce Noise and Vibrations (N&V), http://silenv.eu/ . Transports are well known to be major contributors to noise pollution. Noise and vibrations (N&V) abatement naturally appears as an important objective for the greening of surface transports. The SILENV project is a response to this requirement for the maritime domain.
- COCONET, "Towards Coast to Coast NETworks of marine protected areas (from the shore to the high and deep sea), coupled with sea-based wind energy potential". http://cordis.europa.eu/projects/rcn/101654_en.html. Together with the guidelines for European MPA networks, COCONET also addresses the problem of Off Shore Wind Farms because the generation of clean energy is crucial for the protection of the environment. In Northern Europe OWF are very developed, whereas they are absent in the Southern European seas. Are they feasible? How do they cope with the natural environment and with the local economies?
- PERSEUS (Policy-oriented marine Environmental Research in the Southern EUropean Seas). http://www.perseus-net.eu/ . PERSEUS merges natural and socio-economic sciences to predict the long-term effects of these pressures on marine ecosystems. PERSEUS is a FP7 research project aiming to implement the principles of the Marine Strategy European Framework Directive across the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
- AQUO, Achieve QUieter Oceans by shipping noise footprint reduction (http://www.aquo.eu). Recent directives outline the need to mitigate underwater noise footprint due to shipping, to prevent negative consequences to marine life. In that context, the final goal of AQUO project is to provide to policy makers practical guidelines, acceptable by shipyards and ship owners. The list of solutions will be split into Solutions regarding ship design (including propeller and cavitation noise), and solutions related to shipping control and regulation.
- MaRVEN, Environmental Impacts of Noise, Vibrations and Electromagnetic Emissions from Marine Renewables. In Europe and beyond, there are ambitious plans to install marine renewable energy devices (MREDs). The construction and operation of MRED’s will leadto the emission of electromagnetic fields (EMFs), subsea noise and vibrations into the marine environment. Yet their impacts on marine life are only partly understood. This information gap poses challenges to the implementation of MRED’s. e upcoming EC research priorities.
- FixO3, The Fixed point Open Ocean Observatory network (FixO3, http://www.fixo3.eu/ ) seeks to integrate European open ocean fixed point observatories and to improve access to these key installations for the broader community. These will provide multidisciplinary observations in all parts of the oceans from the air-sea interface to the deep seafloor. Coordinated by the National Oceanography Centre, UK, FixO3 will build on the significant advances largely achieved through the FP7 programmes EuroSITES, ESONET and CARBOOCEAN.
- Blue Nodules, http://www.blue-nodules.eu/ Blue Nodules: sustainable deep sea mining system for harvesting of polymetallic nodules. The Blue Nodules project is co- funded by the European Commission and will develop a new highly-automated and technologically sustainable deep sea mining system for harvesting of polymetallic nodules. The extreme conditions found on the deep-ocean floor raise specific challenges, both technically and environmentally, which are demanding and entirely different from land-based mining. Today, European offshore industries and marine research institutions have some global advantage through their significant experience and technology and are well positioned to develop engineering and knowledge-based solutions to resource exploitation in these challenging and sensitive environments.