Looking into the future of the Black Sea


Looking into the future of the Black Sea

A new monitoring and assessment project will store, analyse, visualise and disseminate information on past, present and future states of the Black Sea Basin to assess and predict its sustainability and vulnerability.

a group of people in a boat on a body of water

The Black Sea’s catchment area is large, with a total surface of around 2 million sq km, five times the surface of the Black Sea itself. The environmental vulnerability of the Black Sea region is well known, and the new system will assist countries to make decisions on the region’s future.

The Black Sea is the world’s most isolated sea – connected to the oceans via the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosphorus, Dardanelle and Gibraltar straits, and linked with the Sea of Azov in the northeast through the Kerch Strait. The Black Sea also suffers from severe environmental, social and economic problems. The new enviroGRIDS project addresses these issues by bringing to the region several emerging information technologies that are revolutionising the way we observe our planet.

The state-of-the-art enviroGRIDS project will assist governments to monitor and assess environmental trends in the Black Sea catchment. Launched in April, the project answers a call by the European Commission for capacity building for the development of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), which links existing and planned observation systems around the world, allowing decision makers to access an extraordinary
range of information.

Analysing and visualising environmental trends. The system will be looking at the entire catchment area, and technical partners will use a hydrology tool called the Soil and Water Assessment Tool, a complementary tool to the MONERIS system used by the ICPDR. “The idea is not to replace the existing tools,” says Anthony Lehmann, Project Coordinator for enviroGRIDS, “but we will be able to compare and hopefully bring some new information to what you already have in the Danube.”

A gap analysis on earth observation systems in the region will identify specific areas where the majority of efforts are needed. The ICPDR, as one of enviroGRIDS partners, will perform and supervise the analysis, and recommendations from the analysis should complement the existing geographical information systems of the ICPDR.

To achieve its task, enviroGRIDS will take advantage of the most powerful computer network in the world, a computer grid assembled by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), one of enviro-GRIDS’ partners. This grid will become one of the integral systems of GEOSS.

Building sustainable development in the region. In addition to modelling the catchment and contributing to GEOSS, the third main axis of the project is capacity building. The project aims to build significant local, national and regional capacity on observation systems to better exchange knowledge and information. As partners, the ICDPR and the Black Sea Commission (BSC) will help involve decision and policy-makers and disseminate project results. “An important part of the process was to get the ICPDR and the BSC involved,” says Lehmann. “The ICPDR has a welldeveloped network of communication and rather than build something new, it makes sense to use existing prominent institutions.”

In addition, the know-how and results will be made
available outside the Black Sea Basin. “The ICPDR and
its experience can serve as a model for how catchments
are monitored and modelled,” says Lehmann. “The
ICPDR is the best example in the region for other big
rivers to follow.”

Kirstie Shepherd is a freelance journalist living in Vienna and has called the Danube River Basin home since 2000.