Soon a unified scientific platform for coastal ocean observation throughout Europe?

Today, over 670 observation platforms for the coastal environment are spread across Europe, from the Norwegian Sea to the Mediterranean. To harmonize these observation and research capabilities, 39 European scientific partners are working together to build the JERICO transnational research infrastructure. The aim: to observe the coastal ocean from every angle, and to study in greater detail rare or extreme phenomena, such as marine heat waves or storms, and their impacts. From June 17 to 21, they met in Brest to mark the end of the third phase of JERICO's development, with a view to its continued existence by 2030.

The coastal marine environment is a complex link between land and sea, subject to numerous natural and anthropogenic pressures. To observe it therefore requires multi-disciplinary cooperation, from physical measurements such as temperature and currents, to phytoplankton biomass assessments by sea sampling or in situ imaging. To meet the need for harmonized ocean sciences in coastal environments, 39 scientific partners from 17 countries have been developing the JERICO coastal observation system since 2011, a transnational research infrastructure that federates coastal science players across Europe.

The development of JERICO relies on technological and methodological developments to optimize the collection and harmonization of data gathered by over 670 coastal observation platforms across Europe. In this regard, national coastal observation structures, such as the ILICO infrastructure co-piloted by Ifremer, already present in 9 of the 17 countries concerned, constitute the founding elements for structuring coastal observation on a European scale.

13 marine regions to transcend national borders

The interconnections between the various compartments of the marine environment underline the need to consider these ecosystems in terms of their natural boundaries, rather than national ones. JERICO thus defines 13 marine regions, in order to optimize the development of tools to address the specific concerns of each region: drones, instrumented buoys, cabled observatories, etc. These cooperative ventures have already produced key results, for example with the setting up of an automated observation network to monitor the development of microalgae from the North Sea to the Kattegat Straits (between Denmark and Sweden).

The diversity and distribution of observation systems will eventually make it possible to track down rare or extreme phenomena, such as marine heat waves or storms, and assess their local and global impacts on phenomena such as sea-level rise, coastal erosion or the dynamics of marine organisms.

Towards a long-term infrastructure by 2030

From June 17 to 21, over sixty representatives met to conclude the third and final phase of development, with a view to perpetuating JERICO by 2030, for example in the form of a consortium for a European Research Infrastructure (ERIC) dedicated to coastal marine observation and accredited by ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures). The aim is to provide, over the long term, a global European vision of the coastal environment, structured by major region, to meet the needs of the scientific community and public policies throughout Europe.By providing input for European databases, JERICO will also feed directly into the construction of the digital twin of the Ocean.