ESONET stands for European Seas Observatory NETwork, networking institutions, persons, tools and know-how on deep sea observatories. It aims to promote the implementation and the management of a network of long-term multidisciplinary ocean observatories in deep waters around Europe. It wishes to define an organization – with the necessary critical mass – capable of gathering the resources of the participating institutes. The ultimate goal is to define durable solutions through a joint programme of activities.
ESONET is Network of Excellence (NoE) cofunded by the European Commission in the Framework Programme FP6 with an European grant of 7M€ for 4 years (2007-2011) and an estimated total cost of ~50 M€. According to the European Commission definition of Network of Excellence, ESONET will overcome research fragmentation in Europe. Indeed, unifying European initiatives of observatories implementation in Europe, it involves:
- 14 European countries,
- more than 50 institutions and SMEs,
- ~300 scientists, engineers and technicians.
An ESONET observatory is a deep sea station linking marine sensors to the shore by acoustic or cable connection in real or near-real time. These observatories enable data acquisition on oceanological and climatological phenomena at relative high frequency.
Long-term observatories are crucial for European scientists to maintain an high level research that was developed through past and present framework programs. Only long-term observatories allow continuous observation of large numbers of parameters collected through power intensive sensors. This capability is crucial for observing natural processes that are either very episodic or statistically require long time series to be detected because they are hidden by noise of higher frequency.
The predecessors in the concerted action ESONET have identified such processes in all fields of marine sciences, such as for instance:
- the episodic release of methane from the seabed affecting climate change,
- the relationship between earthquakes, tsunami generation and submarine slope failures,
- the short term biogeochemical processes affecting the marine ecosystem and
- long term variability in marine ecosystems due to global change.
These processes are of fundamental importance for European society, because we need to devise sensible climate change policies, protect our coastal population and infrastructures and manage our marine resources. As a result, several essential scientific objectives have been identified by ESONET project.
The ESONET observatories will provide information on global change, warnings of natural hazards and a basis for sustainable management of the European Seas. They will be a sub-sea segment of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) initiatives and linked to the EU INSPIRE initiative. A network of observatories around Europe will lead to unprecedented scientific advances in knowledge of submarine geology, the ecosystem of the seas and the environment around Europe. Very rapid advances in technical knowledge are awaited. This will place European Small & Medium Enterprises (SME) in an excellent competitive position for installation of such systems around the world. Our efforts will be part of a system extending over the world in co-operation with Japan, USA and Canada.
The NoE will work towards establishing sea floor and water column infrastructures which will provide power for instruments and real-time two-way data communications. Key areas around Europe have been identified from which specific targets are selected for relevant science programmes of potential hazards, geo hot spots and ecosystem processes. Sea floor infrastructures will provide platforms for instrumentation deployed throughout the water column and the geosphere below. These ambitions are to be realized with new, advanced organisational structures linking scientific institutes, industries, governments and agencies throughout Europe and by initiating integration processes. The NoE will construct that framework.
Following sections give an overview of: