NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme

Advanced Research Workshop:
Operational System in the Caspian Sea for the Protection of Infrastructures and the Environment
Ferrara (Italy) December 2 - 4 2009


1. Set an Operational System in the Caspian Sea for the Protection of Infrastructures and the Environment
Protecting the infrastructures and sustainable development of Caspian Sea areas, managing water (surface and underground fresh waters) and marine resources (off-shore activities and fisheries), overall managing of sea and land derived pollution is a serious concern for the States bordering the Caspian Sea. Changes in the coastline, destruction of coastal and offshore infrastructures are heavily influencing the economy, the state of the environment and the health of the area's population. Millions of people's lives depend upon the continuous monitoring, assessment and forecasting of the state of the system, so that prevention actions against erosion, sea level changes, pollution, exploitation of fish stocks, loss of water resources and marine ecosystem habitat loss can be organized in a timely fashion, together with adaptation and mitigation measures.
Operational ocean monitoring and forecasting based on sound science, reliable assessment, and efficient co-operation between nations, is the main tool for a such management.
The major environmental concerns for the Caspian countries are:
Changes in the basin's hydrological cycle (also due to man induced changes in the river basins and their runoff), in underground waters and in precipitation events;
Sea level fluctuations;
Floods;
Sea ice;
Fate and dispersal of oil and contaminants in the open sea;
Fate and dispersal of land derived nutrients and contaminants;
Coastal erosion;
Fishery activities and aquaculture.
Sea level fluctuations, coastal erosion and floods are of concern for the Caspian countries, since they are heavily affecting the coastal and offshore infrastructures.
In the hydrological cycle, it is not evident that decadal time scales variability of the evaporation and precipitations budgets are acting upon the basin due to climate regimes. There are indicators that precipitation regimes are changing, with fewer days of heavier rain and increasing number of drought days. The regulated runoff and river basins variations are perhaps the most serious man induced change occurring in the area, due to the agricultural and industrial usage of fresh water resources.
Oil pollution in the sea is also of great concern because of the many platforms and pipelines existing in the area.
The land derived contaminants arrive to the sea through atmosphere and rivers, direct sewage system discharges, industrial discharges in the coastal zone, etc.
Costal erosion and the increase of its natural occurrence is a very important concern for several coastal areas and it derives from coastal urban development, land usage and river sediment fluxes. Coastal currents couple with river inputs, waves and sea level variations in a complicated way to produce erosion and sediment deposition/transport and the changes in wave regimes have to be carefully monitored, together with current variability and sediment quality changes.
The biogeochemical fluxes and cycles of the basin are regulated by atmospheric inputs and river loading. Environmental conditions may be important for the conspicuous development of the tertiary production in the basin and they are to be fully understood. Climate and man induced fluctuations in fish stocks require a continuous monitoring of environmental conditions and fishing effort.
Therefore, a robust scientific basis of understanding, monitoring and modelling of the marine environment (which is actually far from being established) is strongly needed and urgent. The scientific and strategic plan will attempt to envisage the research and technology developments necessary to cope with these problems, building on scientific and research based information. It will start from sharing the information, data and products with an efficient information system providing the marine services, such as discovery and selection, and able to access data wherever they are.
2. Fill the gap in the international arena
International agreements and conventions call for safety at sea, for effective management of the marine environment and sustainable utilization of its resources. Achieving the important and challenging goals of these agreements depends on the ability to rapidly detect and provide timely predictions of changes in a broad spectrum of marine phenomena that affect: (1) the safety and efficiency of marine operations; (2) the susceptibility of human populations to natural hazards, (3) the response of coastal ecosystems to global climate change; (4) public health and well being; (5) the stare of marine ecosystems; and (6) the sustainability of living marine resources. (UNESCO, 2003).
The design and implementation of an operational monitoring, assessment and forecasting system for coastal areas will significantly improve the ability of the participating nations to protect the economic value of the coastal areas and infrastructures, will have a sustainable use of living and non-living marine resources, and will improve the quality of life of the population. Drivers of changes (DoC) are both natural and anthropogenic, but their effects are relevant in areas such as the Caspian Sea.
The challenging ambition of the international initiatives such as GEO, GEOSS, GMES is to deliver validated pre-operational monitoring and forecasting systems across a wide range of scientific disciplines, to provide products and services for a certain variety of intermediate and end users. This demands a wide range of scientific and technical skills, especially for the access to products through services that will be based on the Internet.
Operational and validated pre-operational systems have recently been developed in many countries and marine areas in the USA, Australia, Japan, and Europe. Pilot projects are underway in the Black Sea region. It is now important to initiate the setting of operational systems for the Caspian Sea. The workshop will be used for:
Cross fertilization of scientific thematic leading to an improvement of knowledge, and definition of the overall scientific architecture;
Identification of shared issues in the areas of data policy, implementation, data acquisition, data sharing and data dissemination;
Formulation of recommendations for a coordinated transition from research to pilot projects and pre-operational systems.
3. Specific Objectives of the Workshop
The specific objectives of the proposal are:
To identify the existing information system and in particular the access to products and services residing in distributed systems (an efficient information system can facilitate the availability and dissemination of long term high quality data required to advance the scientific understanding of the Caspian Sea);
To identify the gaps in the monitoring systems in the region and in the capability to measure, model and forecast the status of the sea and ecosystem;
To identify the element of forecasting system from the basin scale down to the coastal zone, inter-comparing experience and standardising practices, towards the co-ordinated upgrading of the observing and forecasting capabilities in all Caspian countries;
To identify services to meet the requirements of industrial, environmental and maritime user groups;
To raise awareness on the benefits of ocean forecasting at local, regional and global scales, involving stakeholders and
To promote the transfer of operational oceanography expertise through training and education.


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