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The Finnish and the Swedish institutes SYKE and SMHI enter a unique collaboration on marine environmental monitoring

Press release 2014-02-11 at 15:34

MTA Aranda Helsingin edustalla. Kuva:Panu Nikkola / Lentokuva Vallas Oy

R/V Aranda departing from Helsinki. Photo: Panu Nikkola, Lentokuva Vallas Oy

Press Release by SYKE and SMHI

SYKE, the Finnish Environment Institute, and SMHI, the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, have started a close collaboration to monitor the marine environment of the Baltic and the North Sea.

“It is unique for two countries to sign an agreement of this kind, but we are leading the way to a new trend EU and the global organization ICES would like to see going forward. By combining forces we can improve monitoring of the acute problems the sea faces, while sharing the cost,” says Lena Häll Eriksson Director-General of SMHI. 

“The first joint research cruise has already departed on the R/V Aranda. Finnish and Swedish marine researchers will intercalibrate their instruments and take samples for oxygen level determinations and  phosphorus and nitrogen content measurements. In parallel, we are drawing up a joint-programme for future marine environmental monitoring,” says Lea Kauppi, Director-General of SYKE.

“The rewards of the collaboration are immense. Both Sweden and Finland's research will gain access to more of each other's environmental data, with less delay. At the same time we can share the costs of the vessel, equipment and personnel,” says Lena Häll Eriksson. “This is also a very good solution for our need of access to a research vessel.”

From now on SMHI and SYKE will conduct monthly research cruises to the Baltic and North Seas. Part of the monitored sea areas are common: Gulf of Bothnia, the Åland Sea and the northern part of the Baltic Proper. The new collaboration, however, means that the Aranda cruises will also cover the southern part of the Baltic Sea and the the western Swedish sea areas (The Sound, Kattegatt and Skagerrak). 

Marine environmental monitoring is based on the HELCOM (Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission) assessment programme and EU directives.

Follow changes in the sea

The measurements and analyses done during the research cruises provide important information about environmental changes  in the Baltic Sea, the Kattegatt and Skagerak, and this forms decision-making support for governments, agencies and businesses, etc. The three key environmental issues - that are also interrelated - are:

1. Oxygen conditions, which have deteriorated since the 70’s and have reached alarming levels in the Baltic Sea. Today some 30% of the bottoms suffer from very low oxygen levels, and 15% are completely dead (the area including out the Gulf of Bothnia, Kattegat and Skarerrak) (SMHI News article January 2014.) The cause of this is eutrophication, combined with increasingly lower inflow of cold, saltier, and thus (more) oxygen-rich(er) water from the North Sea. It is currently not know what causes of the poor water inflow, but it is suspected that it may be due to climate change

2. Eutrophication is caused by excess of nutrients, e.g. inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus, from discharges around the Baltic Sea. Improvement of municipal and industrial waste water treatment, and other measures taken in several countries, seem to have broken the negative trend. The reversal process is, however, slow as bottom sediments store large amounts of nutrients loaded to the sea previously. Also ongoing leakage from land and trafic emissions prolong the recovery. 

3. Algal situation, which is monitored and forecasted using satellite data and automatic measurements from merchant ships complemented with biological and chemical measurements onboard research vessels. Monitoring is necessary as certain algae can be harmful.

The environmental data collected by the institutes can now be shared quickly between the countries. In addition a great deal of the data is also open and accessible via the SMHI website (www.smhi.se) and via SYKE's data system. Annual data from each country will also be made available through the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, ICES, and via HELCOM.

More information:

Lena Häll Eriksson, Director General SMHI
tel +46 11 4958103, lena.hall.eriksson@smhi.se

Lea Kauppi, Director General SYKE
tel +358 295 251 700

Mikael Krysell, Marine Environment Specialist SMHI
tel +46 31 751 8954

Juha Flinkman, HRD Manager, SYKE's marine researche centre
tel +358 295 251 115

Aira Saloniemi, Communication Specialist SYKE
tel +358 400 148875

Teresa Negrete, Information Officer
tel +46 11 495 8025

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SMHI, the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, is an expert agency under the Ministry of the Environment. SMHI has collected data from the atmosphere, lakes, sea and land since the late 1800s. Experts at SMHI, produce decision-making support with the help of supercomputers, calculation models, statistics and research for the general public, government agencies and businesses.
Our observations from the 1800s and onwards help us to form a picture of how the climate has changed up until today. The future climate is studied at the Rossby Centre climate research unit. They develop climate models, and produce global and regional climate scenarios, as well as documentation for effect and adaptation studies.

SYKE, the Finnish Environment Institute, is both a research institution and a centre of expertise that produces information and provides the necessary skills and services for a sustainable development of society. SYKE is part of Finland’s national environmental administration and operates under the Ministry of the Environment. SYKE also manages issues related to water resources and in these functions is supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. We have the ambition, knowledge and courage to act to improve the environment

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