The International Centre for Advanced Studies on River-Sea (RS) Systems, DANUBIUS-RI, has the mission to provide a world-leading research infrastructure that will enable excellent interdisciplinary research in RS systems with high social and economic impact. DANUBIUS-RI was first declared a Flagship project in the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (PA7, in 2013) and has been accepted on the ESFRI (European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures) Roadmap in 2016.
Having been involved for many years in the conception of the project, Dr. Adrian Stănică, General Manager of GeoEcoMar, the Romanian institute coordinating the ESFRI Project DANUBIUS-RI, presents the arguments behind such ambitious endeavour: “DANUBIUS-RI is a Pan-European distributed research infrastructure dedicated to excellent interdisciplinary science on RS systems, following the water and particle flow from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the sea. Throughout its history, humanity has grown in river-sea systems and traditional science did not manage to find all solutions in a holistic way up-until now. That’s why our approach today spans the environmental, social and economic sciences and brings together research on different sectors. European research on river-sea systems and their transitional environments is world-leading but fragmented, predominantly discipline-specific and often geographically isolated. Within DANUBIUS-RI we will employ the existing research expertise across Europe, increase the impact of European research and maximise the return on investment. By providing access to a range of European RS systems, facilities and expertise DANUBIUS-RI will become a one-stop-shop for knowledge exchange in managing RS systems, will provide access to harmonized data and a platform for interdisciplinary research, inspiration, education and training”.
COMPLEX PROJECT ARCHITECTURE WILL BENEFIT ALL EUROPE
Institutions from fourteen partner countries in Europe are currently participating in the effort of developing the future DANUBIUS-RI as a future single European Legal Entity (ERIC- European Research Infrastructure Consortium), whilst as part of this effort, funded by the EC through the HORIZON 2020 Programme in the project DANUBIUS Preparatory Phase, two of the existing ERICs (European Research Infrastructure Consortia) are also involved. Interest has been raised by organizations from many other countries, in Europe as well as in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The research infrastructure is distributed in several European countries. Thus, it will comprise a Hub and a Data Centre in Romania, a Technology Transfer Office in Ireland, and Supersites and Nodes across Europe.
Dr. Adrian Stănică, explains why it is vital to have a holistic approach when it comes to finding solutions to protect RS systems: „DANUBIUS-RI is dedicated to supporting interdisciplinary research at the RS system scale that will connect freshwater and marine communities with a focus on transitional environments like deltas, estuaries and lagoons. We will be a research infrastructure open to the global community; therefore, we need to have natural laboratories, natural areas where we collect data, test our methodologies and various solutions. This is why in DANUBIUS-RI we now have twelve Supersites around Europe, which are areas of critical scientific importance. One Supersite is developed in Austria, in the upper Danube looking at the interaction of glaciers and alpine lakes with the upper reaches of the river. Then, in the middle Danube in Hungary, we study the interaction of humans with the natural course of the river. Then there is the Danube Delta Supersite in Romania, covering the connection between lower Danube and the North-Western Black Sea.”
But DANUBIUS-RI is not just about the Danube. There are other Supersites under development in other areas in Europe, trying to cover specific situations of high scientific importance. Dr. Stănică explains: “The Thames Estuary in the UK is like the opposite of the Danube Delta, which is a protected area, relatively pristine, at the end of a very long river that takes in all the waters from one third of Europe. The Thames Estuary is at the end of a smaller river that ends up in the biggest metropolis in Europe. So trying to find solutions in both Supersites means understanding behaviour in extreme, contrary situations. The lower Rhine-Maas Deltaic System is also extremely important as there is a huge human pressure but also two water bodies merging, with a major impact on the North Sea. We also have the Ebro-Llobregat Deltaic System in the North-Western part of the Mediterranean who are significant because they discharge very close to a major metropolitan area and we consider this as a proxy for the human impact coming from coast, from the various deltas, things which are not very well studied and understood. Then there’s the Po Delta and North Adriatic Lagoons, which is another natural transitional environment under the huge impact of population. This is a place where critical solutions are needed”.
Other sites of high importance for Europe included in DANUBIUS-RI will be: the Elbe Estuary going into the North Sea, covering the port of Hamburg with heavy human interventions to upgrade the entrance to the harbour; the Guadalquivir Estuary in Spain, the only Supersite that represents an estuary open to the ocean; the Tay Catchment in Scotland, quite characteristic for Northern transitional environments, very interesting to study being in a pristine environment.
Science services in DANUBIUS-RI are going to be provided by the Nodes, which follow the logic of understanding – from knowledge to wisdom. There are four Nodes, each developed by a major institution of global relevance. The Node for Observation is developed by the University of Stirling and the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (UK), the Analysis Node by the German Federal Institute of Hydrology, the Modelling Node by the Italian Institute of Marine Research, CNR, whilst the Impact Node is built by Deltares, in the Netherlands.
Among many services provided via DANUBIUS-RI are the digital and non-digital data collected through the Nodes, Supersites and other future study areas, which will be made available to researchers, industry end-users, and decision-makers worldwide. The Data Centre is being developed in Romania, by Network Operations Centre of the Romanian Research and Education Network (RoEduNet) and the University of Lower Danube in Galati. It will connect DANUBIUS-RI to other major electronic infrastructure initiatives in Europe and to hyper computing facilities. As a research infrastructure DANUBIUS-RI has a role in innovation which will be ensured by the Technological Transfer Office developed by the University College Cork, in Ireland.
GEOECOMAR, LEADING CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE IN MARINE RESEARCH
The Romanian Institute of Marine Geology and Geoecology – GeoEcoMar – is the focal point of Romania’s national excellence in research and consultancy on marine, coastal, river and lacustrine geology, geophysics and geo-ecology. Dr Adrian Stănică explains why the coordination of such crucial ESFRI research infrastructure project for Europe’s RS systems was given to a Romanian institute: “We were the first ones who started to develop a case study for such Pan-European interdisciplinary research project, starting with the 5th Framework Programme. Then the leadership of the project was assumed by Romania because our Government committed to contribute with a minimum of EUR150 million. We are not the only Romanian institution involved, we are very happy and honoured that in the European Consortium there are also other elite Romanian institutions, such as the National Institute for Research and Development of Biological Sciences, UEFISCDI, RoEdu-Net, Danube Delta Research Institute, Romanian Academy, Lower Danube University of Galati. The National Institute of Biological Sciences managed by Manuela Sidoroff coordinates the effort to build the Romanian component – and now we are working together to prepare the major EU Structural Funds project application, in a national funded project named DANS. The Romanian Ministry for Research and Innovation funds this project which is critical for the implementation of the Romanian leadership commitments.”
The National Institute for Research and Development of Marine Geology and Geoecology – GeoEcoMar
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