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Real Sea Conditions to put COMMON SENSE Prototypes to the Test

The EC-funded COMMON SENSE project is making continuous progress towards a new future for marine monitoring. The project is developing prototypes for innovative, next generation sensing technologies that will contribute to the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and therefore support the protection of the marine environment in Europe.

Sensors being developed by the COMMON SENSE project will increase the availability of standardised data on: eutrophication; concentrations of heavy metals; micro plastic fraction within marine litter; underwater noise; and other parameters such as temperature, pH, pCO2 and pressure. These cost-effective sensors directly respond to current marine monitoring challenges and will be a key tool for EU Member States in meeting their MSFD requirements and achieving Good Environmental Status (GES) of their marine territories.

Sergio Martinez, COMMON SENSE Scientific Coordinator, said: “COMMON SENSE is now entering one of the most crucial phases in the project as we conclude the development of our sensors in the lab and begin to test them in real sea conditions. This represents a very exciting time for all partners as we wait to assess their performance in these very changeable and challenging environments. At present our eutrophication and underwater noise sensors are being tested in the Mediterranean and Baltic seas and these will be followed by more prototype deployments in the spring of next year.”

The COMMON SENSE innovative prototype sensor for monitoring underwater noise was first deployed in September 2015, and is currently undergoing further testing having being deployed in the Baltic Sea. Furthermore, a peristaltic pump (an integral component of the microplastics sensor), and eutrophication, heavy metal, pH and pCO2 sensors will be tested at sea for the first time before the end of 2015. The full microplastics sensor prototype will shortly follow and is expected to undergo testing in early 2016.

These deployments represent the first testing of these ground breaking sensors in real sea conditions. The sensors will be deployed from fully equipped research vessels under the guidance of project partners Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (National Research Council of Italy, CNR) and The Institute of Oceanology Polish Academy of Science, (IOPAN).

Progress on the development of these sensors was presented at the project’s recent partner meeting held in Barcelona, Spain, from 6-7 October 2015. All sensors are now in their final stages of development and functional prototypes of all sensors are expected early in 2016. The meeting was hosted by COMMON SENSE partner The Barcelona Foundation for Ocean Sailing (FNOB, Fundació Navegació Oceànica Barcelona) at their interactive educational and exhibition space and conference venue “The Barcelona World Race Interpretation Centre”. The meeting brought the COMMON SENSE consortium together to discuss the progress of the project and to decide on future actions as the project now enters its final 16 months.

During the meeting, partners reviewed and evaluated the progress of each of the project’s activities. As the work nears the pivotal sensor integration stage, a specific session focused on integration and interoperability was high on the agenda. The partners also discussed how to maximise effective collaboration and knowledge sharing with other EC-funded projects with a similar focus on marine environmental monitoring, in particular with the SCHeMA, NeXOS and SenseOCEAN projects.

For further information about COMMON SENSE, please contact COMMON SENSE Scientific Coordinator Sergio Martinez (

Consortium  Photo Credit: Mireia Perelló/FNOB

Microalgae sticks to microplastics and transports them to the seabed

Fragments of microplastics are readily incorporated into groups of microscopic algae, altering the rate at which the plastics move through seawater, a recent study has found. In laboratory tests, polystyrene microbeads, which usually sink to the bottom of seawater at a rate of 4 mm a day, sank at a rate of several hundreds of metres a day when part of microalgae aggregates.

This study suggests that microalgae aggregates could be responsible for transporting microplastics into the deep ocean. They may also be the reason that other studies have found surprisingly few microplastics in surface waters and high concentrations in the seabed. Worryingly, as marine snow (decaying organic matter, including microalgae aggregates, which falls from the ocean surface to the seafloor) is the main source of food for many marine creatures, they could be exposed to increased levels of microplastics.

To read the full article click here.

Strengthening cooperation on Earth observation and the environment

The European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding today, which sets out common objectives and areas of cooperation in the field of Earth observation and the environment over the coming years.

To read the full article click here.


Fishing boats used as citizen science data platforms

Fishermen in South Devon, UK, have turned their boats into “massive data platforms” for a citizen science study. They have become the first commercial fishers to gather data for the Secchi Disk Study, which is gathering data on the state of the oceans’ phytoplankton.

To find out more read the full article here.

EC flag The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7 /2007-2013) under grant agreement no 614155. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use which maybe made of the information contained therein.