Identifying Perspective Areas of S&T Cooperation between the European Union and the Black Sea Region in Resource Efficiency and Environment (related to water systems)

Tbilisi, Georgia

[Event Review] Black Sea International Workshop “The Resource Efficiency and Environment – Black Sea Region Challenges: Identifying Perspective Areas of S&T Cooperation between the European Union and the Black Sea Region in Resource Efficiency and Environment (related to water systems)”

On March 22, 2016, Association European Studies for Innovative Development of Georgia (ESIDG) hosted international workshop (round table) “The Resource Efficiency and Environment – Black Sea Region Challenges: Identifying Perspective Areas of S&T Cooperation between the European Union and the Black Sea Region in Resource Efficiency and Environment (related to water systems)”. The workshop was organized under Horizon 2020 project Black Sea Horizon in Tbilisi, Georgia on 22 March 2016.

Contact: Zoia Natsvaladze,

The workshop aimed to discuss and identify pertinent research topics of mutual interest for science, technology and innovation (STI) cooperation between the EU member states, Horizon 2020 associated countries and countries of the Black Sea region in view of further take-up in Horizon 2020, and future bi- or multilateral joint calls in the following thematic areas:

• Riverine systems in the Black Sea Region (ecological status, morphology, human impact, water quality);

• Coastal zones: morphodynamic changes, degradation, stability, technogenesis-related morphodynamic changes in the coastal zones and their impact on the coast stability and coast degradation;

• Material exploitation and ecological impact in the Black Sea Region (water nexus, environmental impact on water bodies and systems).

In the framework of these three thematic areas, workshop participants had to discuss and identify future research topics on the basis of 1) mutual interest; 2) most relevant challenges; 3) excellence available in the region; 4) existing cooperation patterns, and 5) personal expertise.

Representatives of Georgian government authorities, EU Delegation in Georgia, and leading Georgian and international research organizations took part in the event. In particular, workshop speakers included prominent researchers from the EU Member States, Horizon 2020 Associated Countries and countries of the Black Sea region identified by BSH consortium partners and through bibliographic tools like SCOPUS. Altogether, experts from 11 countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece, Georgia, Russia, Romania, Turkey, UK and Ukraine) took part in the workshop. The two high position holding water problem professional participants should be marked especially: the Vice-Secretary of Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences and the Director of the Southern Research Center (uniting tenth of research institutes) of Russian National Academy of Sciences. It points at a really high interest to the workshop. The topics of the workshop stimulated great interest of the public, but, taking into account the workshop’s duration, number of attendants had been limited to 30 on purpose to give the subject professionals more time to discuss pertinent research topics of mutual interest for the future STI cooperation.

Dr. Oleg Shatberashvili, Chairman of Association European Studies for Innovative Development of Georgia (ESIDG) had opened the workshop. The event participants were welcomed by the Chairman of the Parliamentary Council for Research and Innovation, Deputy Head of the Committee for Industry of the Parliament of Georgia Dr. Temur Maisuradze and by the Deputy Minister for Education and Science Dr. Tamaz Marsagishvili.

The workshop included three sessions:

• Introductory and Reviewing session

• 1st Round Table thematic session

•2nd Round Table thematic session

At the Introductory and Reviewing session there were two presentations scheduled.

Dr. Anna Pikalova (High School of Economics, Moscow) maid presentation of Black Sea Horizon ProjectIdentifying Priorities for S&T Cooperation Between the EU and the Black Sea Region Countries (on behalf of Dr. Georgia Chantzi, Research Fellow, International Centre for Black Sea Studies (ICBSS, Greece) who had to miss the workshop because of health problems). The project aim is to support the EU’s external relations with the BS region by contributing to ongoing bi-regional and regional STI policy dialogues and increasing the knowledge base on the EU’s external environment. It envisages facilitation of the pooling of resources and identification of challenging thematic areas for mutual STI cooperation. The project is coordinated by Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI GmbH), Austria. 19 organizations – Project Partners – from 16 countries (AT, DE, GR, TR, HU, BG, FR, MD, PL, PT, RO, AM, AZ, GE, RU, UA) are joining efforts to achieve the Project aim. Duration: February 2015 – January 2018.

Dr. Michael Schultz (Senior Adviser – Romanian National Research and Development Institute for Marine Geology and Geoecology (UK)) and Dr. Adrian Stanica (Scientific Director of GeoEcoMar, Romania) as cocoordinators of DANUBIUS-RI Project, had presented DANUBIUS-RI Project, which is the International Centre for Advanced Studies on River-Sea Systems, – a new, pan-European research infrastructure, building on existing expertise and synergies to support interdisciplinary research on large river-sea systems. Its Hub and Data Centre will be in Romania, Technology Transfer Office in Ireland, and Supersites and Nodes across Europe. Political support has been received from ten partner countries in Europe, four of which have already made financial commitments, and expressions of support from organizations in 17 other countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America. The aim is for DANUBIUS-RI to be fully operational by 2022.

1st Round Table session –

Identifying perspective areas of S&T cooperation between the EU and the Black Sea region in Resource Efficiency and Environment (related to water systems) covered two topics of three mentioned above: Topic 1: Riverine systems in the Black Sea Region (ecological status, morphology, human impact, water quality);

Topic 2: Coastal zones: morphodynamic changes, degradation, stability, techno genesis-related morphodynamic changes in the coastal zones and their impact on the coast stability and coast degradation.

The order of reviewed presentations (according to the Agenda) corresponds to alphabetical order of countries in each Round Table.

Moderators: Adrian Stanica, Michael Schultz, Hristo Stanchev.

Dr. Hristo Stanchev (Institute of Oceanology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria) underlined that research and policy communities in Black Sea area collect, manage and analyze information on the coastal zone with little or no coordination, using different standards and definitions. This results in a duplication of effort and resources, as most of the coastal classifications are locally focused, providing uneven coverage of taxonomic units for the entire Black Sea coastline. Integration of multidisciplinary knowledge and experience under the Project will promote the development of a universal Black Sea Basin coastline classification scheme, based on GIS utilities, for a global scale appreciation of coastal zone risks. Adoption of unified criteria and standards will simplify the process of coastal typology and harmonization of coastal data sets.

The main concerns of riparian countries – coastal erosion, recession of the coastline caused by global and natural factors, as well as by anthropogenic factors were discussed in the presentation by Dr. Vakhtang Gvakharia (Scientific Research Firm Gamma Consulting /A. Janelidze Institute of Geology, Georgia). He considered techno genezis-related changes on the BS East coast development in several zones: r.Enguri – r.Khobi; Poti port – r.Supsa; r.Natanebi – r.Kobuleti; Tsikhisdziri – Mtsvane Kontskhi – Batumi port; Mtsvane Kontskhi – Makhinjauri – Batumi port; South to Batumi cape. Peculiarities of erosion in each zone were considered. This presentation was followed by Dr. Irakli Papashvili’s (Leader of Marine Survey Group, GAMMA Consulting, Georgia) who suggested the means of discontinuation of the Black Sea coast degradation and provision of its sustainable development. Namely, development of a strategic plan which should include development of large scale nourishment schemes, based on preliminary shoreline management studies and monitoring of the status of the shoreline.

Dr. George Lominadze and Dr. G. Kavlashvili (Vakhushti Bagrationi Institute of Geography, Javakhishvili State University) had acquainted the audience with development of the river deltas of the BS East Coast. The East coast of the BS is located mainly within the limits of the West Georgia. This part of the coast is mainly accumulative lowland consisting (mainly) of river sediments of Quaternary age. In its central part is located accumulative lowland of Kolkheti, which is a united extensive delta, created by several rivers (Supsa, Rioni, Enguri, Kodori). In addition on the northern and southern sections from the Kolkheti lowland are located beak-shaped, relatively small deltas, which are created by the rivers Chorokhi, Bzipi and partly Kodori. At present, additionally to sediment of the rivers, sea-level fluctuations, impact of the sea waves and underwater canyons, anthropogenic factors have been involved (construction of power plants on the rivers, removal of the great amount of the sediment from the river beds, artificial shifting of river tributaries etc.) which drastically changed the development of deltas. Dr. George Lominadze and Dr. G. Kavlashvili noted that serious scientific research and practical steps have not been taken since the 80s of the 20th century. Renovation of the targeted research of the coastal processes would be a major step in terms of both academic research and elaboration of practical recommendations.

The BS basin is a highly sensitive region, surrounded by many countries, with significant industrial, fisheries and tourist activity and with significant human intervention. These, together with the special dynamic surface circulation of the Black Sea and the drainage character of the basin in respect to the many riverine areas that are ending on it, make Black Sea vulnerable to various threats. Dr. Christos Ioakeimidis (Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), Institute of Oceanography, Greece) explained the importance of outcomes of the PERSEUS (FP7) Research Project for reducing the threats. The PERSEUS (Policy-orieneted marine Environmental Research in the Southern European Seas) has put a lot of effort not only on identifying the main pressures of the BS region (e.g. eutrophication, pollution, non-indigenous species, the impacts of ports in the marine environment, marine litter etc.) but also delivering policy options addressing these pressures with the aim to provide help to policy makers to implement the Marine Strategy Directive (MSFD) in the Southern European Seas. Dr. Ioakeimidis paid special attention to marine litter as an outstanding example how to improve information on something that is missing and involving the society at large in the process. A series of tools that have been developed within PERSEUS may help policy makers to take the necessary measures and achieve the Good Environmental Status (GES) in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

The outcomes of another FP7 project – DANCERS as guidelines for the BSH later stages was presented by Dr. Adrian Stanica (Scientific Director of GeoEcoMar, Coordinator of the DANUBIUS-RI, Romania). A large part of topics which are part of the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) developed in the framework of DANCERS Project for the Danube River – Black Sea Region may have regional importance for all river-sea systems around the Black Sea. Namely, topics like: 1) Restoring ecosystem continuity throughout the Danube River – Danube Delta – NW Black Sea system; 2) Pathways of transport and accumulation of litter (plastic) and pollutants (including emerging pollutants(e.g. nanoparticles) in the Danube – Black Sea system and their impacts on local ecosystems; 3) Ensuring safe and continuous navigation while restoring the Danube green corridors(with strengthened natural protection from floods); 4) Resource Recovery from Eutrophication in the Danube – Black Sea interaction zone; 5) Dealing with Eutrophication in the Danube – Black Sea interaction zone by using algae as the second generation biofuels; 6) Using and developing latest Earth observation (EO) technologies coupled with in situ measurements for an upgraded Danube – Black Sea environmental monitoring system, and others.

Prof. Gennady Matishov (Chairman, Southern Scientific Centre, Russian Academy of Science) drew the participants’ attention to peculiarities of the Sea of Azov – Black Sea Basin escaping other researchers attention or less important to other BS zones then to Russian sector of the BS coast. He discussed ice conditions in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, seismic security in the region, risks of accidents (oil spills in water rich in hydrogen sulphide; diversions; sabotage; terrorist attack), earthquake, industrial accidents, corrosion, long-term salinity distribution. He had also mentioned formation of freshets and floods in the water catchment basins, development of extreme downpour in the area of Adler, whirlwinds (waterspouts) in the sea, sea shipping, river-sea transportation and alien species introduction, ships wreck in the Kerch strait, degradation of sturgeon species reproduction, streams of the Don front-delta (recommended for bottom cleaning).

Determination of Hot Spots along Black Sea Coasts of Turkey & Hot Black Sea Project was the subject of Dr. Gulsen Avaz (TUBITAK-Marmara Research Center, Environment Institute, Gebze, Turkey). Hot Spots (a limited and definable local stretch of surface water or specific aquifer that is subject to excessive pollution) were studied in SINHA PROJECT (2008-2011). Currently the Hot Black Sea (HBS) Project is an integral part of the overall ongoing process of harmonization of policies in the Black Sea region in the field of environment protection, taking into consideration relevant European knowledge. The project results and deliverables merit attention at national and regional level, as they were prepared with the main aim to advance BS protection through streamlining and harmonizing the efforts of the BS coastal states.

Prof. Vladimir Iemelianov (First Vice-Chief Scientific Secretary of National Academy of Sciences, Ukraine) discussed improvement of predictive models of the dynamics of natural and natural-economic systems in the transition zone “land-sea” within the borders of the Black Sea region countries. He proposed a number of topics for the take-up at the later stages of BSH: 1) The tendencies of development and dynamics of ecosystems of coastal zones and water bodies and exploration of their resources for human beings; 2) An impact of natural and anthropogenic factors on the structure and functioning of ecological systems in the transition zone “land – sea” of the BS region from the Nativity of Christ to the present time; 3) An impact of water geoecosystems (river mouths, estuaries, lagoons, shelves, etc.) of the BS countries on the health of the population, and its manifestation in the socio-economic development of the region; 4) investigation of influence of natural and anthropogenic factors on the features of the structure and functioning of the geoecological systems in the transition zone “land – the Black Sea”. He had underlined that over ten wellknown Ukrainian research institutes are ready to participate in research on these topics.

2nd Round Table session – Identifying perspective areas of S&T cooperation between the EU and the Black Sea region in Resource Efficiency and Environment (related to water systems)

Topic 3: Material exploitation and ecological impact in the Black Sea Region (water nexus, environmental impact on water bodies and systems).

Moderator : Elena Nasybulina, Lead expert at National Research University – Higher School of Economics (HSE, Russia).

Dr. Vardan Asatryan (Institute of Hydroecology and Ichthyology, National Academy of Sciences, Armenia) presented current state of surface waters’ quality monitoring in Armenia and related issues. Armenia is a high mountainous country with mainly semiarid climate. Thereby, all surface waters are vulnerable to the climate change. The biggest lake in Armenia – Lake Sevan is one of the biggest high mountainous freshwater lakes in the world and the biggest reservoir of freshwater in South Caucasus. This unique ecosystem is unstable as a result of artificial fluctuations of its water level. These challenges are expected to grow significantly with climate change. On the other hand the weakest side in Armenian surface water monitoring system is hydrobiological monitoring. Armenian hydrobiological monitoring system is far from to be corresponding with EU WFD established in 2000 and its harmonization with EU standards is one of the scientific topics recognized by the government. The situation is similar to many BS countries creating a platform for cooperation.

Dr. Islam Mustafayev (Institute of Radiation Problems, National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan) have presented the environmental impact of floods in the Kura and Araz rivers. These floods historically happened 150 times between year 1900 and 2003 with total economic damage about 1 bln USD. To prevent and minimize damage only 1.5 – 2 mln USD were spent. A policy document was presented advising the main stakeholders (including government) on the measures necessary for minimizing negative flood impact. These measures include the research to be undertaken for that.

Dr. Ferenc Jordan (Danube Research Institute, Centre for Ecological Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary) presented a case study where a river ecosystem has been studied at several locations (Kelian river, Borneo) using the food web research methodology. Food web research helps to integrate diverse information about ecosystems and provide simple and quantitative indicators on systems stability and health. Human impact, vulnerability and keystone species can be studied and predictions can be made. The comparative analysis of this food web gradient showed human influences and indicated changes in ecosystems dynamics. The presented research can be used for other ecosystems as well, either rivers or coasts, given that data are available.

The presentation by Dr. Elena Zubcov (Laboratory of Hydrobiology and Ecotoxicology, The National Council on Accreditation and Attestation, Moldova) described many decades of integrated monitoring of aquatic ecosystems, which includes abiotic (heavy metals, nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides, PCB, etc.) and biotic (bacterioplankton, phytoplankton, zooplankton, zoobenthos and fish fauna) components and assessment of ecotoxicological state in the Dniester and Prut rivers. A range of the National Academy of Sciences (ASM) research programs and projects were/are focused on assessing the water quality, ecological status of aquatic ecosystems, determination of the runoff of the chemicals and hydrobionts in the Black Sea basin, and also on elaboration and implementation of new biotechnologies in aquaculture, aiming the remediation of the biodiversity of natural ecosystems. Based on this experience the research interest and potential for cooperation (human and logistic) of the institutes of the ASM fit in with the following topics of the Horizon 2020 Black Sea Program: riverine systems (ecological status, morphology, human impact, water quality) and material exploitation and ecological impact (water nexus, environmental impact on water bodies and systems) in the BS Region.

Dr. Valery Shmunk (Head of Northern Caucasus Regional Office, WWF, Russia) in his presentation underlined that local communities and other key stakeholders in the BS region demonstrate negligence towards the problem of decline of migratory bird populations caused mainly by the influence of anthropogenic factors (disturbance, habitat destruction, oil & gas infrastructure development, pollution of rivers and wetlands, persecution, etc.). At the same time the Black Sea flyway bottleneck is one of the most important worldwide providing also a unique opportunity to detect trends in waterfowl, raptor and rare and endangered species populations originating from the huge landmass of East-Europe and West Siberia. Another problem in the BS region is threats on sturgeons caused by blocked migration routes through dams and loss of habitat originating from various forms of river regulation such as navigation, hydropower and flood protection, plus overexploitation stemming from illegal and unsustainable legal fishing. Above mentioned problems are of the common and transboundary nature and create the bases for regional cooperation, though WWF has difficulties even in arranging cooperation with only Russian agencies responsible for the mentioned problems.

In accordance to the Agenda participants spent a considerable time in discussion of thematic proposals for the research on the future stages of BSH both collected from participants in the pre-workshop period (about 30 proposals) and those expressed at the workshop. Discussions followed each Round Table session. The final discussion had ended with elaboration of the final list of thematic directions to which all proposed topics were grouped/integrated.

Summing up the workshop discussions Dr. Adrian Stanica had noted that the most part of contributors mentioned that: a) Deeper understanding of natural and anthropogenic hazards to the BS water basins is needed; b) It requires more intensive and collaborative research – both fundamental and applied; c) Regional sustainable development plans are needed; d) Harmonization of data collection, analysis and use, as well as development of highly complex models to support successful management plans is a key subject; e) Restoring of the common BS identity and stronger involvement of the coastal communities into the solving water related problems is needed.

Dr. Adrian Stanica underlined that almost all the resource efficiency and environment problems related to water systems in the Black Sea region have transnational (transboundary) character. Therefore, the bilateral and multilateral cooperation of BS countries in studying problems is not only desirable but absolutely necessary in order to solve them. The cooperation is needed both within the BS region and inter-regionally with EU countries. Luckily all BS countries have research potential in the sphere of interest which creates a solid platform for the future R&D cooperation.