The Marine Geology Expert Group (MGEG) members deliver high-quality information and advice to decision-makers responsible for the European seas, as well as lead on issues of global importance.The MGEG emphasis is placed on cross-cutting issues such as sustainable use of natural resources, climate change, habitat mapping, natural hazards and long-term maintenance of databases. The group promotes marine geological information and interpretations as a fundamental requirement for all activities that take place in Europe’s seas.
Maintaining collaboration between the marine departments of the European Geological Survey organizations is a crucial task of the group mission. At national level, all EU Member States have introduced policies to improve better integration of marine science, of which drivers are mainly EU Action Plans and Directives. It is important that EU Member States develop strategies that are underpinned by cross-border collaboration, especially in the marine environment. In this way, the MGEG ensure that a high-level of marine geology expertise and information is made available to EU decision makers for sustainable use of marine resources, based on full support at national level and active collaboration with other scientific disciplines.
The group has developed a long-term strategy, which fits with the overarching European Commission marine strategy, and it has contributed to several EC-funded projects. In its ‘Marine Knowledge 2020: marine data and observation for smart and sustainable growth’ document published in 2010, the EC outlined the case for a more coordinated approach to marine data collection.
Access to data and interpretations are currently being made available through the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) and Geo-Seas projects. The EMODnet programme places the marine departments of the geological surveys at the centre of providing geological advice and information to the EC. The MGEG is also active in initiatives such as the development of a European Geological Data Infrastructure , the EuroGeoSurveys North Atlantic Group (NAG), and in the Atlantic Seabed Mapping International Working Group, which was established following the Europe-US-Canadian agreement to collaborate on Atlantic Ocean research. The group continues to look outwards to develop multi-disciplinary collaboration with the marine biological, oceanographic / hydrographic, physics, chemistry and archaeological communities, who form the main providers of scientific information for the European marine community.
…about Marine Geology
Although invisible to us, the seafloor is just as varied and spectacular as our landscape. Mountain chains, gorges, abyssal plains and continental shelves constitute a variety of topographies and marine biotopes, and also provide us with a wide range of resources. In many parts of Europe, the offshore sector is not only the source for oil and gas, but also provides sites for renewable energy installations and has the potential to yield mineral resources and to provide locations for carbon dioxide sequestration. Large areas of Europe’s seafloor remain unmapped at a level of detail that helps us to make better use of and protect vulnerable parts of the marine environment. Due to the complexity of the topography and the processes that affect the seafloor, it is difficult to predict for example the types of habitat that can occur in areas that are poorly mapped.
The coastal zone is the area where human activities have had most impact on the marine environment as large numbers of people live close to the coast and many of our industries are located close to ports. The coastal zone, like the offshore environment, also has diverse landscapes – from sandy and pebbly beaches to high, rocky cliffs. Many coastal areas are protected as unique geoheritage and geodiversity sites. Coastal behaviour in response to sea-level change also has a major impact on future planning decisions.
The dynamic environment may cause geohazards. The Sumatra-Andaman tsumani that happened in the Indian ocean in 2004, or the huge tsunami occurred in Japan in 2011, reminds us that seismic events on the seafloor can have devastating impact on shore. Also, submarine landslides can either propagate onshore or generate tsunamis with catastrophic results. There is an increasing demand on use of the coastal zone and the seafloor around Europe. Fisheries, aquaculture, oil and gas and renewable energy infrastructures, sand and gravel extraction, shipping and many other marine activities are competing, sometimes in rather limited sea areas. In order to ensure high-quality information is made available to decision makers for sustainable use of marine resources, precise and reliable information is needed. Today this need is more important than ever before.
With new surveying techniques the secrets of the seafloor can be revealed. A better understanding of the marine environment can result in more detailed maps and a better understanding of the processes active in the European seas.