09 Nov 2023

Strengthening marine biodiversity observations

A pioneering initiative funded by the EU Horizon Europe programme is reshaping and strengthening Europe's approach to policy-relevant coastal, marine, and freshwater biodiversity observations. The MARine Coastal BiOdiversity Long-term Observations MARCO-BOLO project stands as a model of innovation and collaboration, dedicated to enhancing our understanding of marine ecosystems and contributing to restoring ocean health globally.

Streamlining and improving biodiversity observations

Dynamic and highly productive coastal and marine ecosystems are vulnerable to human-induced pressures, ranging from over-extraction and habitat loss or damage to pollution and development in the coastal zone. Many national and regional programmes assess environmental health and human impact on our coasts, but these programmes are often fragmented, short-term, and uncoordinated at larger scales. MARCO-BOLO aims to connect existing initiatives, optimize and improve methods, and advance innovating technologies for biodiversity observations, introducing cohesion and innovation to the way we monitor and understand aquatic biodiversity.

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Aligned with the UN Decade of Ocean Science and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

By enhancing marine ecosystem understanding, data accessibility, and collaboration, MARCO-BOLO supports global sustainability. It aligns with the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science, the EU Mission ‘Restore our Ocean and Waters’, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 14 and 17. The project improves biodiversity observations and stakeholder empowerment (see box), directly addressing SDGs' call to conserve and sustainably use ocean resources.

Goals and aspirations

MARCO-BOLO embarks on its mission with a clear set of goals:

1. Enhanced observations: elevating the quality and accessibility of marine, coastal, and freshwater biodiversity observations.

2. Technological innovation: pioneering efficient and cost-effective technologies for precise biodiversity monitoring.

3. Deepened insight: testing novel tools, technologies, and models to uncover the complexities of biodiversity decline.

4. Stakeholder empowerment: sharing best practices for gathering and using biodiversity data, empowering stakeholders for restoration efforts.

Creation of a community of practice

The needs of biodiversity data users such as policymakers, private sector, and civil society have often been ignored, leading to the development of products, services, and tools that do not reach their full potential. MARCO-BOLO is working with stakeholders to tailor research and observation data for direct use and is creating a dynamic Community of Practice (CoP) to connect generators with users of biodiversity data at local, national, regional, and international levels. The aim is to ensure that project outputs are co-designed and co-created to address stakeholder needs and concerns. This includes the development of innovative monitoring tools that integrate environmental DNA (eDNA), optical, and acoustic techniques, and the offer of guidance on data storage, sharing, and policy application. This will facilitate stronger integration of data into policy processes, supporting the EU in achieving its biodiversity targets nationally, regionally, and beyond.

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Online meetings of the Community of Practice. © Chris Montgomery on unsplash.com

Crafting a legacy of knowledge

Beyond its core objectives and immediate impact, MARCO-BOLO aspires to craft a legacy of actionable knowledge. By integrating crucial marine biodiversity variables into easily accessible and user-friendly workflows, MARCO-BOLO aligns with EU biodiversity directives and global sustainability goals. This legacy stretches beyond data collection, envisaging a world where informed decisions are made, ecological resilience is nurtured, and the intricacies of marine life are better understood.

Mathilde Vidal1 (mathilde@erinn.eu) Project Communication, Lisa Benedetti2, and Dan Lear3.

1 ERINN Innovation






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Funded by the European Union under the Horizon Europe Programme, Grant Agreement No. 101082021 (MARCO-BOLO). Views and opinions expressed are, however, those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Executive Agency (REA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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UK participants in MARCO-BOLO are supported by the UKRI’s Horizon Europe Guarantee under Grant No. 10068180 (MS); No. 10063994 (MBA) and No. 10048178 (NOC).


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