Within the framework of MERMAID Marine Environmental Remote-controlled Measuring And Integrated Detection an international team of scientists and engineers developed automatic sensors and analyzers, mounted on a network of radio-controlled stations, to sample, measure and record chemical and biological changes to water. The project later became one of the cornerstones of the intergovernmental GOOS, Global Ocean Observing System.
Initially, three prototype stations were sited in the North Sea around Germany's Elbe River estuary. Yet the project's real achievement was to lay the foundations for reliable, widespread monitoring systems that provide accurate early warning of pollution, allowing marine authorities to take timely counter-measures.
Before MERMAID, most marine monitoring was hit-and-miss, dependant on infrequent ship water-sampling voyages, and laboratory analyses performed weeks, even months later far too late for effective actions. Some automated systems in the North Sea measured parameters such as salinity and temperature, but they were incapable of recording the all-revealing chemical and biological profile of water.
MERMAID harnessed the latest computer and communications technology to provide near real-time assessment of water quality and conditions for potentially the entire North Sea and other large bodies of water.
The team developed automated equipment to detect and analyze key parameters for oxygen balance, pH (alkali/acid levels), nutrients (usually nitrates and phosphates from fertilizers in farmland run-off water), chlorophyll (indication of algae), and toxic substances (including industrial effluents, organic micro-pollutants, and oil).
For the first time, it was possible to detect in real-time such "events" as algal blooms with associated heavy metal enrichment or the sudden release of nutrients from swollen rivers.
MERMAID was an initiative of the GKSS Institute for Coastal Resear
|Contact: Piotr Pogorzelski|