Advancing research for healthier coastal waters
BlueAdapt’s hybrid annual meeting in Bologna brought together over 40 experts to discuss pressing concerns facing coastal regions and bathing water quality in relation to climate change. Research and policy experts shared a wealth of knowledge and insights, merging various disciplines and research areas. Here’s a short summary of discussions from the meeting, shedding light on the pressing issues and potential solutions.
Pressures impacting bathing water quality
One of the central discussions of the meeting revolved around the environmental pressures impacting bathing water quality.
Dr Tim Taylor from the University of Exeter presented a range of future trends highlighting the challenges we face in providing and maintaining clean and safe recreational water systems. Pollution, land use changes, climate variables, and the presence of pathogenic bacteria like Vibrio and E. coli were identified as key factors contributing to water quality degradation. The need for a comprehensive understanding of these pressures was emphasized, serving as a foundation for informed decision-making.
The Extended One Health Framework
The team also shared updates linked to developing an extended One Health framework, and how this could influence action to prevent health risks. The extended framework could help us to understand which drivers are increasing infectious disease, and which new climate hazards could increase people’s exposure to harmful pathogens.
Prof Aline Chiabai, Deputy Project Coordinator, from the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3) explained that the new framework will be tested with stakeholders from BlueAdapt’s Living Lab in Spain.
“The goal is to provide a framework that outlines the overarching links between climate change, pathogens and health risks. This can be used in different contexts so that stakeholders can apply their own specific expertise to expand the framework in more detail and to inform more enquiries. This will help researchers, policymakers, public health experts and water companies to find solutions to help us adapt to the negative consequences to our water systems caused by climate change.”
Building climate models and tools to inform the future
BlueAdapt’s team from the Centro Euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici (CMCC) in Italy explained which climate variables could be used when projecting future climate scenarios in European coastal regions. They emphasized temperature, precipitation, wind speed, sea surface temperature, and salinity as crucial factors. These variables help us to understand the effect of changes in solar energy, heat fluxes, and thermal radiation. Derived climate indices, like threshold-exceeding days, aid in screening for major risks.
Researchers also discussed the impact of land use on future climate scenarios and pathogens.
Dr. Daniele Peano is a Junior Scientist at CMCC in the Climate Simulations and Prediction (CSP) Division: “Land use affects biogeochemical and bio-geophysical conditions, influencing carbon soil availability and extreme events. Our experiments evaluate how land use is impacting climate change, with varying effects in different regions. The complex interplay between climate change and land use choices, including reforestation, have socio-economic implications and impact our ability to adapt to climate change.”
AMR Surveillance, bacteria, viruses and wastewater
A significant portion of the meeting was devoted to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) surveillance in the environment. Experts including Prof Will Gaze and Dr Anne Leonard from the University of Exeter discussed their research in the laboratory, highlighting the importance of understanding wastewater’s role in the AMR pandemic and the role of changes in salinity, UV radiation, and temperature. The meeting explored the link between wastewater and the spread of AMR, emphasizing the need for data-driven models to predict risks accurately. The team also shared updates from the BlueAdapt case studies, from across England, Wales, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland.
Stakeholder Engagement and Public Awareness
The importance of stakeholder engagement in utilising the research findings and climate models was a recurring theme. Prof Mikołaj Czajkowski, Principal Investigator from the University of Warsaw, discussed how we can communicate risks effectively to the public while considering how factors like tourism could be impacted. Social science experts were proposed as key partners in finding the best ways to convey these risks and promote responsible behaviour.
- Connecting Health & Climate Change: 11-12 October 2023, Stockholm (& online)
- Call for an EU Blue Deal: 26 October 2023, Brussels (& online)
- One Health Conference: 3 November 2023, Luxembourg (& online)
- COP28: thematic day on health, 3 December 2023
- Research perspectives on the health impacts of climate change: Feb 2024
The annual meeting in Bologna provided a platform for experts to share research challenges, ideas, and insights into the coastal health risks posed by climate change. From water quality issues to infectious diseases and climate change, the discussions underscored the urgency of addressing these concerns.
To close the meeting, Prof Marc Neuman, BlueAdapt’s Project Coordinator from the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), celebrated the project’s progress so far: “The meeting’s outcomes will contribute to paving the way for informed decision-making, stronger public awareness, and innovative strategies to safeguard our coastal regions and bathing waters. We are an ambitious project with lots of work still to do, but we’re already uncovering possible strategies to help Europe adapt.”
With thanks to everyone who attended the BlueAdapt meeting, including members of BlueAdapt’s Scientific Advisory Board including Dr. George Morris, Independent consultant (UK), Dr. Alicia Davis, University of Glasgow (UK) and Dr. Caroline Whalley, European Environment Agency (Denmark).