Tatiana Vladimirovna Kuznetsova, Regional Coordinator of the SETAC Russian Language Branch

In the frame of Trilateral Cooperation in the Gulf of Finland (Estonia-Finland-Russia), the The Gulf of Finland Science Days on “Facing our Common Future” were held from 13–14 November 2019 at the House of the Estates in Helsinki, Finland. The goal of the forum was to better understand the environment of the Gulf of Finland (Baltic Sea) through the development of knowledge and the strengthening of international cooperation.

The following areas were addressed within the framework of the forum:

  • Interdisciplinary studies that provide a comprehensive assessment of the current state and forecast of the future development of the Gulf of Finland
  • Reports on ongoing joint projects in the Gulf of Finland (mainly in the frame of the Cross-Border Cooperation Program 2014–2020)
  • Sessions presented by young scientists (postgraduate and doctoral students) on all topics related to the environmental state of the Gulf of Finland

The forum opened with greetings from the former President of Finland, Tarja Kaarina Halonen, the Vice Minister of the Environment of Finland, Hannele Pokka, and the Director of Marine Environment Institute (SYKE, Helsinki), Paula Kankaanpaa.

Trilateral Cooperation in the Gulf of Finland is a sub-regional project. This work takes into account the objectives for the protection of the marine environment set out in the EU Maritime Strategy Framework Directive. In addition, the Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation, the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the Strategy for the Development of North-West Russia provide a framework for trilateral work.

Presentations from The Gulf of Finland Science Days

Presentation given during The Gulf of Finland Science Days

Due to the cooperation and active role of ministries and various institutions, we have been able to explore the entire Gulf since the early 1990s, which was previously impossible. Now, joint efforts have led to direct protective measures. Based on the annual reports of the Joint Russian-Estonian Committee and the science-based recommendations of HELCOM on treated wastewaters in the transborder area (Russia-Estonia, Narva River, Ivangorod, 13 km from the Gulf of Finland), and under the financial support of the Danish Pollution Agency, new technologies and equipment were installed in municipal wastewater discharge centers in 2010. The second stage of this project installation is in process. This is a good example of how scientists are guiding research and decision-making towards a healthier Gulf of Finland.

Among the 44 oral presentations and 25 posters from across 44 institutions, the most interesting, in my view, were as follows:

Academic Tarmo Soomere, President of Estonian Academy of Sciences, has a unique gift and can explain complex phenomena and tendencies taking place in our environment, such as air flow, wind, tides and water-level change in very simple language. The title of his report was “Emerging research challenges in the dynamics of the Gulf of Finland,” in which he explained observations air flow, storms and wind. Different approaches in modeling revealed the same results about extremely disturbing rapid increase in water level maxima, which had not been observed earlier (before the 1970s), and a change in the wind patterns of the stormy season in the Baltic Sea, once typically occurring from November through December, which has now shifted to December through February. These events could prove to be especially dangerous in the coastal areas of the Baltic Sea. Soomere suggested non-stationing modeling to identify trends in extreme water-level changes along the Baltic Sea coast in order to define ultimate criteria for unpredicted water level behavior. These models are now in development.

Another report from Jakko Mannio and co-workers from the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), “Sediment stratigraphy can reveal that regulation of hazardous substances is working,” dealt with the traditional stratigraphy method, which is recommended in all international conventions (POP, OSPAR, HELCOM) and detailed in the HELCOM COMBINE Manual. The method is readily applicable to many “emerging compounds” (PFAS, SCCP/MCCP). Such a “traditional” approach may actually be much easier to harmonize between countries (without the need for intercalibration training courses), compared with the assessment methods, which often failed to take into account differences in ecosystem functions or specific fauna biodiversity in the sub-regions of the Baltic Sea.

Another example is the extended Cross-border Cooperation Programme 2014–2020, which is funded by the EU, Estonia and Russian Federation. Really, this is a set of projects (more than 15!) that started in the spring of 2019. During the Science Days, ongoing projects were introduced (including 21 presentations).

Within the framework of the Estonia-Russia Cross Border Cooperation Program 2014–2020 and the realization of the Project ER 90 “HAZardous chemicaLs in the Eastern Gulf of Finland – Components and Impact Assessment (HAZLESS),” two oral and 10 poster reports were presented from the Institutions of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Three of the presenters are members of SETAC Europe and the SETAC Russian Language Branch. In our opinion, the results of field and laboratory studies, which could be obtained by the participants of the project will be a good basis for further work in the development and deployment of a net of technologies and automated biomonitoring systems using technical devices (e.g, buoys for long-term environmental monitoring) and benthic invertebrates as live monitors of environmental quality in the Baltic Sea and in all spheres of modern water use. The major advantage of such cooperation is the opportunity for joint implementation of modern technologies and innovative methods for determining locations of concern and assessing biological effects of hazardous substances (H metals, TBT and some of the pharmaceuticals) in three different matrices – surface water, sediments and biota.

More details of the forum’s abstracts and oral presentations can be found on the meeting website.

The next The Gulf of Finland Science Days will be organized in Tallinn by the Estonian Academy of Sciences.

Author’s contact information: kuznetsova_tv@bk.ru

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