Sights set on future
They say that one picture is worth a thousand words, and often it is true. This article is written about a picture (below), which gives rise to many questions, but it also describes well the essence of marine biology as a field of study. Usually, the boat is packed with as much items as expertise. No stone, or a water plant in this case, is left unturned. But what good does it bring for project partners from two countries together to start mapping one of the rare fladas of Sweden's High Coast – typical low sea gulfs along Kvarken’s post-glacial rebound coast?
Let’s go a bit back in time. In 2018, a unique project called ECOnnect was launched. It is a cooperation between Finland and Sweden to study the impact of climate change on underwater sea nature. ECOnnect receives funding from the Interreg Botnia-Atlantica EU program which goes under the slogan ‘Cross-border cooperation over mountain and sea’. The Botnia-Atlantica projects use close cooperation in order to develop the areas encompassed by the program.
The ECOnnect project area includes Kvarken and its Northern and Southern sea areas in the Gulf of Bothnia. The sea and the archipelago in the Gulf of Bothnia are a joint resource for the countries on both sides of the border, and the project produces cross-border results that are available for various interest groups. Since the climate change or sea do not recognise borders between countries, why should the operating area of a project stop at the artificial borderline defined by people?
Back to the start and all aboard! Via the ECOnnect project, the Finns and Swedes have ended up working literally in the same boat. The boat is carrying, in addition to experts, different mapping equipment for marine nature, such as ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle), sediment sampler, drone, side-scan sonar and equipment for snorkelling. Various study methods serve different purposes: whereas the drone and side-scan sonar can help to get an overall image of the flada, a diving or snorkelling researcher can get closer to more detailed species information.
The cooperation between countries brings many advantages and benefits both parties, so why wouldn’t we prepare for the future together? The Gulf of Bothnia is warming quicker than the rest of the Baltic Sea, and the impacts of the climate change can already be seen as ice winters are becoming shorter. The exchange of experiences between experts from different countries and the combination of study methods creates a sturdy foundation for determining the impacts of climate change. The results of the project can be used, for example, when developing the nature conservation network and in marine area planning. The marine biologist’s work is a sport of equipment, above all, but who wouldn’t carry and transport research equipment back and forth for the love of the game and in name of common interest? We still don’t know all the challenges that we will face, but the sea and the borderline have already been crossed by this project, literally.