EU Project Launched To Better Understand Combined Impacts Of Light And Noise Pollution On Aquatic Biodiversity

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A new EU project has been launched to improve our comprehension of how biodiversity is being impacted by Light and Noise Pollution (LNP) in aquatic environments such as rivers, lakes, coastal and offshore waters.

Funded by the Horizon Europe programme, AquaPLAN (Aquatic Pollution from Light and Anthropogenic Noise: Management of Impacts on Biodiversity) aims to quantify the combined impacts of LNP on aquatic biodiversity in European waters and facilitate the implementation of empirically sound strategies for managing these pollutants through novel interdisciplinary approaches.

Our understanding of how LNP affects aquatic biodiversity has dramatically improved in recent decades. Evidence suggests that these effects are prevalent globally, in all types of aquatic ecosystems, from rivers and lakes to the seafloor. Despite our growing knowledge and having access to a range of technologies, best practice methodologies and policy interventions, there are still many critical knowledge gaps that, if addressed, would allow us to better manage and reduce these impacts.

Project coordinator Prof. Elena Maggi from University of Pisa said: “Currently, existing regulations on the emission of Artificial Light At Night (ALAN) and anthropogenic noise are highly fragmented in inland, coastal and offshore waters. Moreover, we still need good datasets to understand how to monitor, protect and restore aquatic biodiversity effectively”.

AquaPLAN will 1) review LNP impacts on aquatic biodiversity, assess local and regional regulator and decision-maker perceptions and their LNP management; 2) identify the mechanisms of LNP and quantify the combined impacts on biodiversity in aquatic habitats; and 3) explore and facilitate new, interdisciplinary management solutions to prevent and mitigate the combined impacts of LNP on aquatic biodiversity.

The research teams are engaging with stakeholders for the project’s full duration to tailor their research outputs for applicability, efficiency and direct use, delivering practical tools that will allow regulatory and decision-making bodies along with maritime industries to proactively manage aquatic environments and their biodiversity both at European and international levels.

“By engaging with stakeholder experts in aquatic biodiversity, LNP and the maritime industry throughout the project, AquaPLAN will provide sound recommendations on efficient LNP mitigation options as well on how to face potential barriers to their applications,” Prof. Maggi added.

AquaPLAN launched on 1 January 2024 and will run for four years. It is coordinated by the University of Pisa (UNIPI) and comprises a multi-actor, transdisciplinary team of 13 organisations from 9 countries. The consortium is gathering in Pisa, Italy for the project’s kick-off meeting on 24-25 January 2024.

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