January 13, 2009

Managing Environmental Risks In Gulf Of Finland

The Gulf of Finland is under threat from increasing traffic, the risk of oil spills, fishing and eutrophication. The assessment and prevention of these risks require more effective measures than at present. The Finnish-coordinated project of the joint Baltic Sea Research Program is seeking out ways of managing risks and creating a new model to support environmental decision-making.

The model that is under development could be used in the assessment of the pros and cons of different alternative decisions, by utilizing multidisciplinary and multi-objective information. "The multi-objectivity concerns the fact that risks can't be eliminated by one factor alone. The minimization of biological risks would mean an end to all human activity in the Gulf of Finland. It must be possible to find an acceptable risk level and to achieve it cost-effectively," says Professor Sakari Kuikka of the University of Helsinki, who is in charge of the project.

This project being run by Professor Kuikka is one of the four projects coordinated by Finland in the BONUS research program. In total, 16 multidisciplinary international research projects are being funded in the program. Research funding organizations from the nine Baltic Sea countries are behind this new Baltic Sea Research Program. Total project funding will be approximately 60 million euros between 2010 and 2016. The EU Commission is also taking part in the funding. The Finnish funding organization is the Academy of Finland.

The environmental decision model for the Gulf of Finland gathers together available scientific information using probability calculation. It combines the risks stemming from different fields: fishing, eutrophication, oils spills, dioxins and climate change. According to Kuikka, this research project will enable more effective scientific learning by producing tools by which old and new information can be combined. This approach is based on probability models already developed by the research team, on the re-analysis of the wealth of existing materials and on published articles.

Professor Kuikka considers it important that the so-called Bayesian calculation methods available allow the gradual accumulation of information, i.e. correspond to the process of scientific learning.


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