The JPI Oceans Management Board on 23 February 2022 decided to go into a scoping phase for a future Joint Action (JA) on Light and Colour in the Ocean. The Scoping Action will address two sub-themes:
- Darkening of the oceans related to rainfall and freshwater runoff from land.
- Artificial light at night (ALAN) pollution from temporary or permanent light sources.
The two subtopics address opposing directions of light condition changes but are connected by both addressing changes to natural light conditions in marine ecosystems.
A workshop gathering more than 25 scientific experts was organised on 8 and 9 September 2022. A strong majority of experts at the workshop preferred to integrate both sub-themes in one Joint Action. The group of experts with representatives from all participating Member States is currently working on a concept paper for a Joint Action to be presented to the JPI Oceans Management Board at their Spring 2023 meeting.
The scientific coordinators for the Scoping Action are:
The Scoping Action will assess the scope, feasibility, relevance, and design of a potential JPI Oceans Joint Action to enhance knowledge and understanding of the impacts of lightening and darkening of the ocean.
In particular, a Joint Action is foreseen to address knowledge gaps concerning the potential effects of increased freshwater run-off from land to the marine biogeochemistry and productivity, as well as seek increased understanding of geographic and temporal changes in light attenuation. A Joint Action will also seek to increase knowledge of how artificial light at night (ALAN) causes pollution and how periodic changes in natural illumination affect the behaviour of species and ecological communities.
Whether changes in light attenuation are permanent or temporal, and the potential impact on the marine ecosystems remains to be fully understood. If changes in lightening and darkening of the ocean are permanent and substantial, they may impact the marine ecosystems at larger spatial scales than we are currently aware.
ALAN is an underexplored, novel research field with a high demand on interdisciplinarity. Research requires input from terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecologists, physical oceanographers, remote sensing scientists, marine engineers and marine spatial planners. A Joint Action by JPI Oceans, as a pan-European platform and enabler, will spark interest and contribute to expanding this new field in marine Research and Innovation.
The dual light-related subjects concern sustainable ocean health and ocean productivity across a wide field of potential applications, from regional through national and international perspectives.
There is a need to understand in more detail the observation of change in lightening and darkening of the oceans through transnational cooperation. The effects and implications are not limited to national concern, but have a multi-regional scope.
JPI Oceans, as a pan-European platform and efficient facilitator with a broad set of tools at hand is fit for purpose for improved understanding of the impacts of lightening and darkening of the oceans.