Work being done by Romanian and Ukranian scientists in the Danube Delta is helping to drive a research programme that could have global ramifications.

Findings by the Danube Delta Research Institute show that algae bloom is decreasing and the team has seen the development of some aquatic species that are biological indicators of better quality water. Fewer industrial discharges and more efficient water treatment plants are believed to be improving water quality in the Danube Delta. The chemical, atmospheric, microbiological and zoological data gathering is regularly performed on the Danube Delta, and is part of a much wider project which will help the way scientists manage information. In Geneva, environmental data from around the Black Sea basin, including the Danube Delta, is being used to develop interactive maps and databases of the area for researchers, in a project supported by many scientific organisations.

Gregory Giuliani, Environmental scientist, with the University of Geneva, said: “They say that we researchers lose 50 per cent of our time, if not more, sifting through all the scientific data. “Often, it arrives here in very different formats, with qualities which are also very different. So we have to transform the data to be compatible with the software we use” Jenica Hanganu ecologist with the Danube Delta Research Institute, said: “Later on, we can use this data to improve our strategies for taking measures against flood risks, biodiversity losses or changes in the ecosystems.” Scientists from a European Union research project are using Grid Computing to achieve this.

Nicolas Ray, a biologist at the University of Geneva, said: “We have access to some of this computing grid that allows us to send our simulations on multiple computers simultaneously and thus shorten the total computation time for our hydrological model.” As a result, researchers have so far developed computer models for soil uses, demography and hydrological data in the Black Sea basin. Experts in computer modelling have teamed up with environmental engineers to come up with a picture of diverse environmental data in big rivers like the Danube or the Dnieper, but also in hundreds of small streams flowing to the Black Sea. And a team at the Eawag Institute has used topographic maps to make hydrological models.

The effort is based on what is called “Global Earth Observation”, designed to use monitoring technologies to build up scientific databases. These databases are set to offer interactive, open data of whole ecosystems and geographical regions around the world. Back in the Danube Delta, researchers are already looking for practical applications to this easy-to-use access to key data. Hydrologists with the Danube Hydrometeorological Observatory say that the integration of all data from various countries will allow scientists to see the whole picture about the situation in the Black Sea basin. That should help them to assess and forecast different scenarios of eventual climatic changes in the area.