Aerial view on Tesperhude at river Elbe (Photo: Michael Streßer / Hereon)
The Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon is operating a floating research platform in Tesperhude at the Elbe because “the sea begins here”. Starting in autumn 2021, the research platform provides continuous data about the water quality of the Elbe, which is made publicly available. Furthermore, the research platform can be used by interested people from science and industry. The set-up of the research platform is funded by European Regional Development Funds, the state of Schleswig-Holstein, the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres and the Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon.
The research platform includes numerous measurement systems. These are providing continuous, high resolution and near real time data regarding different substances in the water (for example nutrients, suspended matter, microalgae, greenhouse gases and selected pollutants). These substances are then transported over the weir in Geesthacht into the Elbe estuary, where they determine the turnover of matter in the Port of Hamburg and further downstream until the adjacent North Sea.
Therefore, the collected data is interesting amongst others for the Port of Hamburg and the Wadden Sea National Park, in order to look ahead as well as to plan and act accordingly. The data can be accessed through the “Helmholtz Coastal Data Center“ (HCDC) in near real time, which is important in the case of extreme events, such as floods. Interested people from science and industry can use the data as well as the research platform itself, for example in order to develop and test aquatic methods and technologies in this environment.
Example: Measurement System „FerryBox“
FerryBox on the pier Tesperhude (Photo: Jan-Timo Schaube / Hereon)
The FerryBox is an essential part of the research platform und has been developed amongst others together with the Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon. The automated measurement system determines physical and biogeochemical parameters in surface waters. The water is continuously pumped through a measurement cycle with several sensors. The measurement system usually contains sensors for temperature, salinity, turbidity and chlorophyll flurorescence, as an indicator for microalgae. Additionally, sensors for oxygen, nutrients, pH, carbon dioxide and algae classes can be included.
The FerryBox is measuring numerous parameters every 20 seconds. This allows continuous and detailed observations of the water quality in the long-term. The Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon is operating several FerryBoxes, amongst others at the mouth of the Elbe in Cuxhaven.
Satellite image North Germany with tidal Elbe and North Sea (Image: NASA)
The Elbe estuary from Geesthacht to the North Sea is an important waterway to the Port of Hamburg, serving as lifeline for the metropolitan region of Hamburg including its inhabitants and industries. However, this River-Sea System is changing continuously due to several human activities as well as climate change.
Fundamental changes are for example the amount and composition of suspended matter, which is affecting the measurements of the shipping depth, and which can lead to oxygen depletion and hence fish kills. In order to be able to anticipate and react to such changes, the researchers want to understand better how River-Sea Systems are functioning.
The research platform is operated together with the research initiative MOSES (Modular Observation Solutions for Earth Systems) by the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. MOSES is investigating the interactions of short-term events, such as floods and heat waves, with long-term trends. Therefore, the partners are developing mobile and flexible measurement systems.
Furthermore, the research platform is incorporated into the Elbe-North Sea Supersite of the pan-European research infrastructure DANUBIUS-RI (International Centre for Advanced Studies on River-Sea Systems), which integrates studies in rivers and adjacent coastal seas. Currently, similar facilities are set-up in more than 10 locations across Europe in order to facilitate research along the river-sea continuum.