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Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO), a cooperation between Stockholm University, the Academy of Athens and TEMES S.A., is dedicated to research and education on the climate and environment of the Mediterranean region.
Located at Costa Navarino, the NEO research station is fast becoming a dynamic hub for modern research on environment and climate, where scientists from all over the world exchange knowledge and ideas, while at the same time developing new research tools and methods.
The research activities of NEO cover a wide range of topics of local as well as global relevance, and are carried out by scientists at the Bert Bolin Centre for Climate Research at Stockholm University and at the Atmospheric Environment Division of Biomedical Research at the Academy of Athens.
Short description of the Research Activities
Atmospheric composition and climate changes
The main objective of the atmospheric and climate research program is to study air quality, radiometric and meteorological parameters in the area of western Peloponnese, and their use as indices of local and transboundary transport of pollutants. The above parameters will be deployed as tracers of changes in atmospheric composition and of climate changes in conjunction with climate modeling. The main motivation has been the particular characteristics of the area as cross roads of pollution, both in the particulate and the gas phase, which set it as an identical natural laboratory for the study of complex transport and chemical processes. The measurements are targeted towards full physical and chemical characterization of particulate matter in the atmosphere, as well as estimation of their optical properties, which is important for the identification and quantification of their climatic role. The objectives are to be fulfilled by:
A. Monitoring of air pollution and greenhouse gases, monitoring of aerosols, near the ground and in vertical profiles, with the use of a LIDAR system, and radiometric measurements of full spectral solar radiation (UV, VIS, IR).
B. Predictions and projections of global and regional scale, using focused climate and transport-chemistry models.
Present and past climate, water and environmental changes
The water research in 2010 was mainly focused on quantification and management options for water quantity and quality in coastal regions under consideration of increasing tourism and/or urbanization pressures. Main objectives for the 2010 activities were to reconnect and reactivate earlier collaboration networks and synthesize relevant previous results on this main research theme for the Mediterranean coastal region. The scientific motivation was that synthesis of these earlier collaboration networks and results would be fruitful and useful for making some substantial new scientific contributions on the following two topics:
A. Control of seawater intrusion when more groundwater has to be pumped out from coastal aquifers in order to meet increasing water demands of tourism and urbanization developments. Our main hypothesis in this context, based on the previous research collaborations and results for the Mediterranean region, was that it can be technically, environmentally and economically viable to recharge coastal aquifers with treated wastewater and extract fresh and/or brackish groundwater, and desalinate the latter (with less energy use and cost than desalinating seawater) as needed for indirect re-use of potable-quality water.
B. Quantification of the discharges of freshwater, with associated possible excess nutrient and pollutant loads from land, to the sea by submarine groundwater discharge (SGD). The quantification of SGD is difficult and debated and our main hypothesis in this context was that a comparative synthesis of our previous SGD results for the Mediterranean region with other available simulation and field study results for different regions across the world would be useful in providing substantial new insights on the SGD quantification problem.
The overarching aim of this research is to increase our understanding of climatic evolution and variability in the Mediterranean area, as well as long-term trends of environmental contaminants, using the annual rings in trees. As trees grow, they preserve within their annual rings a record of the climatic and environmental conditions that prevailed during growth. In special cases, long-lived trees may record this signal over many centuries or even millennia. More typically, however, it is possible to match (cross-date) shorter but characteristic series of wide and narrow annual rings from living trees with those from timbers recovered from old buildings, archaeological sites or from geological/biological sediments to develop mean series of annual tree growth (tree-ring chronologies). Such perfectly dated annually resolved tree-ring chronologies may extend over several millennia and can provide a detailed history of past climate and environment change. To construct such a long master chronology, however, presents a major challenge in terms of identifying, collecting, and measuring wood material.
The high areas of the Pindus mountain range in Greece are particularly well suited for this research. Here, pine trees grow to relatively old ages and dead wood can be preserved for long periods of time on dry grounds and scree slopes. Previous work carried out by tree-ring scientists and archaeologists in the eastern Mediterranean area has resulted in a number of tree-ring chronologies, the NEO project will identify key sites where these records can be extended to cover the last millennium. In the southern parts of the Greek mainland (e.g. Taygetos Mountains) tree-growth is strongly related to the available moisture during the growing season and, hence, tree-ring chronologies developed from these areas can be interpreted as proxies of past changes in the hydrological regime, i.e. in atmospheric precipitation and evaporation
This research aims at improving the knowledge of past climate variability in southern Greece through analyses of speleothems from limestone caves on the Peleponesse. The focus is on the Holocene timescale, i.e. the last ca 10000 years. A better understanding of the regional climate evolution in different parts of the world is crucial for understanding present climate dynamics and environmental change and a prerequisite to meet expressed needs of improved climate forecasting capabilities. This necessitates a time perspective that reaches beyond the information available from instrumental records. Greece is poorly investigated in this respect at the same time as the country provides a wealth of suitable natural climate archives in the form of calcite formations (speleothems), such as stalactites and stalagmites, in limestone cave. Initial cave expeditions for the present project were carried out already in 2009 in order to find suitable caves. Two caves located in the Laconia (Glyfada Cave) and Arkadia (Kapsia Cave) prefectures on Peloponnese were selected for further investigation.
The first phase of this research aims at collecting and dating suitable speleothems and, through various kinds of analysis, reconstruct past changes in regional precipitation, temperature and vegetation. Monitoring of the environment of the caves and collection and analysis of rain and drip water will be carried out in order to understand the processes influencing the climate signals recorded in the speleothems. Present day meteorological and hydrological data together with data collected from the cave monitoring will be used in attempts to quantify climate change through time. In a second phase we will, in collaboration with archaeologists, compare the climate information retrieved with information on past societies development in order to understand the role of climate in the rise and demise of past cultures. The project is carried out as a PhD-project.
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