Research project Genetic tool for Ecosystem health Assessment in the North Sea region

Complete GEANS
DNA strand with benthic organisms

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Main research question

Sustainable use and management of marine resources is key for good ecosystem health. Monitoring for ecosystem health assessments is currently based on morphological species identification, which is time-consuming, labor-intensive and skills reliant. DNA-based tools promise cheaper, faster and more accurate methods, yet, different approaches between countries are used which hamper standard routine application. The Interreg NSR project GEANS therefore aims to:

(1) Develop joint time- and cost-reducing genetic monitoring tools that feed into existing indicators to assess North Sea ecosystem health (2) Implement standardised genetic tools and SOPs in routine biological assessments (3) Develop a framework to apply and implement DNA-based tools in policy and transnational management of the North Sea Region.

Research approach

Set-up of an open DNA sequence library, linking DNA to species, will guarantee continuity of traditional assessment series. Real time pilot studies, in close cooperation with managers, policymakers and involved stakeholders, will deliver proof of concept on the added value of genetic approaches in environmental health management. These pilots cover environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for human activities (renewable energy, aquaculture and aggregate dredging) and environmental monitoring for e.g. non-indigenous species (NIS) in the framework of EU directives (MSFD and Natura2000). The data generated within the different pilots will feed into biotic indicators to translate the outputs into simple information needed by national authorities to make sound management decisions.


Sustainable use and management of the North Sea Region (NSR) natural resources remains a grand challenge. The NSR has a rich and diverse natural environment delivering many ecosystem goods and services to society, such as food provision, coastal protection and climate regulation. Stimulated by the EU Blue Growth Agenda, human use of the NS is increasing and diversifying. Both new and existing activities contribute to employment and economic welfare, but they also increase the pressure on the marine environment, thereby threatening ecosystem health (e.g. transport, renewable energy, exploitation of living and mineral resources, introduction of non-indigenous species). To conserve and improve NSR ecosystem health, proper management measures need to be taken, which depend on fast and accurate monitoring.


Interreg VB North Sea Region
Collectief 'Eigen Inbreng'