Exploring our marine geological resources in the fifth dimension

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Exploring our marine geological resources in the fifth dimension:
A b ou t 3D voxels, 4D impact models and uncertainty
Van Lancker Vera', Lies De M ol2, Guy De T ré 3, Denise M aljers4, Tine Missiaen3, Jan Stafleu4, Dries Van
den Eynde1, and Sytze van Heteren4
1 O perational Directorate Natural Environm ent, Royal Belgian Institute o f Natural Sciences,
Gulledelle 100, B-1200 Brussels, Belgium
E-mail: [email protected] mumm.ac.be
2 C ontinental Shelf Service, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy, Federal Public Service Economy,
Koning A lb e rt 11-laan 16, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium
3 Database, Docum ent and C ontent Management, D epartm ent o f Telecom m unications and
Inform ation Processing, Faculty o f Engineering, Ghent University, St.-Pietersnieuwstraat 41,
B-9000 Gent, Belgium
4 TNO - Geological Survey o f the Netherlands, Princetonlaan 6, B584CB Utrecht, the Netherlands
3 Renard Centre o f Marine Geology, D epartm ent o f Geology, Ghent University, Faculty o f Sciences,
Krijgslaan 281, B-9000 Gent, Belgium
Mineral and geological resources such as sand and gravel, ores and hydrocarbons can be
considered to be non-renewable on tim e scales relevant fo r decision makers. Once exhausted by
humans, th e y are not replenished rapidly enough by nature, m eaning th a t tru ly sustainable
managem ent o f these invaluable and sought-after resources is not possible. Using them w isely and
sparingly requires a th orou g h and careful balancing o f available q u a n tity and q u a lity versus rapidly
changing societal and econom ical needs. The need fo r such an approach is recognized in the EU’s
Raw Materials Initiative, which h ig hligh ts the o p tim iza tio n o f the geological knowledge base as a
key elem ent in ensuring enduring supplies fro m w ith in the EU borders. Com prehensive knowledge
on the d istrib u tio n , com position and dynamics o f geological resources therefore is critical fo r
developing long-term strategies fo r resource use in our changing world.
To help ensure the o ptim al use o f fin ite q uantities o f sand and gravel in the Belgian and southern
Dutch parts o f the North Sea, the new Belspo Brain-be project TILES w ill develop cross-border and
integrated strategies fo r th e ir long-term extraction. TILES has the a m bition of:
Developing a decision support system (DSS) fo r resource use. This DSS contains tools th a t link BD
geological models, knowledge and concepts, providing inform a tion on present-day resource
quantities and d istrib u tio n , to num erical m odels o f extraction-related environm ental im pact th ro ug h
tim e. T ogether they q u a n tify natural and man-made boundary conditions and changes to define
e xp lo ita tio n thresholds th a t safeguard su stain ab ility on a m ulti-decadal tim e scale. These
thresholds need to be respected to ensure th a t geom orphological and habitat recovery from
perturbations is rapid and secure, a prerequisite stated in Europe’s Marine Strategy Framework
Directive, the environm ental p illa r o f Europe’s M aritim e Policy.
Providing long-term adaptive m anagem ent strategies th a t have generic value and can be used fo r all
non-hydrocarbon geological resources in the marine environm ent, locally and more globally.
Proposing legally binding measures to o ptim ize and m axim ize long-term e x p lo ita tio n o f aggregate
resources w ith in sustainable environm ental lim its. These proposed measures feed into policy and
associated m on itoring plans th a t are periodically evaluated and adapted (e.g. Marine Spatial
Planning and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive).
Extensive analyses o f data- and interpolation-related uncertainties, and o f the propagation o f these
uncertainties in data products such as maps and GIS layers, fo rm the backbone o f the DSS. This is a
necessary step in producing data products w ith confidence lim its, and critical to detecting ‘ tr u e ’
seabed changes in environm ental m on ito rin g . Using a dedicated subsurface viewer, a suite o f data
products w ill be viewable online. They can be extracted on demand from an underlying voxel (3D
pixel) model. Each voxel w ill be assigned w ith values fo r geological, environm ental and decisionrelated parameters, including uncertainty. The fle xib le 3D interaction and querying, enabled by
TILES, w ill be invaluable fo r professionals, but also fo r the public at large and fo r students in
particular. It w ill herald a new age in assessing cross-border impacts o f marine e xp lo ita tio n
activities.
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