Springing from the Penteli and Parnitha mountains, the river Kifisos is the longest river in Athens and cuts across the capital city and suburbs before meeting the Saronic Gulf. The river takes its name from the river God who presided over this largest of rivers which was the source of life for the vast, fertile athenian plain and is responsible for bringing wealth and prosperityto Attic and to Athens, only to have much of its beauty lost over time from repeated abuse from human factors such as waste dumping, construction works, fires etc.
Despite these issues, the resilience of the great river provides a home to vital flora and fauna, feeding the surrounding area with oxygen and regulating temperatures in the region. The part of the river stretching up to Metamorphosi enjoys ferns, eucalyptus, berry bushes, reeds and massive plane trees in addition to be home to from, turtles and even some fish.
In what is now deemed to have been a large error in judgment, a section of the Kifisos had been covered to facilitate the construction of roads and, partly, to eliminate the bad smell emanating as a result of waste pollution. This covering the river and regulation of the watercourse has created a number of environmental issues in the area over time which are now being addressed.
Photograph from mapio.net
SCENT and the Kifisos River Basin
The SCENT pilot in Greece relates to the urban environment around the Kifisos river in Attica. This covers app. 380km2, and almost 60% of its watershed is urbanised (metropolitan Athens area). Its hydrographic network has been drastically altered due to distinct land-use and 68% of the basin is occupied by urban expanses – host to 4 million citizens.
The city’s rapid development occurred without an appropriate plan for drainage works: Parts of the drainage network were shrunk and converted into streets whilst critical river cross sections were diminished. When floods occur they have a significant impact on infrastructure, especially at the downstream part, including Piraeus port, a major transportation hub that is served by railway network and major roads.
Partner HRTA, a non-profit voluntary organisation that is involved in urban search and rescue operations for Kifisos floods and partner Region of Attica, the regional policy maker for environmental and civil protection issues, will co-organise a large scale citizen campaign with field visits.
Citizens will take on-site images from the pilot site, enriching the existing dataset. A larger group of citizens will participate in the online gaming apps for annotating already available images of the pilot.
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The Danube Delta – Europe’s second-largest, but best preserved, delta – is an array of winding canals, marshes, rivers and lakes, replete with lush vegetation and spanning some 2,200 square miles. It is located near the mouth of the Black Sea, towards the end of the river Danube’s journey from its source in the Black Forest of Germany. The region is rich in vegetation and wildlife, especially birds. It has the highest concentration of bird colonies in Europe, making it an ideal destination for ornithologists.
The Delta is formed around three main channels of the River Danube and is home to the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve which, with more than 5,500 species of flora and fauna, has the third largest biodiversity in the world.
A vibrant and thriving ecosystem, the density of its bird population is augmented by some 3,450 animal species, from foxes and wolves to occasional deer, and 1,700 plant species for which the delta is also home. The natural habitat is littered with oaks, willows and thatch providing an ideal breeding ground for many avian species which travel from as far afield as China and Africa to raise their young within the delta. It is also a favoured spot for species migrating from the cold winters of the Arctic and Northern Europe.
Photograph from tripsite.com
SCENT and the Danube Delta
This is the largest wetland in Europe and is protected under UNESCO as a unique biosphere reserve. The Danube Delta suffers from human interventions leading to dramatic changes. These interventions include damming large areas for agricultural use and intensive forestry. They result in disturbances of the water and ecological balance and even the loss of specific habitats.
A dynamic and detailed knowledge of land-cover and -use changes related to this rural environment is required and is not covered by current land-use maps e.g. by Copernicus Land Monitoring service. A large number of citizens will participate in the SCENT field tests in DD, activated by partner SOR, an NGO which is very active in the Danube Delta and has access to a large network of citizen groups through campaigns about Danube bird habitats and biodiversity.
SCENT also has the active support of the Romanian governmental Danube Delta Biosphere Authority (DDBA) responsible for maintaining spatio-temporal flooding maps of the area. DDBA will attend workshops and evaluate the SCENT toolbox from the policy maker viewpoint.
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Smart Toolbox for Engaging Citizens into a People-Centric Observation Web
Scent is a European Union research project funded under the Horizon 2020 programme. The project runs between 2016 and 2019 and comprises 10 partner organisations across 6 countries.
Europe has the capacity and potential to lead a global citizen movement aimed at land use monitoring through a people-centred observation web. Scent will be this movement.
Scent will engage citizens in environmental monitoring and enable them to become the ‘eyes’ of the policy makers. In doing so citizens will support the monitoring of land-cover/use changes using their smartphones and tablets.
The project will demonstrate the huge potential of citizen observation and monitoring of the environment. A people-led online observation movement will capture land-cover use and changes through user-friendly tools and technologies, The Scent Toolbox. This will complement existing forms of monitoring such as satellite and remote sensing which are costly and less dynamic.
The Scent Toolbox; a crowd-sourcing platform, gaming applications, an authoring tool, an intelligence engine and numerical models, allows citizens, policy makers and other users to freely use Scent technologies to contribute to the aims of the project. The opinions of citizens, policy makers and communication experts will be taken into account during the design of the Scent Toolbox to ensure it is practical and user-friendly.
The Scent toolbox will be tested in two large scale pilots; the urban case of the Kifisos river in Attica, Greece and the rural case of the Danube Delta in Romania. The impact of the toolbox in the assessment of flood risks and flooding patterns will be evaluated.
The consortium covers the complete stakeholder chain: industries in machine learning, SMEs in crowd-sourcing, gaming and awareness-raising, leading research institutes with expertise in hydrodynamic modelling, data harmonisation and authoring tools and environmental monitoring, NGOs at the pilot sites and policy makers/public bodies.
The Scent project is coordinated by the Institute of Communications and Computer Systems, based in Greece.
Design, develop and implement a people-centric observation web offered in the form of Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC)-compliant web services and resources to the GEOSS portal.
Develop the innovative SCENT crowd-sourcing platform to collect image as well as textual information from citizens; as a result, this will extend the in-situ infrastructure with citizen-sourced observations.
Implement the SCENT intelligence engine, which will use innovative machine learning techniques to classify and annotate images and text sourced from citizens as well as existing open platforms.
Design and develop a serious gaming application to annotate unutilised images from popular open platforms, e.g. Flickr and Panoramio, as complementary data sources on land-cover and land-use changes.
Quantify the impact of land-cover/use changes to flood risk maps and spatio-temporal flooding patterns.
Design a simple authoring tool for policy makers to customise the SCENT toolbox according to target group, regional or social characteristics.
Test, evaluate and validate the SCENT smart toolbox in two large scale pilots of great environmental impact; the urban case of the Kifisos river in Attica and the rural case of the Danube Delta.
Increase the active engagement of citizens as individuals, citizen associations as well as local authorities in monitoring their environment through the creation of a citizen movement.
The citizen-centric and participatory SCENT methodology is divided into three phases:
The requirements and architecture design phase includes a study and analysis of user requirements and needs for a sustainable and active citizen observatory.
The technical development and innovation phase consists of the design, research, development and implementation of innovative tools and solutions that make up the SCENT toolbox.
The integration and large scale demonstration phase involves integrating the solution and ensuring through formal testing that SCENT toolbox components are interoperable and fully functional. In this phase, two large scale pilots will be carried out to evaluate and validate the SCENT citizen observatory.
SCENT and the Open Research Data Pilot
SCENT participates in the Pilot on Open Research Data launched by the European Commission along with the Horizon 2020 programme.
The Open Research Data Pilot aims to improve and maximise access to and re-use of research data generated by Horizon 2020 projects. It takes into account the need to balance openness and protection of scientific information, commercialisation and Intellectual Property Rights, privacy concerns, security as well as data management and preservation questions. While open access to research data thereby becomes applicable by default in Horizon 2020, the Commission also recognises that there are good reasons to keep some or even all research data generated in a project closed. The Commission therefore provides robust opt-out possibilities at any stage.
The SCENT consortium supports open science and the large potential benefits to the European innovation and economy stemming from allowing reusing data at a larger scale. The majority of data produced in the project may therefore be published with open access.
The SCENT Concept
SCENT aims to demonstrate the huge potential of an active citizen observatory that will complement existing infrastructure through the SCENT toolbox. It will lead to a significant pool of observations on changes in land cover and related environmental phenomena. Data will be fed via web services into existing repositories, such as the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) portal. SCENT will provide policy-makers with a near real-time view of land-use changes while directly involving citizens in the decision-making process.
The SCENT concept is built around three pillars:
Pillar I: Increased involvement of citizens in the process of land cover and land use monitoring through a set of participatory solutions
Pillar II: Better use of available data, repositories and monitoring systems through innovative tools and algorithms
Pillar III: Development of a co-design strategy, involving both citizens and public authorities with the aim of creating a sustainable citizen observatory
Illustration of the Scent Toolbox
The impact of the project will be felt in many ways, especially in the environmental, societal, technical and industrial field.
Citizens often feel that their efforts won’t have much impact on environmental policies and climate change. SCENT will show that citizens in fact can have a real impact in environmental monitoring and identification of flood risks.
Major environmental agencies and decision-makers have agreed to promote the project outcomes, which will guarantee EU-wide environmental impact.
SCENT will foster innovation and create jobs in SMEs, which will help fight unemployment in Europe.
SCENT will also improve the accuracy of existing flood risk maps by more than 15% and thus make areas close to floodplains less vulnerable to disasters.
SCENT promotes an open method of coordinating environmental policies. It will include regional environmental groups, public-private partnerships and citizen communities in land-use monitoring, which will encourage innovative governance schemes.
SCENT will bring about new technological developments and products through the SCENT toolbox, and citizens’ contributions to environmental data will be fed directly into the SCENT intelligence engine. These will be key in generating precise and up-to-date land-use maps and flood risk maps for decision-makers.
SCENT will also extend the GEOSS and Copernicus repositories through frequent updates of local monitoring of land-use changes using the SCENT Toolbox.
SCENT will introduce low-cost state-of-the-art tools that will encourage further innovation and boost the development of new people-centric apps, products and services.
The SCENT observatory will promote Europe in the global environmental monitoring market. Citizen engagement will foster the creation of new SMEs and boost innovation in current European SMEs. SCENT will reveal an untapped potential for the gaming industry and the crowd-sourcing and social media industries to enter the environmental field.