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Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2021, processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

How is aquatic biodiversity and life distributed on Earth? How do aquatic ecosystems respond to multiple human stressors? Which consequences do the loss of biodiversity, ecosystem integrity and resilience have for the structure, functioning, and status of aquatic ecosystems? These are three of the many questions which the AquaSYNC partnership is dedicated to answer. 


The primary goal of AquaSYNC is to foster state-of-the-art aquatic synthesis research in a data-rich but information-poor world. Further, AquaSYNC will promote synthesis research within national and international scientific communities, establish collaboration and enabling joint activities with other synthesis research centers and produce relevant and high-impact outcomes in support of ecosystem-based management.

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AquaSYNC utilizes four key instruments:

  1. Meetings of Synthesis Working Groups (SWGs), comprised of both external participant and core staff from AquaSYNC, addressing specific research questions,

  2. Synthesis projects led by AquaSYNC core staff or PostDocs,

  3. Integrated Assessment (IA) activities, including development of innovative multi-metric indicator-based assessment tools (MIBATs), led by AquaSYNC core staff, and

  4. Hosting visiting scientists for short and long periods.


In the ecological literature, definitions of synthesis generally specify what “pieces” of knowledge are being “put together,” in what way these pieces are separated from one another and what “whole” is created in integrating these pieces. However, a key to enabling the synthesis process is knowledge of the tools, methods, and approaches which can be used for putting the pieces together. Hence, synthesis in aquatic sciences can be defined as the inferential process whereby new models are developed from analysis of multiple data sets to explain observed patterns across broad ranges of temporal and spatial scales.

The key research service offered by AquaSYNC is a ‘synthesis activity/process’ involving working groups targeting a specific research question. Working groups are typically composed of 6 to 10 experts from a range of disciplines, sectors, career stages, and institutions. They come together for short periods of time, often at our premises in Copenhagen, to tackle large-scale questions in basic and/or applied aquatic science, using the synthesis approach. Each participant brings data, methods, experiences, and perspectives, while AquaSYNC offers logistical and technical support to enable their innovation. By integrating diverse perspectives and data sources, our working groups connect dots, discover gaps in knowledge, and reveal untapped insights. 

AquaSYNC applies and develops the working group model and promotes the value of diversity between participants and collaborative science. In fact, research has shown that the diversity of participants in working groups is key to enabling greater productivity and problem-solving capacity. The working group model is designed to accelerate discovery and increase the impact science can have on decisions to enable people and nature to thrive. AquaSYNC working groups will advance scientific understanding in aquatic ecology and the environmental sciences significantly over the coming decades. 

Methods to be used by AquaSYNC may include but are not limited to

  1. comparative cross-system analyses,

  2. analyses of long-term time series, and

  3. system simulation modelling. 



Providing support to development and publication of Integrated Assessments (IAs) is also a key AquaSYNC activity.

Our ambition is to produce state-of-the-art Integrated Assessment of aquatic ecosystems as well as to support other institutions and competent authorities in producing Integrated Assessments. 

The partnership behind AquaSYNC has solid experience with respect to production of national, regional and pan-European Integrated Assessments. Key references are:



Another AquaSYNC activity is development, testing and application of multi-metric-indicator-based assessment tools.

Our ambition is to continue being a first mover when it comes to development, testing and application of new MIBATs, both thematic: eutrophication (HEAT), biodiversity (BEAT), contaminants (CHASE), or fully-fledged integrative (NEAT, MESH, WATERS). To meet the needs identified in synthesis work we seek both to build on existing tools and to develop new tools, documenting this work in method papers.

Selected key references for thematic MIBATs include:


The partnership behind AquaSYNC has a solid history of working  with MIBATs and has several new prototype tools in the pipeline, e.g. MALT (marine litter), 2CiES (climate change in Europe’s seas) and IISTE (MSFD D9 contaminants in sea-food).



In addition to AquaSYNC’s core activities (i.e. SWGs, IAs, MIBATs) other activities and outputs may include:

  • Systematic reviews

  • Seminars and training courses

  • International Symposium on Synthesis Research in Aquatic Ecosystems (in September 2025)


Please contact AquaSYNC to hear more about the above activities or suggest other activities of potential relevance to AquaSYNC.

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