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GEO 2017-2019 Work Programme


Global Observation System for Mercury (GOS4M)

Activity ID: 131


As part of the previous GEO Work Plans (2009-2011 and 2012-2015), the Task HE-02 "Tracking Pollutants" included the aim of developing a global observation system for mercury in addition to that for persistent organic pollutants (POPs). This Task supported the achievement of the goals of GEOSS and other on-going international programs (e.g. UNEP Mercury Program) and conventions (i.e., Minamata, UNECE-LRTAP TF HTAP; Stockholm). Programs such as the World Meteorological Organization's Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) have made substantial efforts to establish data centres and quality control programs to enhance integration of air quality measurements from different national and regional networks, and to establish observational sites in under-sampled, remote regions around the world. Similarly, the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry project (of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme) has strongly endorsed the need for international exchange of calibration standards, and has helped coordinate multinational field campaigns to address a variety of important issues related to global air quality.

The proposed Flagship on a Global Observation System for Mercury (GOS4M) aims to: i) increase the availability and quality of Earth Observation data and information to contribute to the tracking of mercury released to the global environment and, where appropriate, anticipate changes to the environment; ii) harmonize metadata production, archiving and sharing data from the mercury network; and iii) develop advanced services in support of policy mandate through the Minamata Convention.

The way to attain the above objectives is by i) facilitating cooperation of governments and institutions tracking chemical pollutants; ii) fostering the adoption of advanced sensors in monitoring mercury and its compounds; iii) better preparing, archiving and sharing metadata; iv) creating advanced web services for using and discovery information from metadata and data; and v) creating ad-hoc web services for policy makers.

Activities for the period

  • Task 1: Establish a governance structure: This Task is aimed to facilitate the involvement of the major governments and institutions supporting the collection of mercury atmospheric and environmental monitoring information to guide the work of this effort and report on the process and deliverables. Building on previous efforts this will reach out to Governments and Scientific institutions that have not been core to the GMOS and HE-02. The GOS4M Flagship will launch a consultation process with representatives of regional mercury monitoring programmes and networks, potential users, and other members of the GEO community to develop specific data, metadata, and service specifications and formats to reach a consensus that will facilitate data sharing across mercury monitoring programs and with other earth observations communities;
  • Task 2: Analysis of current infrastructures and archived information on mercury: The analysis of current infrastructures on mercury (global and regional) will help to discover strengths and weaknesses of current systems and support planning of new services and tools. The focus of this Task will be on metadata production that are the core elements for data publishing and design of services and tools. The analysis will be informed by consultations and open workshops to engage representatives of the major monitoring and modelling programs for mercury, as well as experts from other earth observations communities within GEO;
  • Task 3: Harmonization of information and production of metadata following standards: Informed by the analysis in Task 1, the lead institutions will facilitate an open process to develop a consensus set of data, metadata, and service specifications to be adopted in the flagship that will facilitate data sharing across mercury monitoring programs and networks and with other EO communities. Where necessary a large effort will be put on translation of older formats or production of new metadata. This information will be appropriately archived to make searching and using by the core engine fast and reliable;
  • Task 4: Implementation of the GOS4M Portal with EUROGEOSS Broker as core engine. Design and implementation of the Portal will be based on the EUROGEOSS Broker that will assure a real interoperability. The main function of the portal will include search and discovery by keywords, geographical area and temporal extent;
  • Task 5: Design, creation and implementation of core services: This Task will analyse policy makers’ requirements and design web services to support the assessments. A data analysis system based on GEOSS Data Core will be made available, which will output a customized report. A report can include for example pollutant temporal trend in different media or region;
  • Task 6: Design, creation and release of tools for using and discovering information: This Task will analyse stakeholders’ requirements and create specific tools to discover and use information;
  • Task 7: Testing and updating of services and tools: This Task will serve to test and update services and tools until the end of the Work Plan;
  • Task 8: Progress reporting and stakeholder engagement: This task will create a regular feedback and progress loop reporting to the governing bodies of the Flagship (i.e., steering committee) throughout the length of the initiative for GEO Flagship partners, with participants from governments and institutions in all regions including Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, Americas and Caribbean.

Policy mandate

The Global Mercury Partnership is a cooperative stakeholder driven effort started in 2006 to protect human health and the global environment from the release of mercury and its compounds by minimizing and, where feasible, ultimately eliminating global, anthropogenic mercury releases to air, water and land. Countries such as the USA, Canada, Japan, and China have been operating regional networks for many years that contribute to this partnership, providing the fundamental building blocks of a coordinated global monitoring network for mercury. Article 19 of the Minamata Convention on Mercury states that all monitoring activities related to mercury in environment and human health should, where appropriate, build on existing monitoring networks. By involving regional programmes and networks, the GOS4M Flagship will provide a substantial contribution to the Fate and Transport Partnership (UNEP F&T) of UNEP’s Global Mercury Partnership.

This partnership has been recognised as a fundamental to supporting the preparation and development of technical and scientific knowledge in support of the future implementation of the Minamata Convention. The proposed Flagship is aimed to provide continuous information on mercury concentrations and fluxes in and between the atmospheric, marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems as well as outputs from validated regional and global scale atmospheric and marine models. The potential contribution of GOS4M to provide key information to all interested parties in evaluating the impacts of the Convention are important. Information delivered through the activity of this Flagship may strongly support the periodic assessment and evaluation of the effectiveness of measures that will be undertaken to achieve the goals that will be set by COP1. The information that the GOS4M would provide shall be considered as supporting information to be provided to interested parties in their effort to evaluate the effectiveness of measures.


The activities and outcomes of the Task HE-02 were already part of the policy process. GMOS is part of the UNEP F&T which has been supporting UNEP and the INC (1 to 7) during the 2010-2016 period for the preparation of the technical background reports requested to the Executive Directors of UNEP for the Minamata Convention. GMOS as well as other monitoring networks and programmes and UNE F&T cooperate with UNEP and provide unique data and knowledge on mercury to nations (through the INC in the past and COP1 in 2017) and to a wide range of stakeholders and policy makers at national level.

This Flagship will continue to contribute in different steps of the policy implementation and evaluation process. Main foreseen societal benefits are:

  • a new portal based on the EUROGEOSS Broker ( aimed to discover information;
  • new web services for reporting information, as for example atmospheric concentrations  in different World regions, mercury’ deposition/release in different environmental compartments (e.g. soil, oceans), mercury in biota; and
  • a set of tools developed to include stakeholder participation in information discovery (e.g. to help pregnant women to decide how much and which fish to include in their diet).

User engagement

Engagement with relevant user communities and other stakeholders is of crucial importance for this Flagship, making sure its objectives are in tune with the real-world problems and its results provide adapted solutions. GOS4M will share the outcomes, lessons learned and conclusions from a series of roundtable meetings designed to identify stakeholder needs and promote collaboration between science and policy. The roundtables will seek to build up a stakeholder dialogue with exemplary sector-specific user communities to incorporate feedback loops for the products of this Flagship, as well as to develop improvements of existing mercury data workflows. The collection of roundtable reports will provide a summarized overview of shared experiences gained in the workshops that will be organized. The roundtable reports will provide insights and exchange of ideas on highly relevant issues concerning policy, citizen science and local/regional stakeholders and its networks. Reports will be made available to the wider community.

Future plans

Steps for the transition of the Flagship from the implementation to the fully operational phase.

The operational phase will be reached once:

  • current information will be harmonized;
  • the portal will be established; and
  • services and tool will be tested.

Operational plan, goals, objectives, requirements, challenges, threats:

  • Design, implement and deploy the Portal that will link to the GMOS SDI;
  • Harmonization of information and production of metadata following standards through a transparent process involving contributing partners and representatives of existing mercury monitoring programs, based on scientific consensus;
  • Design, creation and implementation of core services;
  • Design, creation and release of tools for using and discovering information; and
  • Testing and updating of services and tools.


Secured and expected resources (cash and in-kind):

  • Resources for implementing GOS4M derives from the European network for observing our changing planet (ERA-PLANET) project recently launched and aimed to strengthen the European Research Area in the domain of Earth Observation in coherence with the European participation to Group on Earth Observation (GEO) and the Copernicus initiative. ERA-PLANET will support GOS4M implementation through in-kind and cash resources. Around 9 M€ (33% of EU top-up fund and 66% of in-kind) are expected from development of a project on Global change and Environmental treaties;
  • Contribution in-kind will be provided by several regional and national programmes and projects led by participating organizations;
  • Additional resources will be derived from GEF projects within the UNEP F&T activity;
  • The global expected resources for implementation of GOS4M are near 12-15 M€.

Sources of funding, data, services, etc.:

  • Already developed infrastructure on mercury ( will be based on new services.

Annual budget allocation:

  • Considering expected resources, around 2-3 M€ can be considered as annual budget allocation until 2021.



Members: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Norway, Russian Federation, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, UK, USA.

Participating Organizations: UNECE-LRTAP, UNEP.

Others: Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP); Asia Pacific Mercury Monitoring Network; Cape Verde, European Monitoring and Evaluation Program (EMEP), Global Environmental Facility (GEF), Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC); Suriname.

Linkages across the Work Programme

Initiatives: AirNow International; GOS4POPS.

Leadership & Contributors (this list is being populated)




Implementing Entity



Nicola Pirrone