On the Italian Ligurian coast, biologists and environmentalists are working to combat the effects of climate change in the Mediterranean with the help of a “Smart Bay”. Marine biologists fear that the Mediterranean will become warmer and more acidic, affecting the habitat of many native species and also causing severe changes in weather systems such as more frequent tornadoes.
The Smart Bay of Santa Teresa, in an area of the northwest coast known for tourism and diving, is Italy’s first “living” underwater laboratory where scientists use aquatic invertebrates known as bryozoa. and other organisms as living sensors.
Researchers from the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) and the National Research Council (CNR) have chosen the small bay as the ideal location to monitor seawater. It provides data for the study of extreme weather events which are becoming more and more frequent in countries such as Italy, Greece, Spain and France.
“The Mediterranean Sea has essentially become a hotspot for what’s going on in the world’s oceans,” said Franco Reseghetti, Oceanic researcher and expert from ENEA, which has been monitoring temperature changes in the Mediterranean for years. His research provides models for predicting extreme weather phenomena on the coasts – such as the “Medicane” or the Mediterranean tornado – and on land caused by the effects of the warming of the sea on the lower layers of the atmosphere.
It’s time to act
Reseghetti said that while data collection is improving, researchers still don’t know why things seem to be changing or how to stop it. “We must keep in mind the importance of the sea for Italy, but not only for Italy, just think of France, Greece and Spain who have paid a very high price this year in terms of alternating fires and very heavy precipitation, ”he added. he said Reuters Television. “These extreme events should make us think that maybe it is really time to stop talking and start acting.”
His comments precede the November COP26 climate change talks in Scotland, where countries will try to agree on targets to tackle global warming. Researchers are particularly interested in the PH of the Mediterranean, the acidity and oxygen levels of the water which are vital for the health of the sea and its marine population.
“We are monitoring the pH, which is also linked to ocean acidification, and the oxygen level, which is linked to hypoxia which causes a lot of damage around the Mediterranean ecosystem, including aquaculture as well” said Chiara Lombardi, marine biologist and researcher at ENEA.
The “farm” of sedentary colony bryozoa and marine polychaete worms uses carbonates from the water to grow their shells. Due to an increase in the acidity of the water – linked to pollution and high temperatures – scientists can assess the slowdown in animal growth.
The Mediterranean represents 0.7% of the world’s ocean surface and is a semi-closed basin with its only connection to the Atlantic via the Strait of Gibraltar, which gives its waters unique characteristics. There is very little swell and only a small amount of nutrients due to the low flow of the rivers that reach it. There has also been a lot of overfishing and pollution.
Lombardi also hopes to develop the Smart Bay to work with local fishermen and the tourism industry to make their work more environmentally friendly. “The long-term plan is to try to convert this bay, which again revolves around sustainable tourism, diving and natural capital, (into) a carbon neutral bay,” she said.
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