Mediterranean: ENEA laser in action to monitor the health of the sea
Monitoring the health of the Mediterranean and checking the accuracy of the data collected by the SENTINEL-3 satellite of the European Space Agency – ESA on temperature, colour and height of sea surface. These are the objectives of the new oceanographic campaign of the European Copernicus Earth observation programme, conducted with the support of the Minerva UNO ship of the Italian National Research Council – CNR.
The Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development – ENEA took part in the mission with a compact laser system consisting of a lidar fluorosensor capable of real-time and remote monitoring of even vast areas of the marine ecosystem.
“For three weeks we analysed the stretch of sea ranging from the Ionian to the Canal of Sicily and collected over 500 samples to analyse the chlorophyll content in the sea”, explained Federico Angelini, a researcher at the Diagnostic and Metrology Laboratory at the ENEA research centre of Frascati.
“Studying the growth of vegetation”, Angelini added, “makes it possible to identify the so-called eutrophication phenomenon, caused by the enrichment of water with organic materials from agricultural, industrial and urban waste, which favours the abnormal development of algae and their rise to the surface, a danger to the marine ecosystem because they can obstruct fish gills, alter the balance in oxygen distribution in water, release toxic and smelly substances, and colour the water thus reducing clarity and transparency”.
“Our laser”, added Francesco Colao, an ENEA researcher also involved in the mission, “makes it possible to stimulate the fluorescence of the suspended and dissolved substances in the marine waters without manipulating the sample, and in a continuous manner while travelling. This sensor is the latest in a series of prototypes already used in other missions in the Mediterranean, in the Arctic and the Antarctic, and was developed for the RITMARE project of the Ministry of Education, University and Research – MIUR to contribute to the quality of the marine environment, study the impact of climate change and define mitigation strategies for coastal and marine areas”.