PETRI-MED, an ambitious project to monitor marine microbial biodiversity from the space, kicks off

The initiative aims to develop novel indicators to monitor Mediterranean marine microbial biodiversity from space through omics and artificial intelligence.

Image of the Mediterranean obtained from Sentinel 3A and 3B satellite observations on July 14, 2022. ©EUMETSAT [2023]

This April has started the PETRI-MED project, an initiative led by the Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC) whose main objective is to develop novel indicators to monitor the Mediterranean marine microbial biodiversity combining satellite optical remote sensing, in-situ genomic analysis, and artificial intelligence.

The assessment and monitoring of microbial plankton biodiversity are essential to obtain a robust evaluation of the marine environment health status. While bulk marine photosynthetic plankton is a proxy for primary production, a fundamental process that supports higher trophic levels, the specific composition of the microbial community is key to unveil a number of biogeochemical processes as nitrogen fixation, carbon sequestration and ocean acidification, that provide valuable indications on ecosystems dynamics and health.

Remote sensing, genomics, and artificial intelligence

PETRI-MED will rely on satellite optical radiometric measurements. Optical radiometry measures the fraction of sun light back-scattered from the upper layer of the water column after its interaction with suspended particles and dissolved matter that absorbs or scatters the incident light.

The overall goal of the project, funded by the European Union and the Fundación Biodiversidad, is to provide policy makers and other stakeholders with the adequate knowledge to permit ecosystem management based on quantitative and real-time metrics. This, in turn, will allow to design and implement different protection strategies and policies and to track the viability of the management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in response to climate change.

Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM), 4 April 2023. Full article.

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