Citclops @ the second International Ocean Research conference  (IORC 2014)

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Luigi Ceccaroni talks about participatory science to understand the ecological status of surface marine waters at the second International Ocean Research conference  (One Planet One Ocean) taking place in Barcelona, at the CCIB – Barcelona International Convention Centre, on November 16th and 18th, 2014.

As with terrestrial life, plankton is a complex “ecosystem” consisting of forms of life very different from each other; and it is the base ring of the food chain for all marine species. It is due to phytoplankton (and in particular the diatoms) that there is plenty of oxygen on Earth: one-third of all the oxygen produced comes from the oceans, through the action of these tiny algae. Only two-thirds of the oxygen comes from the forests. The same thing applies to the absorption of carbon dioxide: a third of the CO2 is absorbed by the phytoplankton, through photosynthesis. The ocean, that is, behaves exactly like a forest: in its surface layer there are “prairies” and “woods”, which absorb carbon dioxide and emit large amounts of oxygen. This production is not homogeneous: so as on earth there are green areas and desert areas, also in the seas there are areas with varying degrees of plankton.

It is important to note that the carbon of the air absorbed by plankton ends up almost all on the sea floor. Through the food chain, in fact, (or even through the incorporation in the tiny shells of diatoms) carbon moves from one life form to another, from the smallest fish to larger and larger predators, until, with their deaths, falls to the bottom. It is then easy to see how necessary it is that this mechanism continues to function, and that the plankton is not threatened by marine pollution. Plankton, algal biomass and chlorophyll are indeed proxies of theecological status of surface marine waters and are related to indicators, such as the transparency and color of the water, which can be measured directly also by citizens and skippers, in different contexts, thanks to the Citclops project and theBarcelona World Race.

In-situ transparency measures of sea waters are based on observations by the Secchi disk (SD), the KdUINO buoy and other novel, low-cost instruments; while in-situ colormeasurements are based on the Forel-Ule (FU) scale, which isused to determine the color of water bodies, in limnology and oceanography. Information on color is then collected by the Citclops – Citizen water monitoring app and other low-cost sensors, and will be integrated in the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

Measuring simple indicators, such as transparency and color, contributes to determine the ecological status of surface marine waters. These indicators are related to chlorophyll, algal biomass and organic compounds. To determine the ecological status of surface waters, the quantification of the presence of pollutants, such as accumulations of plastic debris, is also necessary. Currently, transparency and color measures are based on optical imaging, the Secchi-disk depth and the Forel-Ule (FU) scale. Measures of accumulations of plastic debris are based on analysis of images of the sea surface.

To improve the assessment of the ecological status of water bodies, the Citclops (Citizens’ Observatory for Coast and Ocean Optical Monitoring) European action (2012-2015) has developed a mobile application that allows citizens to contribute to measuring water bodies’ optical properties via participatory science.

This event, the One Planet One Ocean Conference (IORC), is an opportunity for the scientific community to come together to plan the coming decade of international collaboration in marine science and technology, with a view to improving ocean governance. The inaugural IORC was held in June 2005, when the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) with The Oceanography Society (TOS), brought attendees together to discuss expected developments in marine sciences in the decade that followed.

Full list of presentations and poster:

  • Luigi Ceccaroni (Citclops), Laia Subirats (BDigital), Marcel Wernand (NIOZ), Stéfani Novoa (NIOZ), Jaume Piera (ICM-CSIC), Roger Farrés (Kinetical), Ivan Price (Noveltis) and the Citclops consortium. Participatory science to understand the ecological status of surface marine waters. Abstract @ Workshop 5 (WS5) Global reporting of assessments of the status of marine environments, November 16, 2014; and abstract @ Theme Session T2.TS5 Operationalizing Ecosystem-based Management: the challenges of translating scientific knowledge into decision tools for integrated management, November 18, 2014.
  • Jaume Piera, Raul Bardají, Carine Simon, Luigi Ceccaroni and the Citclops Consortium. Citizen science and do it yourself technologies: a new way to observe coastal environments. Abstract @ Workshop 8 (WS8) Promoting communication within the early career marine scientists, November 16, 2014.
  • Luigi Ceccaroni, Marcel Wernand, Laia Subirats, Jaume Piera, Roger Farrés, Ivan Price, Alexander Steblin and the Citclops Consortium. Extending historic water-quality data sets, using old-fashioned techniques, citizen science and smartphonesPoster, November 17 and 19, 2014.