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Satellite Tools for Jellyfish Blooms Detection

Point of contact
Andrea Taramelli
Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale
Via Vitaliano Brancati, 48
144 Roma
Phone: +39-6-50074635

The coastal zone is one of the areas where the impact of climate change is most prominent and interacts with other anthropogenic pressures. As an example, ecosystem imbalances due to over-exploitation of the sea, arrival and growth of non-indigenous species, and the rise in sea temperature due to climatic changes are amongst the factors to be taken into account for the rising of the jellyfish presence in the last decade in the Mediterranean Sea, causing impacts on the marine environment and on human activities mainly along the coast (Copernicus Brief, issue 53, July 2015, Copernicus Observer 18/08/2017). The main consequences are related with human health (each summer about 150000 need medical assistance for jellyfish stings in the Mediterranean area), fishing (jellyfishes block fishing nets hindering the fish gathering), aquaculture (stinging of cultured species), industry (blocking cooling inlets of industrial complexes and power plants).

Copernicus models and satellite data products can use jellyfish presence detection and develop transport prediction models by providing information on a range of physical and biological ocean parameters that favour jellyfish blooms. Ocean temperature, salinity, water currents, sea-surface height and chlorophyll concentration strongly affect jellyfish biomass.

In order to mitigate this phenomenon a key strategy comprises the setting up of early warning and forecasting systems based on large scale observations and numerical model fields used for advection/dispersion modelling such as those available from the Copernicus products (EO and model data from the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service).

The main objective of this action is to explore the possibility to develop a set of tools to detect jellyfish blooms in the open sea, taking advantage of satellite images, in particular from SAR to improve the detection of the bloom. Using satellite images as an input for advection/dispersion models forced with oceanographic models, could help to forecast jellyfish bloom formation and displacement and, in the future, to use it in an early warning system.

This action aims to build a strong demo case study in which Copernicus satellite observations (especially Sentinel 1, 2 and 3) and ocean forecasting model for the Mediterranean Sea are used in combination with in-situ jellyfish citizen science sightings for supporting the detection activities by:

  • Building a database of Jellyfish sightings in the Italian and/or Mediterranean Sea (also building upon existing citizen science based databases, like “Occhio alla Medusa” and “Spot the Jellyfish” initiatives that already produced large amounts of sightings)
  • Validating jellyfish detection in the open sea from Copernicus EO data with in situ data
  • Creating the scientific support to identify new procedures to identify jellyfish in the sea
  • Developing a advection/dispersion models customize for Jellyfish
  • Showcase and raise awareness among the potential end-users on the advantages of using satellite data and modelling products in connection with the classical in situ data to set up early warning and forecasting systems
  • Specific training and information activities of the product, its benefit and potential, either by tailoring it to local need.

This action is coupled, in a synergic way, with actions 2019-2-44 and 2019-1-46, in order to exploit at maximum the possible outcomes of the three actions. Action 2019-2-44 will be carried out first, in order to explore the possible scientific innovative products. Then, action 2019-1-46 that will cover a broader set of issues related to bathing waters at national level will take into account outcomes of action 2019-2-44 concerning the topic of jellyfish presence and will provide useful feedbacks for the development of action 2019-2-43. Last, this action (2019-2-43) will develop products based on the scientific state of the art explored in action 2019-2-44 and to national user requirements gathered with action 2019-1-46.

Outputs and Results

  • Protocols for jellyfish blooms detection at the sea.
  • Forecasting system for Jellyfish advection/dispersion
  • Citizen science sightings observations database
  • Workshop with end-users
  • Promotion and demonstration material