The Spanish scientists are already saving the sea

"technology is a means, not an end": the phrase is shared by researchers, thinkers, experts and even the technologists more bitter. The incredible power of th

The Spanish scientists are already saving the sea

"technology is a means, not an end": the phrase is shared by researchers, thinkers, experts and even the technologists more bitter. The incredible power of the machines has to be at the service of life. In this case, of the navy, a habitat increasingly threatened by global climate change. Beyond inventions such as the picturesque and the media wall of bubbles of Amsterdam, created to capture the plastics that arrive at their channels, hundreds of Spanish researchers are busy at work in the creation of ingenious mechanisms of observation and preservation of the marine environment, a habitat that is facing significant threats from the climate crisis.

Of all the projects developed by the Spanish, we'll show three in which the protagonists are from fish that almost made smartphones scientists to drones and GPS to monitor the coast of cadiz or microscopic algae with the potential to reduce the pollution and over-fishing arising from aquaculture.

The creatures that explore the sea

catch a Glimpse of the ocean from within, capturing every one of their subtle variations, looking with the eyes of a fish and almost breathing through their gills. It is a metaphor of what the oceanographer Carlos Duarte and his colleagues pursued from four years ago: to convert to different sea creatures, by using the placement of sensors of the latest generation, in the observer perfect and unnoticed of what happens in your own home. "We are carrying to the sea the concept of wearable," says Duarte, a professor at the saudi King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the funding body of the project, named CAASE. "The goal is to work with the animals to explore the ocean from your perspective."

To this end, researchers have developed several types of sensors that pick up the movement of the animals and the changes of temperature or salinity of the water, among other things. But the big difference is that these devices also monitors the health of the inhabitants of the sea. "We collect data on its physiological state: for example, the stress experienced, how it affects marine noise or how they are produced, their migrations," explains Duarte. "So, we evaluate the impact of human activities on their well-being, both in the larger as in the smaller invertebrates". A information which is then transmitted to antennas designed "to integrate and process these data and to improve the estimates". "In addition, we have developed a platform for analysis of movement measures complex to detect deviations, animal to animal, indicating possible health problems," expands.

More than a hundred animals behave in the present, these sensors, a technology that has made the jump to Formula 1 and it is being tested in racing cars of the McLaren team. Most of the explorers and sailors are fish, but in this fantastic entente between humans and animals also work with birds, bivalves, gastropods, or sea turtles.

How they are changing our coastlines?

The south-west coast of the Peninsula has decades of losing ground. Suffice as an example Tip of the Saboneses (in the image below), located in Puerto de Santamaría (Cádiz), where the coast line falls back without pause since 1977. "We're dedicated to assessing the vulnerability of the coastline to climate change and two of the phenomena that amplifies: flooding and erosion" summarizes Laura del Rio, professor of the Faculty of marine Sciences and Environmental, University of Cadiz.

During the past four years, the project team, funded by the National Plan of Research, has monitored the province of Cádiz in search of patterns and relationships that explain the deterioration of coastal. The choice of location is not accidental. "Here we have areas with different tides, different degrees of waves, cliffs, salt marshes, dune areas", says Del Rio. "Cover a broad spectrum makes it possible to extrapolate conclusions to other places."

So has retreated to the coast of cadiz in the last 40 years

Map prepared from aerial photographs that shows the evolution of the last 40 years of the line of coast at the Tip of the Saboneses (El Puerto de Santa María, Cádiz). We observe a significant erosion, with loss of large areas of beach, dunes, and salt marshes. is Source and images: Laura del Rio.

For their observations, they have used various technologies. One of them is photography with drones, that leaves images like the one shown below: it is the beach of Camposoto (San Fernando) razed to the ground after the passage of the storm Emma in march 2018. "With this technique we can measure, for example, if when the good weather arrives a beach recovers the lost sand in the winter, something that is a natural cycle. The drones detected phenomena that otherwise would go unnoticed", pormenoriza.

aerial Image taken by a drone of the beach of Camposoto (San Fernando, Cádiz) in the aftermath of the storm Emma in march 2018. COURTESY of LAURA DEL RIO Is also used videomonitorización, which is neither more nor less than a system of cameras arranged in a point high enough in the landscape. "We do a continuous monitoring of coastal change with great spatial detail and temporal", points out the researcher. With these cameras put your eye both on the beach and in their construction: you can get to estimate when, with the passage of time, the water will reach to a poolside snack bar. For field work use differential GPS, devices that measure the topography of the terrain and how they affect the temporary winter, or where you win and lose sediment. As well is extracted chronologies as the Tip of Saboneses.

Not all of the erosion is due to environmental factors. "A big part of the problem lies in the effects of human activity", means River. "For example, we observed lack of sediment due to regulation of river basins, or to see how the coastline is dealt with inappropriately and how it breaks the balance in sedimentary... Are the impacts that one can only expect, unfortunately, that worse".

Recreation in 2099 a rise of two meters of sea level in the bay of Cádiz

In this scenario the end, which evidence a situation of vulnerability, there is a complete flooding of the lower areas of the city. This estimate was published some months ago in the journal PNAS, and supposed the double of what is prescribed by the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change.

Source images : Laura del Rio.

The researcher, however, take away certain ghosts climate: each region of the planet is a world and in Spain is very far away that returning home in a boat. But it warns that it istas observations should serve as a warning. More so when the global warming multiply, so to say, the basis of the equation: "With the rise in the sea level, the same phenomena of today will cause many more damages within 20 years without an increase in its intensity".

Microalgae, a biotechnology with great potential

"don't you imagine the algae classic of the sea," describes the professor José Antonio Perales, of the University Institute of Marine Research. "Are microscopic, with a very high speed of playback, rich in omega 3 and able to assimilate nutrients such as nitrogen." The description corresponds to a body in the images (as shown below) looks like a gelatinous mass, and green. Are microalgae, microorganisms that Perales and his team are using to address a complex challenge: to decrease the environmental footprint generated by aquaculture establishments.

To understand why this little body contains a potential solution, explain how to work these grounds, that is to say, a farm where they breed sea bass, salmon or gold for your later consumption. "Currently these facilities are being overexploited and the future is in them", makes it clear Perales, whose project is funded by the State Program of I+D+i Targeted to societal Challenges. "But ground two impacts. The first one is that we generate effluents with high flows of pollutants, such as suspended solids or nitrogen."

The second, and of more weight, with respect to its power. "To feed a fish is needed I think. And that I think is manufactured with flours and oils of wild fish, such as anchovies in the area of Ecuador and Peru," he continues. Here the concern is how much fishing requires the production in fish farming. "This ratio, called fish in-fish out (fish inside, fish outside), it reaches values around the unit," says Perales. That is to say, to raise a kilogram of fish in a farm that is accurate of other wild.

At this point come into play the microalgae, able to relieve these two environmental pressures. Why? Because by their nutritional characteristics make them an alternative to the feed of animal origin used in the hatcheries, which would reduce the wild for its production and the above mentioned fish in-fish out. And, on the other hand, because the biotechnology of microalgae, which is what investigates Perales and his team, it requires sunlight, phosphorus and nitrogen: the nitrogen that discharge the fish farms, and that already would not alter coastal ecosystems. "We try to create a model of fish production that can reduce these two impacts. It is one more way to contribute to a model of circular economy", determines Perales.

The contribution of Coca Cola

Coca-Cola in Spain it has been proposed to collect and recycle 100% of an amount equal to all packaging placed on the market to 2025. With this goal in mind, in 2018 launched in the Seas Circular, a cleanup project of seas, coasts and seabed, raising awareness on issues of recycling and promotion of the circular economy. Thanks to this initiative each year clean more than 80 reserves and seabed of the whole Spain and Portugal together volunteers, environmental NGOS, public and private agencies.

The company also supports scientific research to find solutions to the problem of marine debris. Supports a project of the University of Cadiz based on the use of drones, which has served to develop a methodology that allows you to monitor remotely the trash on the coasts and thus to facilitate the work of cleaning.

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Date Of Update: 27 December 2019, 12:00