ERA is participating in a project entitled ‘Mapping and monitoring of Posidonia oceanica using remote and sentinel technology’ (MAARES) funded by the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) Space Research Fund. MAARES aims to use Remote Sensing (RS) as an innovative approach for the mapping of Posidonia oceanica to facilitate and improve its monitoring – an invaluable piece of information for its management as a priority habitat at European Union (EU) level (Habitats Directive 92/43/CEE).
The overall aim of this project is to make available high spatial resolution maps to provide essential information about the seagrass ecology to be able to achieve a better understanding of biodiversity, ecological services and future sustainability of the seagrass across the Maltese Islands. Such project output will ultimately enable a more efficient conservation management of the P. oceanica, which to date, still suffers adverse impacts from the ever-increasing human-based influences, including climate change, which are leading to increasing pressures over these sea meadows.
This project, will test the effectiveness of using sentinel-2 data for the remote monitoring of P. oceanica in complex shallow water conditions. Sentinel-2 image results will be validated with underwater geo-referenced images, together with images captured from Unmanned Aerial Images (UAVs) to generate high resolution and multi-spectral orthomosiacs. In this model, a comprehensive workflow will be employed which shall include the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as well as machine learning based classification of the benthic environment to enable the precision mapping of sea grass meadow extent.
Such project’s efforts reflect the obligation of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC) – MSFD, which presents a framework for EU member states to manage human activities in the marine environment in a sustainable manner, so as to ensure a Good Environmental Status (GES) of the marine waters. One way of achieving this, as stipulated by the Directive and as ERA’s obligation as the responsible Authority for the implementation of the said Directive, is to implement a monitoring programme for the ongoing assessment of GES. Thus, this data collection process coupled with its monitoring is a key response to better policy implementation and better applied conservation initiatives to safeguard this priority habitat.
The project was launched on the 3rd February 2022 and will run for 20 months.
|PROJECT TITLE||Mapping And monitoring of Posidonia oceanica using Remote and Sentinel technology (MAARES)|
|DURATION||20 months (September 2021- 2023)|
|TOTAL PROJECT BUDGET||€181,899.40|
|TOTAL GRANT REQUESTED||€150,000 (co-funded by the MCST Space Fund Programme and Malta’s Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning)|
|PARTNERS||Environment & Resources Authority, University of Malta, PIXAM LTD|