As part of the EU-funded Green Bubbles project, Marco Palma, a PhD student from the Università Politecnica delle Marche (DISVA), is collaborating with Dr. Monica Rivas Casado at the Cranfield Institute for Resilient Futures to work towards creating a standardised policy for monitoring coral reefs.

Marco Palma is in an exchange programme with Cranfield University as part of the European Doctoral Degree under which Cranfield University hosts visiting staff members for specific periods.

At a glance

  • Dates1 February 2016 – 31 August 2017
  • SponsorGreen Bubbles project
  • PartnersInstitute for Resilient Futures at Cranfield University, Departimento di Scienze della Vita e dell’Ambiente (DISVA) at Università Politecnica delle Marche (Italy). The partners in the GreenBubbles Project are: Università Politecnica delle Marche (Italy), Breda University of Applied Sciences (Netherland), North West University (Republic of South Africa), Standford University (College of Exploration (United States of America), UBICA srl (Italy), INNOVASUB (Turckey), GAIA Snc (Italy), DAN Europe (Malta), DAN South Africa (Republic of South Africa), College of Exploration (United States of America)

Coral reefs play various roles supporting human resilience; they act as a barrier to protect our coasts from severe weather events, represent a remarkable food source and act as a reservoir of marine biodiversity ensuring the functionalities of other ecosystems. However, they are widely threatened and in 2011 75% of coral reefs were endangered. There are several stressors that can damage corals varying from the quality and temperature of the water, to human activities at sea (e.g. fishery and coastal engineer) and in-land (e.g. deforestation).

Coral reef protection has become a priority in many governmental agendas and is monitored systematically to gain a deeper understanding of the causes, the effects and the extent of coral threats.

Within the GreenBubbles project, a tool for monitoring coral reefs will be designed. Here, with a pre-prototype, we surveyed wide areas taking high resolution images of the coral reef in the Partially Marine Reserve of Ponta do Ouro (Mozambique); these images are being used to create a high resolution map and 3D models of the reef. The images can be used for long term monitoring programs on coral reef health status. A set of guidelines for coral reef monitoring will be developed. Defining standard protocols for data collection and data processing will contribute to support the device as a possible solution to the lacking of resources for scientific expeditions and marine biologists.


Progress update

The techniques developed allow us to characterise accurately the reef communities for a deeper understanding of the ecological functioning of the reef. The data acquisition is cost effective and efficient. It’s the first step towards the development of a new generation of semi-autonomous underwater vehicles for marine ecosystem monitoring.