What's a 'Smart Bay?': A way to fight climate change

On Italy's Ligurian coast, a so-called "Smart Bay" is playing an important role in monitoring the effects of climate change.

Marine biologists and environmentalists there are worried that the Mediterranean Sea is warming up and becoming more acidic.

This would adversely affect the habitats of many native species, and lead to more violent changes in weather - like more frequent tornadoes.

That's where the Santa Teresa Smart Bay comes in - Italy's first underwater "living" lab.

Scientists are watching aquatic invertebrate animals known as bryozoans and other organisms that live in the bay, and using them as live sensors.

Chiara Lombardi is a scientist from the Italian National Agency for New Technologies Energy and Sustainable Economic Development department working on the project.

"What we are doing is monitoring the carbonate chemistry of the water as well as physical properties and what we have been observing is that climate change is occurring in the Mediterranean Sea. We are having like heatwave events, for example, which has up and the peak of the temperature in the Mediterranean and we are monitoring PH which is also related to ocean acidification and the oxygen level which is related to hypoxia which is causing a lot of damage around the Mediterranean ecosystem including also the aquaculture."

Scientists like Lombardi are monitoring how the 'farm' of organisms living in in the bay use the carbonates in the water to grow their shells.

Due to the rise of the acidity in the water - linked to pollution and high temperatures - scientists can assess how the growth of the animals has slowed.

The bay can collect data on extreme weather events happening in other countries too, including Greece, Spain, and France.

But experts, like ENEA researcher and ocean expert, Franco Reseghetti, fear that the Med is reflective of changes around the world.

"The Mediterranean Sea has basically become a hotspot of what is happening globally in the world's oceans. This is a bit worrying, not only from the point of view of changes in the living species that now find totally different living conditions but also because these conditions lead to extreme and violent atmospheric events. // The problem could be that in the long term the Mediterranean could completely change its characteristics."

Reseghetti says that while data gathering is improving, researchers still don't know why things are changing - or how to stop it.

Right now, the Med represents 0.7% of the global ocean's surface.

There is very little swell and it only receives a small amount of nutrients, due to the low flow of rivers that reach it.

It also sees a huge amount of over-fishing and pollution.

Lombardi hopes to eventually develop the Smart Bay by working with local fishermen and the tourist industry, in an effort to make their work more sustainable.

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