Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Citizen science study to map the oceans' plankton

By Mark Kinver
Environment reporter, BBC News

A study is calling on the world's sailors to help map the oceans' phytoplankton, microscopic plants that form the bedrock of marine food chains.

Researchers have developed an app for people to submit readings from Secchi disks - a method used since 1865.

The team hopes the data will help them understand what is happening beneath the waves.

They have been "astonished" by the response so far but are hoping for more readings from the southern hemisphere.

'Dramatic decline'

The Secchi disk, invented in 1865 by Angelo Secchi - the Pope's astronomer - is a circular disk that is used to measure water transparency in oceans and lakes.

The concept had long been used as a navigational tool by sailors. By lowering a dinner plate beneath the waves and measuring the depth it disappeared, it provided the crew with an indication of what ocean current they were currently sailing through.

Fr Secchi was asked by the head of the Papal Navy to measure the transparency in the Mediterranean Sea. This task gave rise to the formalised measuring system.

Ever since the first measurement was taken aboard the Papal yacht in April 1865, marine biologists have used it to measure phytoplankton abundance.

Since Secchi's first design, there have been a number of subsequent revisions. The two most common colour variations in use today are the all-white disk and the black-and-white quadrant version.

"The reason the project came about was because, in 2010, some Canadian scientists wrote a paper that suggested that the phytoplankton in the world's oceans had declined by 40% since the 1950s," explained project leader Richard Kirby, a research fellow at Plymouth University's Marine Institute.


No comments:

Post a Comment

You only need to enter your comment once! Comments will appear once they have been moderated. This is so as to stop the would-be comedian who has been spamming the comments here with inane and often offensive remarks. You know who you are!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

ShareThis