Develop novel satellite-based indicators

Identify spatio-temporal paterns of microbial plankton

Identify key controls of biodiversity patterns


The assessment and monitoring of microbial plankton biodiversity are essential to obtain a robust evaluation of the health status of marine environments. While bulk marine photosynthetic plankton is a proxy for the fundamental ecological process of primary production, the specific composition of the microbial community is key to unveiling a number of biogeochemical processes such as nitrogen fixation, carbon sequestration, oxic-anoxic remineralization and ocean acidification, that provide valuable indications on ecosystems dynamics and health. PETRI-MED will focus on the Mediterranean Sea, widely recognized as one of the world’s most important marine and coastal biodiversity hotspots, providing relevant ecosystem and cultural services to millions of citizens. The aim of the project is to develop novel strategies to monitor the status and spatio-temporal trends of microbial plankton community composition and function, based on satellite observations.


PETRI-MED will largely rely on satellite optical radiometric measurements (so-called Ocean Colour, OC), exploiting the combined temporal and spatial characteristics of latest OC European datasets (i.e., Copernicus Sentinel-3 and European Space Agency OC-CCI) with state-of-the-art remote sensing observations and biogeochemical models (as provided by Copernicus Marine), marine currents modelling, and genomic techniques. To achieve the ambitious goal of merging remote sensing, biogeochemical/physical modelling, and in situ omics measurements, PETRI-MED will rely on Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Project outputs will be communicated at three levels:

The overall goal of PETRI-MED is to provide policy makers and other stakeholders with the adequate knowledge to

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  1. Develop novel satellite-based indicators to determine and monitor the status and trends of microbial plankton community composition (sensu lato, from pico- to micro-phytoplankton, including prokaryotes and protists) and biodiversity in the entire Mediterranean Sea.
  2. Identify spatio-temporal patterns of microbial plankton community distribution and diversity.
  3. Identify key controls of biodiversity patterns, including ecological connectivity, natural (e.g., river runoffs and marine currents) and human-related forcings (e.g., use of land and coastal ecosystems including agriculture and aquaculture), by focusing on key indicators of ocean’s health/biogeochemical state as oxygen concentration, nutrient availability, as well as mean/eddy kinetic energy, temperature, and salinity of the marine environment.