First ever ocean glider deployed in the Black Sea

The Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System (SOCIB) and the National Institute for Research and Development of Marine Geology and Geoecology – GeoEcoMar (GeoEcoMar) have successfully deployed the first ocean glider ever in the Black Sea, in the frame of the European Research Project DOORS ('Developing Optimal and Open Research Support for the Black Sea'). Ocean gliders are autonomous underwater vehicles that have been equipped with a suite of sensors to measure physical and biochemical parameters such as temperature, conductivity, oxygen, chlorophyll, colored dissolved organic matter, and backscatter at 700 nm of the water column. Their design allows them to navigate the ocean efficiently, collect data, and transmit it back to researchers. The high-resolution observations that gliders offer allow us to capture fine-scale variations and observe the dynamics of the Black Sea with greater accuracy and precision. The first DOORS’ glider deployment took place on the 6th of May on the Romanian shelf break, and it is expected to perform repeatable perpendicular sections of 70 km length from the shelf to the open waters (Figure 1). Prior to the deployment, SOCIB provided GeoEcoMar technicians with hands-on training on glider operations, thus ensuring the success of the mission.

Figure 1: Sea Surface Temperature on 15th May during the second complete transect of the glider in the Black Sea. The red circle represents the last position of the glider over the SST for that day. © CMEMS / SOCIB.


The glider’s real-time data is available now at the SOCIB database and soon in the DOORS System of Systems platform (SoS) for the Black Sea. This ocean glider has already completed the second transect from the shelf break to the open sea, where strong currents of more than 25 cm/sec have been observed in the shelf break (Figure 2). These observations will help researchers to improve our understanding of the physical and biogeochemical processes in the Black Sea. Nikolaos Zarokanellos, researcher at SOCIB and leader of the deployment, stresses that “due to its semi-enclosed nature, the Black Sea is an ideal basin to study physical and biogeochemical processes that can be compared to global processes.” In addition, “ocean gliders allow us to identify and characterize critical areas in the Black Sea that require further investigation,” points out Viorel Gheorghe Ungureanu, researcher from GeoEcoMar and co-leader of WP4-Deeper Knowledge on Unique Black Sea Habitats- in DOORS. 

Figure 2: Depth-average water velocity. The red dashed box indicates the area of strong currents. © SOCIB


Overall, these glider observations will allow scientists to pinpoint regions of intense biological activity, areas of high water exchange, and zones prone to hypoxia or pollution. “By understanding these areas and the associated physical and biogeochemical processes, policy-makers can implement targeted management strategies to preserve the Black Sea's unique ecosystem, mitigate pollution, and protect vulnerable species,” adds Joaquín Tintoré, director of SOCIB.

In fact, “this initiative has been a major scientific, technological, and societal step forward to better monitor the Black Sea. It is an excellent example of EU collaboration to support the successful blue growth implementation and contribute to a healthy, productive, and resilient Black Sea,” highlights Adrian Stanica, programme coordinator of DOORS and director of GeoEcoMar. 

Image: The SOCIB Glider was launched by the SOCIB and GeoEcoMar team from research vessel ‘Mare Nigrum’. © SOCIB


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