BARCELONA SCIENTIFIC research vessel “Vell Mari” has begun a year's journey through 25 ports around Spain to analyse the last 200 year's accumulation of carbon emissions (CO2) in sea water. The study will reveal how climate change is affecting marine flora and fauna.

The survey forms part of the European “Carboocean” project of which the Balearic's La Caixa foundation is a sponsor. La Caixa has joined forces with 50 other investigative groups belonging to all kinds of European institutions and universities which are continually monitoring sea and ocean water quality as a barometer of the impact of human activity on marine biodiversity.

During a presentation of the project held yesterday in the Barcelona port of Badalona, the president of the Foundation for the Conservation and Recuperation of Marine Life, Ferran Alegre, explained that “the oceans absorb between 30 and 40 percent of global CO2 emissions.” He warned that over the last few decades, carbon levels produced as a result of human activity have exceeded the absorption capability of the oceans.

Alegre said that “climate change is now a reality and its effects can be seen in marine microscopic life and in corals.” He added that preservation of the oceans is vital because “they are key to maintaining climatic stability.” The year-long programme will also bring a mobile marine educational platform to schools and hospitals to raise awareness of the importance of conserving marine life. For the first time, La Caixa's “sea and ocean watch” scheme will not confine its activities to the Vell Mari's stop-off points but rather go inland to towns and cities such as Madrid and Zaragoza which are far removed from coastal waters.

The scientific research from the boat will seek out zones which act as natural pockets of CO2 storage and conversely, those which have become so saturated with emissions that they themselves have become a polluting source.

With the data collected from around Spain which will be sent to the Marine Chemistry Research Group at the University of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, scientists will be able to determine the acid and alkali balance of the water samples as well as the quantity of carbon dioxide which they contain. The final results will be added to the data bank of the “Carboocean” project.

The Vell Mari left last week from the port of Sant Feliu de Guixols in Girona and will be visiting the regions of Valencia, Murcia and Andalucia before finishing its voyage in the Balearics.