Within the ambit of the MED-JELLYRISK project, staff at the Physical Oceanography Research Group within the Department of Geosciences at the University of Malta (Dr Anthony Galea, Mr Denis Cutajar, Prof. Aldo Drago and Prof. Alan Deidun), with the assistance of technical staff from ISMAR-CNR in Italy, have launched a jellyfish dispersion model through which users, after registering, can track the forecasted pathway, for the next four (4) days, of a jellyfish bloom they observe in the waters around the Maltese Islands. The model is publicly available through an online interface.
Upon registering, users will receive an email with credentials through which to make a query to the model, by selecting the marine area where the jellyfish bloom was observed and also the extent of the bloom, density of jellyfish it held and to which species did the bloom belong. Simulations can be run for two different jellyfish species – the mauve stinger Pelagia noctiluca and the fried-egg jellyfish Cotylorhiza tuberculata – which are treated diffently by the model on the basis of differences in their hydrodynamic properties. After a few minutes, the model will output several maps showing the forecasted trajectory of the same jellyfish bloom and highlighted which coastal stretches are more likely to be impacted by beaching of the same bloom components.
The aim of the model is to implementing a decision-support system for coastal managers by providing an early warning system of the occurrence of high jellyfish densities within particular stretches. The core of the system is constituted by two different nested numerical models, an open ocean (ROSARIO6420) and a coastal area (SHYFEM) 3D hydrodynamic model. The system (ROSARIO-SHYFEM) is operational and provides daily a 4 days forecast of the main 3D hydrodynamics fields for the areas covering the Malta-Sicily Channel with a spatial resolution varying between a few km up to 50 m. The ROSARIO-SHYFEM model was coupled with a particle-tracking Lagrangian model and used in order to simulate both surface water circulation and the transport and diffusion of numerical particles, proxy of jellyfish, inside the area of interest. Besides providing a 4-day forecast for the trajectory of a jellyfish bloom, the developed system can also provide a hindcast for the same trajectory, using archived values for a set of hydrodynamic and biogeochemical parameters still generated through the ROSARIO-SHYFEM system.
In the coming months, the same model will be validated through the analyses of trajectories taken by various typologies of drifters.
MED-JELLYRISK is a 3-year-long project, funded under the framework of the ENPI-CBC MED framework, which involves the participation of 5 countries hailing from four countries (Italy, Tunisia, Spain and Malta), including the University of Malta, which is represented by the Physical Oceanography Research Group and by the Department of Biology. Within the same project, a number of other initiatives have been embarked upon, all aimed at improving the coastal management facilities dealing with jellyfish. These include, the development of a smart phone app (MED-JELLY), the organisation of a training school in Barcelona for students pursuing jellyfish and zooplankton studies, the installation of jellyfish research facilities in Tunisia, the installation of anti-jellyfish nets in the participating countries (including one at Pretty Bay in Malta) and the printing of different manuals and booklets providing information on the treatment of jellyfish stings and on the taxonomic identification of different jellyfish species occurring within local waters. Such publications are all available for free download.
Photo: Pelagia noctiluca - Blue Lagoon, Comino (taken by Goncalo Santos)