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Research that sees how Malta’s coast is changing


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February 2023 saw Storm Helios batter Malta, bringing the heaviest rainfall ever for that month in a single day, permanently changing Malta’s coast and near shore areas. Researchers need to consistently monitor and study the Mediterranean’s coast to understand the changes that storms, tidal waves and anthropic activities (tourism and new settlements) have on our islands. Without this information, sustainable development becomes a shot in the dark.

Retrieving information from these areas, the seabed of coastal and shallow shore areas, is very challenging for classical oceanographic surveys because they use large research vessels that often cannot be anchored in shallow depth. A new project called BathMalta, sponsored by the European Space Agency and the Malta Council for Science and Technology, will help scientists from the University of Malta to gain information about our seafloor, especially the coastal areas of Malta, down to 25–30m depth.

A new project called BathMalta, sponsored by the European Space Agency and the Malta Council for Science and Technology, will help scientists from the University of Malta to gain information about our seafloor

The use of satellites to gather information about the depth of the seabed (bathymetry) has been tested over the last 30 years. However, more work is needed for improving its scientific use and for exploiting this tool in combination with boat surveys to detect changes in the seafloor depth and monitoring the sea habitats. The research team at the University of Malta will use open-source datasets available from Sentinel-hub.com and the Copernicus constellation to retrieve the best images possible. Specialised AI algorithms will be used to remove artifacts and gaps in the space images. The satellite dataset will then be verified with boat surveys over specific study areas.

The Maltese islands will be the first European nation to have a whole bathymetric dataset of the coastal and nearshore areas entirely issued from satellite data.

This new dataset will then serve local environmental consultancy companies as well as local government agencies to use the data to help develop Malta’s coastline in a sustainable manner. More info here.

Sound Bites

•        A large study found strong links between social isolation and classic risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease. Lonely people were more likely to have cardiovascular conditions, diabetes and to exercise less; all are indicators linked to Alzheimer’s.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0280471

•        People living in societies with equal wealth distribution are more likely to be concerned about the environment than people who experience extreme weather events caused by climate change, a Europe-based study found.

DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2023.102636


•        The earliest known scientific list of Maltese fish species (it contained 114 species) was published in 1775 by the Swedish/Finnish explorer Petrus Forskål.

•        The latest scientific list, containing 412 species, of Maltese fish species was published this year by Maltese scientists at the University of Malta.

DOI: 10.3390/d15020225

•        Of the 412 fish species in Maltese waters, there are 24 alien species, eight Atlantic immigrants, 10 of unknown origin, and the rest are native.

•        Climate change is causing the surface waters of the Mediterranean to warm up; 168 fish species from the Red Sea and the Atlantic are now living in the Mediterranean.

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