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Environment: Lampedusa European 'sentinel' to monitor carbon in atmosphere and sea

30 years after its creation the ENEA Station for climate Observation in Lampedusa has become the first European 'sentinel' site for an integrated monitoring of the carbon cycle in the atmosphere and sea, as part of the European research infrastructure ICOS[1] joined by hundreds of scientists and researchers operating in over 150 stations in 13 countries. In the waters of the Sicilian island, new hi-tech tools have been installed to collect strategic information and data on CO2 concentration levels and the exchanges between ocean and atmosphere, made available to over 200 scientific organizations[2].

The activity was conducted as part of the project PRO-ICOS-MED, coordinated by the National Research Council (CNR) in collaboration with ENEA and CREA and funded with over 13 million euro by the Ministry of University and Research.

"The Mediterranean is one of the areas most affected by climate change and the island of Lampedusa, because of its small size and orography, is considered an ideal site for atmospheric observation without anthropogenic influence and in absence of specific atmospheric conditions ”, explained Francesco Monteleone at the ENEA Laboratory of Observations and Measurements for the Environment and Climate and scientific coordinator of the project. "The new tools are in addition to the set of services and infrastructures of the Station, where research projects and measurement campaigns have been conducted for years as part of national, European and international collaborations", said Monteleone.

"As part of the ICOS Project, an 'ecosystem site' is also under construction which will enable to quantify CO2 exchanges between the atmosphere and the Mediterranean brush: the aim is to make Lampedusa a unique observatory, capable of providing integrated information on the marine, terrestrial and atmospheric sectors and an overall picture of the carbon cycle in a particularly critical region of the Mediterranean – pointed out Giandomenico Pace, head of the ENEA Laboratory of Observations and Measurements for the Environment and Climate. Lampedusa can peovide the scientific community with integrated information on the evolution and exchanges of CO2 among different sectors, crucial to understand causes and effects of climate change. Thanks to the foresight in creating stable infrastructures, the commitment of researchers and the support of ENEA, the Station has become an actual 'beacon' in the Mediterranean and the ongoing upgrading has strengthened its strategic role at the international level ", he said.

Specifically, innovative systems were installed to measure the pressure of CO2, sensors for the detection of pH, radiation, chlorophyll and dissolved organic matter, temperature, pressure, conductivity and oxygen, for the continuous control of exchanges with the atmosphere. At the same time, in collaboration with the Protected Marine Area of the Pelagie Islands, the Municipality of Lampedusa and the University of Florence, a system for continuous monitoring of the environment and coastal marine ecosystems was installed on a coastal buoy, with a focus also on key indicators like Posidonia oceanica, which plays a crucial role in mitigating climate change. This activity is funded by the project ES PA (Energy and Sustainability for Public Administration Pon Governance 2014-2020), which supports regional and local PA on energy and sustainability issues.

The ENEA Climate Observation Station on the island of Lampedusa

The ENEA Climate Observation Station on the island of Lampedusa is a research infrastructure in the Mediterranean dedicated to the measurement of key parameters for climate. The infrastructure currently includes an atmospheric observatory, located on the island (35.52 ° N, 12.63 ° E), which studies changes in the structure and composition of the atmosphere and their effects on surface radiation, and an oceanographic observatory in the open sea (35.49 ° N, 12.47 ° E), consisting of a buoy equipped with sensors to detect air-sea interactions and validate satellite observations.

Activities of international importance include:

  • measures for the characterization of aerosols in the atmospheric column within the NASA AERONET (AErosol RObotic NETwork);
  • continuous monitoring of sea temperature, oxygen, salinity and pH in a superficial coastal site (17 m) in order to detect any anomalies in the Posidonia oceanica meadow, which plays a crucial role in climate change mitigation[3]. This activity is coordinated by ENEA in collaboration with the Protected Marine Area of the Pelagie Islands, the Municipality of Lampedusa, the University of Florence, and is funded by the project ES PA, which supports regional and local PAs  on energy  and sustainability issues.
  • the study of the interaction, distribution and characteristics of atmospheric components such as clouds, gases and aerosols (the last two of natural and anthropogenic origin respectively), and their effects on the earth’s radiation balance, also as part of the European  ACTRIS (Aerosols, Clouds, and Trace Gases Research InfraStructure);
  • studies on the evolution of greenhouse gases and the role of ocean and vegetation in the carbon cycle as part of the European research infrastructure ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System);
  • monitoring of greenhouse gases within the) Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network of the NOAA  (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USA);
  • activities to investigate the link between air pollution and the spread of COVID-19 as part of the project PULVIRUS conducted by ENEA, ISS and SNPA;
  • collaborations with national and international institutions for the measurement of the concentration of ozone and the chemical-physical properties of atmospheric particulate matter (PM), and for ionospheric and seismic measurements.

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For more information please contact:

Giandomenico Pace, Head Observations and Measures for the Environment and Climate Laboratory, 


Francesco Monteleone, ENEA – Observations and Measures for the Environment and Climate Laboratory, Project Scientific Coordinator,

ICOS network (Integrated Carbon Observation System)


ICOS Italia


[1] The ICOS Italia network includes 17 stations: 10 for the ecosystem, 4 for the ocean and 3 for the atmosphere. ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System) is a research infrastructure that provides high-quality measurements on the carbon cycle, greenhouse gas emissions and their atmospheric concentration on a European scale and studies the atmosphere, ocean and ecosystem.

[2] The instruments installed on an instrumented buoy - Oceanographic Observatory - integrate the measures on the evolution of greenhouse gases concentration collected by the Atmospheric Observatory.

[3] Posidonia oceanica is the natural habitat of many animal and vegetable organisms and can absorb large quantities ofCO2 , releasing up to 20 liters of oxygen per day per m2 of meadow into the environment, significantly preventing coastline erosion.