Press release

Environment: greenhouse gases and climate change, the European scientific community meets in Lampedusa



Final event of the “PRO-ICOS_Med” project funded by the Italian Ministry of University and Research, coordinated by Cnr and also involving ENEA and CREA. Assessment of the most relevant technological advances and achievements in understanding the evolution of the Earth's climate


Until Thursday, 8 June, Lampedusa will be hosting ICOS Italy meets in Lampedusa, organised by the Cnr Institute for Terrestrial Ecosystems Research (CNR-Iret) and ENEA. The event has the dual objective of taking stock of the ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System) European research infrastructure, the results achieved and future prospects, and the final stages of the project “Strengthening the ICOS-Italy Observation Network in the Mediterranean”, financed by the Italian Ministry of University and Research (MUR) and launched in 2019. Also speaking at the event being held in the Pelagie Islands Marine Protected Area are the presidents of Cnr and ENEA, Maria Chiara Carrozza and Gilberto Dialuce.

"The PRO-ICOS_Med project adds an important piece to the development of increasingly effective monitoring strategies for the study of climate and its changes, not only because it has made it possible to strengthen national infrastructure, but also and above all because of future connections with the European Research Infrastructure and with the Italian components of other environmental infrastructure. One example of this is the Italian Integrated Environmental Research Infrastructures System (ITINERIS) project, financed by the NRRP, which aims to create synergies between the Italian nodes of various European environmental infrastructures and amplify their scientific results and aftereffects“, commented Cnr president Maria Chiara Carrozza. 

"ICOS network observatories such as the one in Lampedusa are fundamental both for understanding how human activities are negatively affecting the climate and for calibrating policies to contain the effects of climate change", added ENEA President Gilberto Dialuce. "The ENEA Climate Observatory in Lampedusa", he continued, "plays a primary role in the project as it is the only one in the European ICOS network to include measurements in the three domains involved in the carbon cycle, i.e. sea, land and atmosphere. The atmospheric measurements we have been taking for more than 30 years show that the annual CO2 growth rate over the last decade was even higher than the previous two decades. Furthermore, we found that methane is growing faster and faster, which is worrying because its warming potential is greater than that of CO2”, Dialuce concluded.

The ICOS European Research Infrastructure is an observational network distributed over 16 countries that makes highly accurate measurements of the evolution of greenhouse gas concentrations and their fluxes between the atmosphere, ocean and vegetation. At a European level, more than 500 scientists are involved in the environmental monitoring and maintenance of the various stations. The Italian network currently consists of 19 stations that collect measurements and data necessary to understand how human activities are affecting the climate. The information produced by the tools is also crucial for steering present and future climate change mitigation policies.

This infrastructure includes the now-concluded “Pro-Icos_Med” project involving CNR as coordinator, ENEA and CREA. The project involved the reinforcement of the ICOS observatory network in the three observational components – atmosphere, terrestrial ecosystem and sea – especially in southern Italy.

More precisely:

- The ENEA Lampedusa Climate Observatory became the only one in the European ICOS network to take measurements in all three observational components.
- A 100 m tower for the study of carbon flows is being built by the institute of environmental analysis methods of Cnr Potenza (Cnr-Imaa).
- The stations of Capodimonte (Naples) managed by the Cnr Institute for Research on Terrestrial Ecosystems (Cnr-Iret) and that of Castelporziano managed by CREA and the Institute for Mediterranean Agricultural and Forestry Systems (CNR-Isafom) are among the best equipped urban and peri-urban ecosystem sites at an international level.

Furthermore, national support centres (hubs) were developed for the three sectors (atmospheric, ecosystem, marine), as well as a centralised database and laboratory for isotopic analyses.

Greenhouse gas measurements in Lampedusa started in 1992.  Since then, the atmospheric content of CO2, which adds to global warming, has increased by more than 60 parts per million, with an annual increase of 2.7 ppm/year. The most recent data collected by the PRO-ICOS-Med Project show that the central Mediterranean absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere in the cold months, while it releases CO2 when it is hot. Fortunately, the amount of CO2 absorbed by the ocean in winter is twice the amount released in summer, leading to a reduction in the increase in the atmosphere and mitigating anthropogenic climate disruption. The new installation of the tower for measuring exchanges with the terrestrial ecosystem will allow us to understand how much the island's typical vegetation, Mediterranean scrub, contributes to limiting the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The data also indicate that between May 2022 and March 2023 the Mediterranean experienced a heat wave of great intensity and, above all, of exceptional duration, reaching levels not seen in the last 40 years. This heatwave resulted in sea temperatures up to 4°C higher than other areas of the basin. The processes of CO2 transfer and accumulation in the ocean and terrestrial vegetation are temperature-dependent, and some of them are expected to become less and less efficient with global warming.  The data collected, especially during the recent heatwave, are therefore crucial for studying these relationships and understanding possible future evolutions of the carbon cycle.  The study of these aspects continues. 

On Wednesday the 7th at 2.30 pm participants will have the opportunity to visit the measurement sites in the three areas: the atmospheric station at the north-eastern end of the island, the marine station 3.3 miles south-west of Lampedusa, and the terrestrial ecosystem site in the reforestation area to the west.

The coexistence of these three components in a single site located in the centre of the Mediterranean, far from significant sources of anthropogenic emissions, makes the Lampedusa Observatory a singular example in the world for the study of the complex relationships that regulate the carbon cycle. 

Per informazioni:
Carlo Calfapietra
direttore Cnr-Iret

Ufficio stampa:
Francesca Gorini
Cnr Press Office

Responsabile Unità Ufficio stampa:
Emanuele Guerrini
06 4993 3383