While happily swimming in a Maltese beach this summer, you may occasionally feel soft seagrass stroking your feet. Likely, you have encountered something that is saving our planet: Posidonia oceanica, known locally as ‘alka’ and also called ‘Neptune grass’.

Alka is not an alga but a flowering plant, and is unique to the Mediterranean Sea. In Malta, it is a protected species that ensures the balance of its ecosystem – what is called a keystone species. Removal of the seagrass can profoundly alter Maltese beaches.

Posidonia oceanica creates habitats, food and shelter for many other marine species in the Mediterranean Sea, and prevents coastal erosion by stabilising the seabed.

Even more impressive, it produces up to 20 litres of oxygen per square metre per day, earning the name “the lungs of the Mediterranean”. It also stores carbon dioxide, that helps prevent global warming – currently wreaking havoc through wildfires worldwide!  

A Maltese citizen science project is bringing together the non-governmental organisations Malta Chamber of Scientists, Spark 15 and Żibel, along with researchers, refugees and locals, to protect Posidonia oceanica. Project Poseidon (funded by the EU project IMPETUS), supported by marine biologist Alexia Massa-Gallucci, wants to reforest Neptune Grass underwater (the first pilot project of its kind in Malta) as well as clean beach pollution that can severely affect the seagrass.

It produces up to 20 litres of oxygen per square metre per day, earning the name 'the lungs of the Mediterranean'

Locals, migrants and experts will work hand in hand to clean beaches, as well as to collect and analyse data about the effects of microplastics pollution. The project’s initiatives will be shared with citizens, with plans to develop an artistic installation for the annual science and arts festival, Science in the City. This initiative will raise awareness towards the importance of alka in the ecosystem and the need to protect it.

In the process, Project Poseidon will also nurture collaboration between locals and refugees, and help them become active in our communities.

The project will also collaborate with the Environmental Resources Authority, the local government body in charge of beach management, with hopes of creating lasting ties with policymakers. Project Poseidon aims to create a plan for the continued reforestation of alka.

Citizen science engages locals in community-driven scientific research, putting science to the service of communities. In an island where so much of life and culture is tied to the sea, it becomes the perfect ally to protect Maltese heritage.

Sound Bites

•        Birds eat 400 to 500 million tonnes of insects every year! This figure was calculated by Martin Nyffeler from the University of Basel. The study, therefore, shows how important birds are in controlling insect populations. In fact, the global population of insect-eating birds consumes the equivalent amount of energy as New York.

•        Normal levels of traffic pollution can have an impact on brain function in a couple of hours. A new study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study the effect of diesel exhaust fumes on the brain and found that the ability of different areas of the brain to interact with each other was disrupted after exposure to the exhaust fumes.

For more soundbites, listen to Radio Mocha Malta https://www.fb.com/RadioMochaMalta/.


•        The ancestor to the whale is a four-legged land mammal called an artiodactyl.

•        Sea urchins live in all five oceans.

•        There are 38 radioactive elements in the periodic table.

For more trivia, see: www.um.edu.mt/think.




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