Systematic observation

Marine ecosystems change continuously due to natural variability in time (seasonal, year-to-year and decadal cycles) and in space (water movements). Human activities (fishing, pollution, coastal transformation, global warming,…) add more variability to natural cycles. A correct interpretation of the changes require adequate observations of the ocean at local, regional and global scales.
The Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) has been promoting the observation and analysis of oceanographic time series as a strategic research. This research activity fits in the framework of international scientific initiatives dealing with climate change, ocean observation, and preservation of marine ecosystems (IGBP, GLOBEC, GOOS, OSPAR,...).

The RADIALES project

The objective of the project RADIALES, formulated in 1990, aims at “understanding and modelling the response of the marine ecosystem to the sources of temporal variability in oceanographic and planktonic components, particularly foccusing in those factors and processes affecting biological production and potentially altering the ecosystem services”. This project represents the oldest multidisciplinary ocean observation initiative still active in Spain.


Multidisciplinary time series (physical, chemical and biological variables) began in the coast of Galicia in 1990. These series developed from local initiatives collecting only a few variables in the 1980s, and rapidly extended to the Cantabrian (S Bay of Biscay) and Mediterranean coasts. For logistic reasons, in 2007 the observational program was structured in two different projects: RADIALES, maintaining monthly observations in the Atlantic coast and RADMED, performing shelfwide seasonal cruises in the Mediterranean. From the expertise gained in these projects, in 2004 deep water time series started in Galician and Cantabrian waters (RADPROF), and in 2006 also in waters aroung the Canary Islands (RAPROCAN). These projects, along with the tide-gauge network (starting in 1943) and the satellite data service (from 1998) are the basis of the permanent ocean observation program of the IEO.