The Mediterranean Sea has been defined “under siege” because of intense pressures from multiple human activities; yet there is still insufficient information on the cumulative impact of these stressors on the ecosystem and its resources. We evaluate how the historical (1950–2011) trends of various ecosystems groups/species have been impacted by changes in primary productivity (PP) combined with fishing pressure. We investigate the whole Mediterranean Sea using a food web modelling approach. Results indicate that both changes in PP and fishing pressure played an important role in driving species dynamics. Yet, PP was the strongest driver upon the Mediterranean Sea ecosystem. This highlights the importance of bottom-up processes in controlling the biological characteristics of the region. We observe a reduction in abundance of important fish species (~34%, including commercial and non-commercial) and top predators (~41%), and increases of the organisms at the bottom of the food web (~23%). Ecological indicators, such as community biomass, trophic levels, catch and diversity indicators, reflect such changes and show overall ecosystem degradation over time. Since climate change and fishing pressure are expected to intensify in the Mediterranean Sea, this study constitutes a baseline reference for stepping forward in assessing the future management of the basin.
The global decline of marine ecosystems may be partially ascribed to poor governance and to the lack of sustainable use and marine biodiversity conservation policy. Conservation success is strongly related to how people perceive marine biodiversity and those perceptions can change as a result of the accumulation of knowledge, the quality of the environment, and the appropriate and sustainable management of these areas. Engaging the targeted community in the process of promoting and planning safeguarding activities may also contribute to the acceptability and the dissemination of a shared culture of sustainability and a positive change in behavior.
This study investigates people's knowledge, perceptions and feelings toward the protection and improvement of marine biodiversity of coralligenous areas in the North Adriatic Sea in Italy. Several focus groups were conducted in the major towns of the targeted area (N = 107) to explore people's familiarity with marine biodiversity and ecosystem services, and to reveal their opinions and behaviours for certain protection strategies, such as the marine protected area (MPA).
We found that coralligenous habitats are not very well known among the general people; in fact, only 42% of respondents had previously heard about biodiversity in these habitats. However, participants agreed that they provide important environmental services that benefit human wellbeing. Moreover, we found that 80% of respondents had heard before of MPA, and the majority of them were in favor of supporting interventions and policies to protect these areas.
This paper aims to inform forward-planning policies in the face of sea-level rise due to climate change, focusing on the choice of reducing the vulnerability of property at risk through managed retreat or protection behind seawalls. This adaptation is important not only to reduce the cost of future damage but also to maintain the beaches which are an attractive feature for tourism, of vital importance for coastal areas. Some 421 residents with main and secondary homes were surveyed in Hyères-les-palmiers in the Var department (Southeast France). The survey sought to compare the willingness of residents to contribute financially to building a seawall or to relocating sea-front property. Preferences depend both on common variables and variables specific to the proposed arrangement. They reveal common concerns focused on effectiveness and the determining factor of property ownership. The results also show some awareness of the long-term advantages of managed retreat, despite some opposition from older people, who are also more skeptical about the reality of the risk incurred.
Because seas and coastlines are shared between states, the formulation and implementation of marine spatial planning (MSP) should be transboundary by nature. The main argument of this paper is that MSP should be organized as a transboundary policy-making process, but this is hampered by the conceptual and institutional fragmentation MSP is facing. Based on an analysis of four transboundary planning processes in different European seas, the paper gives insight into the possibilities to develop and implement transboundary marine spatial planning (TMSP). To overcome the conceptual and institutional challenges, TMSP should be developed as a reflexive governance arrangement, in which the actors involved are able to change the rules of the game and to challenge the existing (national-oriented) MSP discourses. The paper develops four forms of reflexivity (unreflectiveness; performative reflectiveness; structural reflectiveness; and reflexivity) to assess TMSP processes and to formulate conditions which are crucial to develop TMSP as a reflexive marine governance arrangement.
Antagonistic interaction between Mediterranean marine mammals, including the endangered monk seal (Monachus monachus), and small-scale fisheries is a growing problem in the Aegean Sea. Effective management measures are needed to ensure both the survival of the monk seal population, and its coexistence with the small-scale fisheries. In this study, data from 371 fishing journeys by 8 different boats was collected between March and November 2014. Evidence of depredation by monk seals was recorded in 19.1% of fishing journeys, by cetaceans in 5%, and by other predators in 16.5%. Analysis of landings data showed that gear and depth were the variables most likely to influence the occurrence of depredation. There was a significant decrease in the catch per unit effort (CPUE) of four of the nine targeted fish species when depredation by monk seals occurred. The total cost of monk seal depredation was estimated to be 21.33% of the mean annual income of fishermen in the Aegean Sea. We discuss how the implementation of marine protected areas and the use of specific fishing gear could reduce the frequency of interactions, and thus mitigate the loss experienced by the fisheries as well as contribute to the conservation of an endangered species.
Given the great overfishing of the demersal resources in the Northern Adriatic Sea (geographical sub-area [GSA] 17), along with the fishing pressure in marine habitats, evidence strongly supports the need to evaluate appropriate management approaches. Several fishing activities operate simultaneously in the area, and the need to minimize conflicts among them is also a social concern. We applied a spatially and temporally explicit fish and fisheries model to assess the impact of a suite of spatial plans suggested by practitioners that could reduce the pressure on the four demersal stocks of high commercial interest in the GSA 17 and that could promote space sharing between mutually exclusive activities. We found that excluding trawlers from some areas has lowered the effective fishing effort, resulting in some economic losses but providing benefit to the set netters. Not every simulated fishing vessel is impacted in the same way because some fishing communities experienced different economic opportunities, particularly when a 6-nautical mile buffer zone from the coast was implemented in the vicinity of important fishing grounds. Along this buffer zone, the four stocks were only slightly benefiting from the protection of the area and from fewer discards. In contrast, assuming a change in the ability of the population to disperse led to a large effect: Some fish became accessible in the coastal waters, therefore increasing the landings for range-limited fishers, but the discard rate of fish also increased, greatly impairing the long-term biomass levels. Our evaluation, however, confirmed that no effort is displaced onto vulnerable benthic habitats and to grounds not suitable for the continued operation of fishing. We conclude that the tested spatial management is helpful, but not sufficient to ensure sustainable fishing in the area, and therefore, additional management measures should be taken. Our test platform investigates the interaction between fish and fisheries at a fine geographical scale and simulates data for varying fishing methods and from different harbor communities in a unified framework. We contribute to the development of effective science-based inputs to facilitate policy improvement and better governance while evaluating trade-offs in fisheries management and marine spatial planning.
Marine Spatial Planning is usually based on benthic georeferenced information or GPS tracked human activities, whereas the pelagic ecosystem is often ignored because of scarce and limited surface information. However, the 3-D pelagic ecosystem plays a key role connecting all the other ecosystems by physical (currents) and biological (migration) processes. According to remote sensing the Garrucha Canyon is oligotrophic, but 3-D sampling reveals subsurface upwelling, and converts it into the richest area around the Cape of Gata. Vertical connectivity by means of zooplankton migration, measured at two sampling stations, is 40 and 220 times faster than microphytoplankton settling and vertical water velocities respectively. Thus coupled physical-biological connectivity models are necessary to estimate the ecosystem connection and the fate of carbon, but also other substances (e.g. radioactivity), that might accumulate throughout the food-web. This is especially important in the Garrucha Canyon and the Coastal Areas Management Programme Levante de Almería where natural heritage and extractive fishery are important for the local economy.
This study investigated the composition, density and distribution of floating macro-litter along the Liguro-Provençal basin with respect to cetaceans presence. Survey transects were performed in summer between 2006 and 2015 from sailing vessels with simultaneous cetaceans observations. During 5171 km travelled, 1993 floating items were recorded, widespread in the whole study area. Plastics was the predominant category, with bags/packaging always representing > 45% of total items. Overall mean density (14.98 items/km2) was stable with significant increase reported only in 2010–2011; monthly analysis showed lower litter densities in July–September, suggesting possible seasonal patterns. Kernel density estimation for plastics revealed ubiquitous distribution rather than high accumulation areas, mainly due to the circulation dynamics of this area. The presence range of cetaceans (259 sightings, 6 species) corresponded by ~ 50% with plastic distribution, indicating high potential of interaction, especially in the eastern part of the area, but effective risks for marine species might be underrepresented.
Recent additions to marine environmental legislation are usually designed to fill gaps in protection and management, build on existing practices or correct deficiencies in previous instruments. Article 13 of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires Member States to develop a Programme of Measures (PoM) by 2015, to meet the objective of Good Environmental Status (GES) for their waters by 2020. This review explores key maritime-related policies with the aim to identify the opportunities and threats that they pose for the achievement of GES. It specifically examines how Member States have relied on and will integrate existing legislation and policies to implement their PoM and the potential opportunities and difficulties associated with this. Using case studies of three Member States, other external impediments to achieving GES are discussed including uses and users of the marine environment who are not governed by the MSFD, and gives recommendations for overcoming barriers.
1. Although it is widely recognized that protection may enhance size, abundance, and diversity of fish, its effect on spatial heterogeneity of fish assemblages and species turnover is still poorly understood.
2. Here the effect of full protection within a Mediterranean marine protected area on β‐diversity patterns of fish assemblages along a depth gradient comparing a no‐take zone with multiple unprotected areas is explored. The no‐take zone showed significantly higher synecological parameters, higher β‐diversity among depths, and lower small‐scale heterogeneity of fish assemblages relative to unprotected areas.
3. Such patterns might likely depend on the high level of fishing pressure outside the no‐take zone, as also abundance‐biomass curves seemed to indicate. Results suggested that full protection could play a role in maintaining high β‐diversity, thus reducing the fragility of marine communities and ecosystems, and spatial heterogeneity may represent a reliable predictor of how management actions could provide insurance against undesirable phase shifts.
Overexploitation leads to the ecological extinction of many oceanic species. The depletion of historical abundances of large animals, such as whales and sea turtles, is well known. However, the magnitude of the historical overfishing of exploited invertebrates is unclear. The lack of rigorous baseline data limits the implementation of efficient management and conservation plans in the marine realm. The precious Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum has been intensively exploited since antiquity for its use in jewellery. It shows dramatic signs of overexploitation, with no untouched populations known in shallow waters. Here, we report the discovery of an exceptional red coral population from a previously unexplored shallow underwater cave in Corsica (France) harbouring the largest biomass (by more than 100-fold) reported to date in the Mediterranean. Our findings challenge current assumptions on the pristine state of this emblematic species. Our results suggest that, before intense exploitation, red coral lived in relatively high-density populations with a large proportion of centuries-old colonies, even at very shallow depths. We call for the re-evaluation of the baseline for red coral and question the sustainability of the exploitation of a species that is still common but ecologically (functionally) extinct and in a trajectory of further decline.
Increases in the intensity of disturbances in coastal lagoons can lead to shifts in vegetation from aquatic angiosperms to macroalgal or phytoplankton communities. Such abrupt and discontinuous responses are facilitated by instability in the equilibrium controlling the trajectory of the community response. We hypothesized that the shift in macrophyte populations is reversible, and that this reversibility is dependent on changes in the pressures exerted on the watershed and lagoon functioning. Biguglia lagoon (Mediterranean Sea, Corsica) is an interesting case study for the evaluation of long-term coastal lagoon ecosystem functioning and the trajectory of submerged macrophyte responses to disturbances, to facilitate the appropriate restoration of ecosystems. We used historical data for a two hundred-year period to assess changes in human activities on the watershed of the Biguglia lagoon. Macrophyte mapping (from 1970) and monitoring data for dynamics (from 1999) were used to investigate the trajectory of the community response. The changes observed in this watershed included a large number of hydrological developments affecting salinity and resulting in changes in macrophyte distribution. Nutrient inputs over the last 40 years have led to a shift in the aquatic vegetation from predominantly aquatic angiosperm community to macroalgae and phytoplankton in 2007 (dystrophic crisis). Changes in hydrological management and improvements in sewage treatment after 2007 led to a significant increase of aquatic angiosperms over a relatively short period of time (4–5 years), particularly for Ruppia cirrhosa and Stuckenia pectinata. There has been a significant resurgence of Najas marina, due to changes in salinity. The observed community shift suggests that Biguglia lagoon is resilient and that the transition may be reversible. The restored communities closely resemble those present before disturbance. These findings demonstrate the need to understand watershed exploitation and ecosystem variability in lagoon restoration.
This research aims to define for the first time levels and patterns of different litter groups (macro, meso and microplastics) in sediments from a marine area designed for the institution of a new marine protected area (Aeolian Archipelago, Italy). Microplastics resulted the principal group and found in all samples analyzed, with shape and colours variable between different sampling sites. MPs levels measured in this study are similar to values recorded in harbour sites and lower than reported in Adriatic Sea, while macroplastics levels are notably lower than in harbor sites. Sediment grain-size and island extent resulted not significant in determining levels and distribution of plastic debris among islands. In the future, following the establishment of the MPA in the study area, these basic data will be useful to check for potential protective effects on the levels and distribution of plastic debris.
The Directive of the European Parliament and the Council of July 2014 established a Guideline Framework for maritime spatial planning. Within this context, Greece has to proceed and incorporate it in the national legislation framework within two years; it has also to determine a competent authority (or authorities) for its implementation so that maritime spatial plans can be enacted at the latest by March 2021. The Directive aims to promote sustainable development of marine areas and equitable use of marine resources. This paper attempts to discuss key issues anticipated to emerge from the incorporation of an integrated framework for maritime spatial planning on the national spatial planning framework as it is currently organized. Crete island is here chosen as a case study area so that priority issues that are expected to come up at regional and local level can be examined in more detail.
Ocean acidification (OA) is increasingly recognized as a major global problem. Despite the scientific evidence, economic assessments of its effects are few. This analysis is an attempt to perform a national and sub-national assessment of the economic impact of OA on mollusc production in Europe. We focus on mollusc production because the scientific evidence on the biological impact on calcifying organisms is ample relative to other types of marine organisms. In addition, Europe and its regions are significant producers of marine molluscs. By performing a partial-equilibrium analysis, we show that the highest levels of overall impact are found in the countries with the largest current production, such as France, Italy and Spain. For Europe as a whole, the annual impact will be over 1 billion USD in 2100. Due to the different production foci of the individual countries and their regions, the distribution of the impact is extremely uneven across countries and their respective regions, with the most affected sub-national regions being those on the Atlantic coast of France, which is an important region for oyster production.
The deployment of Hybrid Offshore Wind and Wave Energy Systems (HOWiWaES) towards the simultaneous exploitation of the corresponding offshore renewable energy sources, may efficiently address the common challenge of the offshore wind and the wave energy sector to reduce their costs, with multiple additional benefits. A prerequisite at an early stage of the realization of a HOWiWaES project is the determination of marine areas suitable for the deployment of HOWiWaES. In the present paper, a methodological framework for identifying the most appropriate marine areas in Greece towards the deployment/siting of HOWiWaES is developed and presented. The framework is based on the combined use of multi-criteria decision making methods and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). At the first stage of the analysis, the unsuitable for the deployment of HOWiWaES marine areas are identified through the development of a GIS database that produces thematic maps representing exclusion criteria related to utilization restrictions as well as to economic, technical and social constraints. Then, at the second stage of the analysis, eligible marine areas not satisfying exclusion criteria are evaluated and ranked using the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP), based on evaluation criteria related to economic, technical and socio-political factors. The AHP's implementation is supported by the developed GIS database, eliminating significantly the subjectivity in judgments. The results of the paper illustrate the potential for deploying HOWiWaES in Greece, especially in the offshore areas of Crete and in a lengthwise zone extended from North-central to central Aegean.
In the past three years, the MEET project supported 25 Protected Areas (PAs) in the Mediterranean region in their sustainable tourism development and in the improvement of their ecotourism offers. Building on the knowledge, experiences and lessons learned from these PAs belonging to 10 countries of the Mediterranean (Italy, France, Spain, Jordan, Lebanon, ROWA, Malta, Cyprus, Greece and Tunisia), the MEET Network has released the “MEET Manual – A guide to discover the MEET approach”. The main objective of this manual is to provide local people, businesses, NGOs and especially protected area managers with a clear pathway to plan and improve ecotourism in their territory.
By reading this Manual you will acquire many useful tips about how to create and develop successful Mediterranean ecotourism related products and activities. Indeed, you will learn about what it takes to establish a local cluster of complementary partnerships. This will help you increase the number of visitors to your area, while conserving your protected area in a way that meets the MEET criteria and it will also make you eligible to become a partner of the MEET Network!
The Manual is the result of a process of collaboration that began in 2011 and finalized in 2015 within the framework of the Mediterranean Experience of Ecotourism — MEET Project.
Increasing greenhouse gas concentrations are expected to have a significant impact on world climate over a short time scale. The world’s atmosphere and oceans are warming, and the most immediate effects of this on the marine environment include rising sea levels, higher seawater temperatures and acidification, more frequent extreme events and changes in oxygen levels or deoxygenation processes (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2007). Due to these pressures and ecosystem responses, climate change is now considered a major driver of biodiversity change and loss. Its importance has been highlighted by several international conventions and treaties, including the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Kyoto Protocol. The latest assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that the Mediterranean will be strongly affected by climate change over the course of this century. The oceanographic and physical aspects of climate change in the Mediterranean have been described in many reports and scientific studies, although uncertainty remains about the degree of physical and chemical change expected at sub-regional and local scales (Lionello, 2012). Despite its importance for biodiversity conservation, little is yet known about the biological impact of climate change on Mediterranean coastal and marine biodiversity at all levels, as much of the current understanding is based on models, very few studies and discontinuous data mainly from the north-western part of the Mediterranean Sea (CIESM, 2008; Lejeusne et al., 2009; Coll et al., 2010; UNEP-MAP-RAC/SPA, 2010). Basin-wide monitoring and information gathering on key Mediterranean species and ecosystems therefore remains crucial for mitigating climate change effects and adapting to them. Furthermore, the region’s marine and coastal environments are increasingly threatened by the impacts of a growing population and rising demand for natural resources. The combination of these pressures is likely to exacerbate the consequences of climate change. To address the impact of climate change on biodiversity, the Strategic Action Programme for the Conservation of Biological Diversity (SAP BIO) in the Mediterranean Region set up under the Barcelona Convention Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) in 2003, was updated on climate change issues in 2009; In addition, the Almeria Declaration was adopted at the 15th Ordinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention in 2008 to provide an action framework for Mediterranean countries. From a coastal perspective, the Mediterranean ICZM Protocol1 also provides a platform to mainstream climate change adaptation into the policies and governance of coastal management. At EU level, the Commission recently adopted a Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change in April 2013 to promote greater coordination and information sharing among Member States, and to ensure that adaptation considerations are addressed in all relevant EU policies.Basin-wide monitoring has to be developed to assist with the above protocols and strategies. It may be easier to observe climate change effects in protected areas as they are normally better shielded from anthropogenic impacts than other areas, and therefore there is likely to be less interference from other causes of change. In this regard, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Mediterranean can play an important role as ‘sentinel sites’, where the effects of climate change can be studied and management strategies can be developed to adapt to, and wherever possible counter, such negative effects. Individual MPAs and the Mediterranean MPA network therefore have an important role to play in enhancing our understanding and helping to develop strategies to mitigate climate change effects. Not only can climate change be monitored in MPAs throughout the Mediterranean as a way of improving our understanding and management of its effects, but it is also becoming a growing challenge to the management of the MPAs themselves. There are currently 675 MPAs in the Mediterranean, covering a total area of almost 114,600 km², about 4.6% of the Mediterranean Sea, or just 1.1% if we exclude the Pelagos Sanctuary (87,500 km²), which alone accounts for 3.5% (Gabrié et al., 2012). Direct evidence of the effects of climate change is already being observed at some sites (Bensoussan et al., 2010; Crisci et al., 2011; Cebrian et al., 2011). However, climate change is still not explicitly incorporated in most MPA management plans and future assessment of MPA performance will need to take these effects into account. Overall, at the Mediterranean regional level, few programmes aim to assess the impacts of climate change on marine biodiversity or to support adaptation planning in MPAs and other areas of conservation value. In a global context, Marine Protected Areas increase the adaptive capacity of coastal and marine communities and buffer potential climate change impacts. Building the capacity of MPAs through data collection, monitoring and awareness-raising about climate change contributes to the efforts being made across the region to improve information and adapt to change. Moreover, information about the impact of climate change on biodiversity will provide the evidence required to justify investment in mitigation and adaptation measures. Finally, climate change monitoring programmes can furnish valuable baseline information that can feed into current efforts to evaluate the impact of climate change by the end of the current century. Since the impact risk will depend on the areas considered, these efforts will allow resources to be allocated to those areas that are expected to suffer the most. Climate change needs to be taken into consideration in all MPA management plans. Incorporating it into MPA monitoring does not require expensive equipment or highly technical abilities. It can further help managers understand the vulnerabilities and diverse responses of their marine communities at different sites and revise MPA zoning and management accordingly. There may also be opportunities to include monitoring actions in MPA management plans and to link them to existing climate and oceanographic monitoring programmes in the Mediterranean region and Europe. Within the framework of the MedPAN Association and the MedPAN North project, IUCN Med in collabora tion with RAC/SPA is addressing the impact of climate change on Mediterranean MPAs with the long-term aim of building a strategy for assessing and minimizing the risk posed by climate change to marine and coastal ecosystems. This work will build towards the mediumterm goals of the SAP BIO Programme at the Mediterranean level (UNEP-MAP-RAC/SPA, 2009), which include improving coordinated actions across Mediterranean MPAs, informing adaptive approaches to climate change for effective MPA management, initiating a climate alert warning system at different geographical scales and reducing vulnerability within MPAs. A key goal of this programme is to identify the most appropriate parameters for monitoring climate change impacts on biodiversity in these MPAs at a Mediterranean scale. That will enhance our understanding of how marine communities respond and help managers assess the condition of their sites and the environmental changes that are occurring there. To address this goal we organized several meetings to bring together climate change researchers, biodiversity scientists and protected area stakeholders covering a wide range of expertise. The resulting discussions and the work conducted since then have been compiled into this guide for Mediterranean MPA managers. It aims to give some guidance on how to measure the impact of climate change on the marine biodiversity of protected areas and how to improve planning for the mitigation of future impact. It also summarizes the most important threats to and effects on Mediterranean marine biodiversity that have been observed to date and outlines the many uncertainties that still exist in understanding ecological responses to climate change. The guide is thus intended as an aid and managers may choose to use any of the several different monitoring plans and indicators outlined, depending on their particular circumstances and management objectives.
Surface analytical methods are applied to examine the environmental status of seawaters. The present overview emphasizes advantages of combining surface analytical methods, applied to a hazardous situation in the Adriatic Sea, such as monitoring of the first aggregation phases of dissolved organic matter in order to potentially predict the massive mucilage formation and testing of oil spill cleanup. Such an approach, based on fast and direct characterization of organic matter and its high-resolution visualization, sets a continuous-scale description of organic matter from micro- to nanometre scales. Electrochemical method of chronoamperometry at the dropping mercury electrode meets the requirements for monitoring purposes due to the simple and fast analysis of a large number of natural seawater samples enabling simultaneous differentiation of organic constituents. In contrast, atomic force microscopy allows direct visualization of biotic and abiotic particles and provides an insight into structural organization of marine organic matter at micro- and nanometre scales. In the future, merging data at different spatial scales, taking into account experimental input on micrometre scale, observations on metre scale and modelling on kilometre scale, will be important for developing sophisticated technological platforms for knowledge transfer, reports and maps applicable for the marine environmental protection and management of the coastal area, especially for tourism, fishery and cruiser trafficking.
The continuous development of Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) provides a favourable context for environmental management and planning. However, it appears that the actual contribution of SDIs should also depend on the correlation between users’ expectations and the services delivered to them. Several studies have addressed some organizational, methodological and technological aspects of the development of SDIs. However, only a few studies have, to the best of our knowledge, studied SDI use at large. This article introduces a methodological approach oriented towards the study of the relationship between SDIs and the users interacting with them as part of their professional practices. Our study is applied to coastal zone management and planning in France. This approach combines structural and data flow modelling. The former is based on Social Network Analysis (SNA) and the latter on Data Flow Diagrams (DFD). This modelling approach has been applied to an online questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. The results identify the SDIs, geographical data flows and institutional levels implied in French coastal zone management and planning.