WP1. BIODIVERSITY ASSESSMENT AND ECOSYSTEM FUNCTIONING
Assessment and conservation of local biodiversity is one of the main goals for MPAs. Yet, it is a very expensive and time-consuming activity the results of which are not always easy to manage and exploit. For this reasons the assessment (in terms of presence, abundance and spatial distribution) of a selection of species that are relevant to the purposes of conservation, i.e. Specially Protected Species (Annex II, Barcelona Convention), can be considered the first step to perform before widening attention on other species. Specially Protected Species are essential and functional to formally identify Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Interest (SPAMI). The declaration of an area, especially an MPA, as a SPAMI strongly emphasises its importance in terms of conservation and protection purposes. However, no detailed inventory of SPAMI species throughout the Mediterranean has been compiled yet, information being unevenly distributed throughout the basin with basic knowledge gaps in terms of presence, abundance and distribution. Adequate baseline information is essential to assess the evolution of natural environments and to define management and conservation approaches. This WP is focused on key-habitats of Mediterranean coastal ecosystems, i.e. marine forests, coralligenous assemblages and coastal lagoons. The research performed will address their biodiversity and functioning, providing for baseline information, monitoring tools and management plans.
WP 1.1 - Evolution of marine forests in the Mediterranean MPAs and ecological restoration
Supervisor: Dr. Luisa Mangialajo (UNS, France)
Objectives. The aim of this research project is to assess the evolution of Cystoseira forests in the MPAs involved in the MMMPA ITN, and to highlight the potential role of MPAs in the ecological restoration of Cystoseira forests outside their borders.
Methods. In order to study the evolution of Cystoseira forests, the recruited ESR will collect historical data, if existing, and will perform a census of Cystoseira species thriving in the MPA. The comparison of the present and the historical data will allow to assess the regression of Cystoseira forests, where it has occurred. Concerning the role of MPAs in the ecological restoration of Cystoseira forests, the idea is to use the existing forests, generally thriving in MPAs, as a reservoir of propagules. The student will test several substrates to identify the more favourable for Cystoseira to recruit. The substrates will then be moved in areas where the loss of Cystoseira forests has been registered (and where the causes of the regression have, obviously, disappeared). This kind of method is preferable compared to the transplantation of adult plants, which imply the weakening of existing forests.
WP 1.2 - Biotic indexes to assess the ecological status of coralligenous assemblages
Supervisor: Dr. Carlo Cerrano (UNIVPM, Italy)
Objectives. This project will develop a baseline of the coralligenous status along the Mediterranean coasts, also providing for appropriate conservation and management guidelines.
Methods. To address these issues, the recruited ESR will compile a reference list of species that are found in coralligenous outcrops. By photo and videotransects he/she will also evaluate the total number of species present in selected locations, as well as the level of species similarity between these locations to assess the inherent large scale variability.
WP 1.3 - Development and assessment of biotic tools for coastal lagoon ecosystems
Supervisor: Dr. Sofia Reizopoulou (HCMR, Greece)
Objectives. This project will focus on testing biodiversity, biotic and functional indices (trophic structure and body-size spectra) for impact assessment of Messolonghi lagoon located in the National Park of Messolonghi-Aetoliko lagoons, estuaries of Acheloos, Evinos and Echinades islands. Biodiversity, biotic and functional indices will be applied and tested in relation to the abiotic environment and anthropogenic forcing.
Methods. Seasonal sampling will be performed for two years in a dense grid of stations at Messolonghi lagoon. Macrofaunal samples will be collected by standard methods. Zoobenthos will be identified at species level and biomass will be estimated. In addition environmental variables will be monitored (salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, organic carbon in the sediment and granulometry). The following biotic and functional indices will be applied: AMBI index, the BENTIX index, the multivariate or factorial method of AMBI with Shannon diversity and Species Richness known as M-AMBI the Benthic Opportunistic Annelida Amphipod index BO2A and the biomass size structure ISD index.
WP 1.4 - Sediment metabolism and secondary production of macrobenthos as indicators of ecosystem functioning
Supervisor: Prof. Artemisis Nicolaidou (UoA, Greece)
Objectives. The proposed research will approach the ecosystem functioning in a protected coastal lagoon by investigating sediment metabolism and secondary production of the most abundant benthic species of different functional groups.
Methods. Environmental parameters, temperature, salinity, pH, Eh and dissolved oxygen will be measured in situ while samples will be analysed in the laboratory for Chlorophyll a, SPM, POM, POC in the water and organic content in the sediment, using standard methods. In a grid of stations, three replicate cores will be collected and sliced into depth intervals. Subsamples of sections will be analyzed for solid phase (granulometry, wet density, water content, chl-a, TC, TOC, biopolymers) and pore water (TCO2, DIN, PO43- and SiO2) characteristics. Body size and biomass measurements will be made for the estimation of secondary production. The cohort method will be compared with other empirical methods. Benthic metabolism will be carried out seasonally while samples for environmental parameters and secondary production will be collected monthly. Data obtained will be correlated with information concerning anthropogenic impact in the lagoon.