Physical sciences, Earth sciences

Marine protected areas in the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean supports a rich diversity of marine life, which is the focus of conservation efforts. An EU-funded initiative is investigating how best to designate and manage these sites for marine conservation.

Many endangered species live in the Mediterranean Sea, including some that are found nowhere else. The Mediterranean is almost totally enclosed, which exacerbates the problem of pollution, and its coastline is subject to unregulated development and overexploitation. Therefore, there is a great need for an enhanced set of marine protected areas (MPAs), where the natural environment can conserved by restricting human activities.

The 'Designation and management of marine reserve networks' (DEMARN) project is studying MPAs off the coast of Israel and other Mediterranean countries. Researchers will explore the spatial character and conservation needs of MPAs. They will identify challenges posed by both society and institutions that are often left out of the decision-making process.

Research conducted by DEMARN is divided in two main parts. The first involves mapping and analysing the context within which MPAs are established and designed. The second will identify the factors that influence conservation planning outcomes from MPAs that fail to follow conservation planning best practice. Particular focus is on those outcomes arrived at through the use of decision support tools and the main tool that will be studied is the use of zoning.

A case study will be conducted at the Rosh HaNikra Protected Area, which is a small reserve off the Israeli coast that is seeking to expand. The focus will be on the reserve's management regime, including proposed zoning, its ecological attributes and potential contribution to marine conservation in the eastern Mediterranean.

DEMARN is also investigating if countries with higher levels of protection for MPAs have greater focus on conserving the marine environment and depend more on the maritime economy. Researchers have found that these factors, together with efforts aimed at terrestrial conservation and reducing human impact, are associated with higher protection levels among northern Mediterranean countries.

The work conducted by DEMARN is particularly important as all the world's seas, but especially those around Europe and North America, face increasing exploitation and development. The project's findings will help support decision making about where efforts and finances should be directed. This will encourage successful ecosystem management and integrated coastal zone management for marine reserves.

last modification: 2015-03-25 14:42:05



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