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
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
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.