Posidonia oceanica mapping- Eastern Aegean Sea
Posidonia oceanica is an aquatic flowering plant endemic to the Mediterranean, instrumental in providing habitats and nursery grounds to a diverse array of species in the area. Although the seagrass is imperative to ecosystem health, conservation efforts have not mirrored this: Posidonia oceanica’s status is only listed as “least concern” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but regression of P. oceanica meadows has been widely reported. In order to lobby for increased species protection and avoid further population damage, the extent of these effects needs to be researched more thoroughly, particularly in the eastern Mediterranean where P. oceanica has not been exhaustively studied.
A study performed by Archipelagos mapping Posidonia cover in the SE part of Samos island, as well as Lipsi island. Among the many interesting findings we recorded numerous scars which were caused by illegal trawling activity. This research project aims to reassess the area in order to monitor any changes since 2015. This project also extends the study sites, to further improve our knowledge of seagrass beds in this region.
The seagrass team has developing a simple, cost effective method to monitor seagrass distribution in study sites up to 300 meters off the coast. In particular, we have been piloting a downscan sonar-based kayak survey method to map bathymetry, substrate and vegetation composition. In addition to sonar, the team also record underwater GoPro footage on the kayaks. As this method is currently under development, the team is assessing the best method for processing the sonar into comprehensive maps. Data analysis is a major part of being on the seagrass team and a crucial part of the current data analysis involves collaboration with Biobase and the use of their software. The use of satellite imagery, drone mapping and in water-surveys will be used to confirm the mapping results from the sonar.
The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary
Working closely together with the marine mammal team, our aim is to determine the status of seagrass meadows for the Aegean Marine Life sanctuary, which is currently in its initial stages. The seagrass within the bay provides key ecological services including organic carbon production and export, nutrient cycling, sediment stabilisation, enhanced biodiversity and trophic transfers to adjacent habitats. With regards to waste management seagrass is important for sediment bio stabilisation and the canopy is assumed to contribute to the trapping of suspended particles. The marine conservation team has been collecting data about the seagrass populations in Vroulia bay in Lipsi and its surrounding area since July 2016. The team is currently processing data collected in order to evaluate the extent and health of seagrass beds in Vroulia bay.
The Marine Conservation Team is now beginning to incorporate two new projects to their work on the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary. Both of these two new projects are in initial research stages but aim to introduce Seagrass replantation and artificial reefs. The hope is that both these projects will contribute to encourage an increase in invertebrate and fish community biomass. An increase in organisms such as burrowing macrofauna, will be important for ventilating the sediments to stimulate microbial decomposition of settled organic matter. This will be particularly important when additional organic matter begins to enter Vroulia, when animals are introduced to the area as part of the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary.
Artificial reefs in the Sanctuary
There has been an increasing frequency of use worldwide, of artificial structures in efforts to increase fish abundance and diversity, improve catch rates of targeted species, protect and restore biological resources and rehabilitate coastal ecosystems or to enhance recreational use of the area. These structures are called artificial reefs (ARs) and have been envisaged as potentially interesting tools to deal with the availability and protection of marine resources. Therefore, it is planned to deploy a series of a number of experimental different models of artificial reefs in The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary to implement its value by increasing the fish abundance, biomass and biodiversity. To this end, over the last week a literature review has been done in relation to the different models and materials that have been used to build artificial reefs around the world for the purpose of learning the most suitable methodology for our project.
Fish4Life – An online sustainable seafood guide
This project aims to update the Fish4Life app created in 2012. The app was created to provide a sustainable fish guide for consumers, to help the general public when selecting which fish to purchase. However, due to continual mobile phone advancement, the app no longer functions as well as it did originally. The new objective is to create an up to date design and provide current status of sustainability. We also want to provide the information in as many languages as possible. This information will now be available on the archipelago.gr website which will also be mobile friendly. We have provided all the information required to take the project to the next step – producing the guide on the archipelagos website. The next step is being worked on by the media team. Once this has been completed, we can then review the guide and make any further adjustments or recommendations that we feel will make the best possible guide for purchasing fish sustainably.