Italy: OneSea recruits divers for new community-based campaign to conserve the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea
text by Gianluca Lamberti
OneSea Alliance, a non-profit organization, is pleased to partner with the International Year of the Reef (IYOR) in a joint effort to highlight the importance of Posidonia oceanica in the Mediterranean Sea ecosystem.
Posidonia oceanica is a seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean Sea. It forms very dense meadows which constitute the most productive community in the Mediterranean Sea, occupying between 25000 and 45000km. sq. of the whole basin. Posidonia oceanica lives in a narrow coastal strip, normally on beds of soft sediment, at depths of between 5 and 40 to 50 metres. Posidonia oceanica constitutes meadows which are the basis of a highly diverse and productive ecosystem and plays an important role in the Mediterranean ecosystem. However human activities and natural events are responsible for a widespread meadows regression, especially in the northern parts of the Mediterranean basin where regression of Posidonia meadows has been surely accelerating in recent decades.
With Posidonia Check monitoring program OneSea aims to establish a wide network of informed and empowered Posidonia Check Operators which regularly monitor and report on status of the Posidonia oceanica meadows;
Since the program relies entirely on volunteers, dive operators will play a key role in the project by activating local divers, school groups and tourists to assess Posidonia status on dive sites. Yet OneSea and several diving clubs are cooperating on Posidonia Check project. The pilot application of this program takes place in Italy with the aim, at a later stage, to have further application in other parts along the Mediterranean perimeter.
The program started in July 2008. The first workshop was held in Naples. The surveys were carried out by a team from the Centro Sub Campi Flegrei and supervised by biologists from OneSea Team. The sessions gave the members of the diving club the skills and knowledge to objectively report on Posidonia ecosystem status. “Current attempts to monitor Posidonia seagrass beds often involve costly satellite-born technologies and are restricted to locations where researchers are working in. Our Posidonia monitoring approach is the first attempt to provide useful data on a relatively large scale. Posidonia Check surveys welcomes to all divers and our monitoring methods were designed to be simple and easy to use by anybody” Said Fabio Vinci, marine ecologist and project coordinator.
The event officially launched the Posidonia Check campaign. Later on more sites and more volunteers have been added in the following days. Another expedition was conducted further North, in the Ligurian Sea, by some instructors from Peppo Sub Diving Center. The survey was lead, with inspiring enthusiasm, by Elena Colombo, underwater photographer and activist for OneSea. At present Posidonia Check already enlists dozens of recreational divers to monitor Italian coastal ecosystem on a large scale.
The most widely used parameters in seagrass monitoring programs are the cover and density of seagrass meadows, as to ascertain their abundance and detect changes. The seagrass density is assessed within quadrat of about 1 m side length. The lower depth limit of seagrasses and their abundance in deep water are the indicators most directly coupled to water clarity as they are primarily light regulated. All these indicators therefore have a high priority in Posidonia Check monitoring program. The scientific aspect of the project is supported and organized by some researchers from Univesity of Bologna.
By regularly monitoring and collecting data on Mediterranean seagrass beds health, divers are helping scientists discover new ways to protect them.
Another objective of the ongoing Posidonia Check project will be to collect data about the occurence of Caulerpa taxifolia. This species has been nominated as among 100 of the "World's Worst" invaders. Caulerpa taxifolia earned the name “killer algae” because of its devastating effects on the Mediterranean coast. This information will help identify those areas most vulnerable to infestations. Knowing that the Mediterranean strain can survive and spread in a wide range of temperatures, eradication must begin quickly. A rapid response plan will need to be to implemented if “killer algae” appear. Residents and visitors can help by being on the lookout for “killer algae” and reporting any sightings.
OneSea Alliance encourages all divers to take action to further contribute to the protection of these important ecosystems by taking part in this new monitoring project. If you are a diver, consider participating in a Posidonia Check project and becoming a Posidonia Check Operator. You can download and fill out all the applications to register your diving club or your organization as Posidonia Check Operator at www.onesea.info.
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