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ArticleIdentifying priorities for the protection of deep Mediterranean Sea ecosystems through an integrated approach(Frontiers Media, 2021-07-22) Fanelli, Emanuela ; Bianchelli, Silvia ; Foglini, Federica ; Canals, Miquel ; Castellan, Giorgio ; Güell-Bujons, Queralt ; Galil, Bella S. ; Goren, Menachem ; Evans, Julian ; Fabri, Marie-Claire ; Vaz, Sandrine ; Ciuffardi, Tiziana ; Schembri, Patrick J. ; Angeletti, Lorenzo ; Taviani, Marco ; Danovaro, RobertoBenthic habitats of the deep Mediterranean Sea and the biodiversity they host are increasingly jeopardized by increasing human pressures, both direct and indirect, which encompass fisheries, chemical and acoustic pollution, littering, oil and gas exploration and production and marine infrastructures (i.e., cable and pipeline laying), and bioprospecting. To this, is added the pervasive and growing effects of human-induced perturbations of the climate system. International frameworks provide foundations for the protection of deep-sea ecosystems, but the lack of standardized criteria for the identification of areas deserving protection, insufficient legislative instruments and poor implementation hinder an efficient set up in practical terms. Here, we discuss the international legal frameworks and management measures in relation to the status of habitats and key species in the deep Mediterranean Basin. By comparing the results of a multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) and of expert evaluation (EE), we identify priority deep-sea areas for conservation and select five criteria for the designation of future protected areas in the deep Mediterranean Sea. Our results indicate that areas (1) with high ecological relevance (e.g., hosting endemic and locally endangered species and rare habitats),(2) ensuring shelf-slope connectivity (e.g., submarine canyons), and (3) subject to current and foreseeable intense anthropogenic impacts, should be prioritized for conservation. The results presented here provide an ecosystem-based conservation strategy for designating priority areas for protection in the deep Mediterranean Sea.
ArticleSanta Maria di Leuca province (Mediterranean Sea) : identification of suitable mounds for cold-water coral settlement using geomorphometric proxies and Maxent methods(Frontiers Media, 2017-10-27) Bargain, Annaëlle ; Marchese, Fabio ; Savini, Alessandra ; Taviani, Marco ; Fabri, Marie-ClaireThe Santa Maria di Leuca (SML) cold-water coral province (northern Ionian Sea) has the largest occurrence of a living white coral community currently known in the Mediterranean Sea. Madrepora oculata and Lophelia pertusa, identified as marking sensitive habitats of relevance by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, have been observed heterogeneously distributed on the summits of several mounds. This particularly patchy and uneven distribution in addition to their importance for regional biodiversity highlights the need to better understand their environmental preferences and predict their distribution. Bathymetric data (40 m resolution) was used to derive seafloor characteristics. A fine scale index quantifying the landscape elevation (Bathymetric Position Index at 120 m resolution) was used to select all the elevated features considered as candidate morphologies for potential coral mounds. Statistics on 22 known coral topped mounds were computed. Two statistical methods were then used to identify other potential coral mounds based on predictive variables. The first method, the Geomorphometric proxies method, consists in computing basic statistics of terrain variables, using them for a step-by-step classification in a quantitative approach to select a subset of candidate morphologies. The second method consists in using a predictive Habitat Suitability Model (Maxent model). The Geomorphometric proxies method identified 736 potential coral mounds while the Maxent method predicted 1,252 potential coral mounds. A subset of 517 potential coral mounds was common to both methods. The analysis of the contribution of each variable with the Maxent method showed that the variable “Vector Ruggedness Measure” at a resolution of 5 pixels (200 m) contributed to 53% of the final Maxent model, followed by the “Terrain Texture” index (31%) at a resolution of 11 pixels (440 m). The common potential coral mounds are mainly located in an area characterized by a mass transport deposit, also called the mounds area because of the roughness of the seafloor, in accordance with the high proportional contribution of the noticeable first roughness index to the Maxent model. The results highlight the importance of the global conservation of the entire Province, with white coral probably widespread over the entire 600 km2 SML area.