Assessment of marine litter interactions with Mediterranean biodiversity
Harmonized and more balanced knowledge on marine litter and biodiversity interactions in Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is needed to support informed daily management priorities and policy making mechanisms. The MedBioLitter database recently developed is being used to set a baseline for a regional understanding on the impacts of marine litter on biodiversity in the Mediterranean region.
This Mediterranean-wide spatial assessment by ETC-UMA was performed using the MedBioLitter meta-analysis outcomes (September 2019). It aims at obtaining a regional understanding on the state of knowledge on biodiversity within Mediterranean MPAs, particularly those engaged by the projects co-financed by the Interreg Med Programme and within the ecological boundaries of the Mediterranean (i.e. Mediterranean ecoregions).
State of knowledge on marine litter impacts in Mediterranean MPAs
Monitoring and management plans in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) require evidence and knowledge of the marine litter interactions with protected species and biodiversity.
Based on this assessment, out of the total MPAs in the Mediterranean (=1321 based on MAPAMED November 2017), only 2.6% have peer reviewed knowledge related to pressures and impacts from marine litter. Peer reviewed knowledge is only available for MPAs that belong to European Mediterranean countries while totally missing for non-EU MPAs in the Mediterranean. Participation of additional MPAs as partners and pilot sites in projects like PLASTICBUSTERSMPAs will allow for more updates to MedBioLitter in the near future.
Figure 3. Distribution of monitoring data between types of protected areas in the Mediterranean Sea (based on the MedBioLitter database, September 2019).
Figure 3 shows that, among the MPAs that have peer-reviewed information on marine litter interaction with biodiversity, the coincidence between the available monitoring sites information and protected geographical areas is larger for the Natura 2000 Sites designed under the EU Bird and Habitats Directives (42.51% of the area), followed by the data localized at nationally Designated areas (34.49%), SPAMIs (19.51%) and, to a lesser extent, FRAs (3.14%) and Ramsar sites (0.35%).
The assessment of marine litter impacts on MPAs shows that, despite the increase in published information on marine litter pollution occurrence, distribution and impacts on biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea, the research efforts are not targeted and do not provide an understanding on the most common taxa in MPAs and beyond. This fact reveals the lack of a clear targeted policy that directs research efforts to contribute to a comprehensive regional assessment but rather research results coming from individual projects with different objectives. In brief, an integrated approach that targets common taxa in MPAs and in the Mediterranean ecoregions is still majorly lacking, except for cetaceans (under the leadership of ACCOBAMS in the Mediterranean) and would require further efforts to assess the environmental impacts and to guide regional remediation actions.
An integrated approach that targets common taxa in MPAs and in the Mediterranean ecoregions is still majorly lacking, except for cetaceans
State of knowledge on marine litter impacts on marine habitats
The information hosted by the MedBioLitter database has been overlaid with the EUNIS Habitat classification system to assess the linkages between the information on biodiversity impacted by marine litter and the different habitat types. The interactions between biodiversity and marine litter published were assessed in the pelagic and benthic ecosystems; this is reflected through some additional layers of information complementary to each of the ecosystems.
Marine litter and biodiversity interactions have been classified following international policy standards in four main categories: ingestion, entanglement, colonization and others, which collects studies with experimental information on interactions, such as forced field experiments, or information difficult to classify under the other three categories.
Figure 6. Distribution of knowledge on interaction types in benthic ecosystems in the Mediterranean Sea.