Baseline survey and monitoring of Non-Indigenous Species (NIS) in two Marine Protected Areas (MPAs – Natura 2000) (Tender # 26/2016, DFMR)

2 years (January 2017 – December 2018)

Funded by:
Department of Fisheries and Marine Research (Republic of Cyprus)

Project partners:
Marine & Environmental Research (MER) Lab – Coordinator
AP Marine Environmental Consultancy Ltd

Collaborator experts:
Dr Stelios Katsanevakis
Dr Argyro Zenetos
Dr Fabio Crocetta
Dr Vasilis Gerovasileiou
Dr Konstantinos Tsiamis

Project Description:
Favoured by warming and its proximity to the Suez Canal, Cyprus marine Non-Indigenous Species (NIS) number has been steadily increasing. Particular vulnerability to the introduction of new NIS has been observed to the south-east of the island (Cavo Greco area). For this reason, MER has been assigned by the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research (DFMR) to coordinate a two-year project and collect seasonal data with diver censuses in two marine protected areas (MPAs) of the Natura 2000 network (KAVO GKREKO: CY3000005 and THALASSIA PERIOCHI NISIA: CY3000006), which have been justified as “hot-spots” for NIS.

The overall objective of the project was to:
(i) Collect qualitative and quantitative baseline information about the non-indigenous and indigenous species in the two areas of interest,
(ii) Initiate a monitoring of the non-indigenous species in the two areas of interest.

The baseline survey and monitoring aimed at all Macroalgae, Angiosperms, Macroinvertebrates, and Fish taxa (free living and sessile; water column and benthic; in hard and soft substrates), which were identified to the lowest taxonomic level. A total of 339 taxa were identified; 288 of which were identified up to species level, while 51 other were identified up to a higher taxa level (mostly genus). These included among others: 80 Actinopterygii and 5 elasmobranchii , 68 mollusca, 31 porifera, 24 arthropoda, 24 echinodermata, 21 cnidaria, 16 bryozoa, 8 annelida, 6 ascidians, 38 macroalgae/angiosperms…

The information that was collected through the field surveys of the project was used to produce a comprehensive and updated inventory of the Non-Indigenous Species (NIS) of Macroalgae, Angiosperms, Macroinvertebrates and Fish (with special emphasis on the IAS) in the two marine protected areas (MPAs). An excellent photo-identification guide of NIS species from all taxa found in the two areas during surveys was delivered. The project also produced information on the species’ abundances and distribution establishment status, and pathways of introduction.

Moreover the project provided risk assessments of two pufferfishes Lagocephalus sceleratus and Torguigener flavimaculosus that are highly invasive. The outcomes of the project are expected to assist the management of the two marine protected areas regarding the NIS as well as in the assessment of the Good Environmental Status (GES) for Descriptor 2 (D2: Non-Indigenous Species) of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC).