Biodiversity assessment, habitat mapping, and environmental impact assessment from the extraction of a submarine pipeline

4 months (February 2020 – May 2020)

Funded by:
Vassiliko Cement Works Public Company Ltd .

Project Description:

Vasilikos Bay is heavily industrialized bay which faces an increasing number of human pressures including aquaculture, tourism, a naval base, ports, a cement station, and a power plan. Government plans are already underway for the expansion of hydrocarbon-related industries in the area and the establishment of anchorage areas, construction of storage facilities, deployment of submarine pipelines, and dredging for the facilities establishment.

In the present study, Vassiliko Cement Works Public Company Ltd. hired MER to conduct an environmental impact study in order to predict the potential damages that might be caused from the extraction of an inactive pipeline from the benthos. The pipeline was installed in the 1970s and used for unloading purposes petroleum (fuel oil) but remained inactive and was locked for at least two decades. The exact route of the pipeline was unknown and toxic pollutants remained in the locked pipeline which carried risks for the marine environment; especially in case of dredging and excavation activities.

The aim of this study was to map the pipeline and the priority habitats of the area using field visits, aerial and acoustic tools. The ecological condition of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica was assessed using biodiversity indices, and the species of the area were recorded using standardized protocols.

In general, the area was moderately-heavily impacted; mainly indicated by the presence of opportunistic species in the coastal zone, low abundance of filter-feeder organisms and absence of sensitive species, such as those that are part of the coral biocommunity among P. oceanica shoots. High amounts of litter were recorded in all surveys. A total of 93 organisms were recorded; 74 heterotrophs and 19 autotrophs.