Title:
Mapping and evaluation of Posidonia meadows and other important marine habitats under the European Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), in the coastal waters of Cyprus (Tender # 19/2018, DFMR)

Duration:
3 years (September 2019 – September 2022)

Funded by:
Department of Fisheries and Marine Research (Republic of Cyprus)
25% National Resources, 75% European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)

Project partners:
Marine & Environmental Research (MER) Lab
Laboratory of Marine Geology & Physical Oceanography, University of Patras
Fisheries Research Institute (FRI), ELGO – DEMETER
Department of Marine Sciences, University of the Aegean

Project Description:
Based on the Annex I to Directive 92/43/EEC in accordance with Article 17 (Chapter 1), European Union (EU) Member States are obligated to map, monitor, map and evaluate the Conservation Status and report on the marine priority habitats every six years.

The overall objective of the project was the mapping and evaluation of Posidonia oceanica meadows and other important marine habitats under the European Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) in the coastal waters of Cyprus. This was the first national effort to map the marine ecosystems around the entire ‘government controlled’ coastline of Cyprus and develop high resolution cartography. It was also the first-time that underwater caves will be studied. A fantastic, highly-capable team of experts was formed to tackle this challenging project.

The results of the project provided valuable data for the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC) and the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC). This multi-disciplinary project was executed with the support of a range of technological tools, including remote sensing, acoustic tools, drones, towed cameras, etc.

The project was split in two Phases for mapping and monitoring purposes, respectively.

During the first Phase, important habitats i.e., Posidonia oceanica meadows (Habitat 1120*), sand banks with Cymodocea nodosa meadows (Habitat 1110) and submerged reefs (Habitat 1170) around the entire coastline controlled by the Republic of Cyprus were mapped using remote sensing and advanced side scan sonars, ground-truthing imagery was obtained by towed cameras. Imagery was processed using different specialized software and high-resolution maps were developed in ArcGIS. Sea caves (Habitat 8330) were recorded following an extensive survey that identified around 200 semi-submerged caves. Selected caves that may form a habitat to monk seals Monachus monachus were further surveyed and specialized software was employed to produce 3-D illustrations of 15 caves.

During the second Phase, a monitoring program was initiated for these key marine habitats in the six marine areas of the Natura 2000 network and assessment of the ecological status was carried out by analysing an array of metrics and applying several biotic indexes in all marine habitats studied. Monitoring protocols were developed, Article 17 Reference Forms of the Directive 92/43/EEC were completed, and Standard Data Forms (SDFs) of the six marine Natura 2000 for each marine habitat (1110, 1120*, 1170, 8330) were updated and extensive new knowledge was obtained.