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Activity 3: Benthic habitat: enhancing consistency for its status assessment and for the identification of effective measures to reduce physical disturbance to the sea-floor in the Mediterranean Sea.

The general objective of Activity 3 is to support Competent Authorities to set-up a consistent approach for the assessment of the status of benthic habitats subjected to human pressures and the establishment of regional measures to protect seafloor integrity (and in particular its biological component, i.e., species/communities/habitats) from physical disturbance. 

Within Activity 3, elements from TGSEABED will represent the basis for elaborating the framework to progress towards the reduction of physical impact (loss and damage) on the seafloor; the tailoring of technical elements in the Mediterranean context will be achieved through the analysis of current national/international standards and implementations at Mediterranean level, based on official documentation and the engagement of TGSEABED members and the scientific community. Such analyses will address issues related to the selection of the level of habitats under the EUNIS scheme, the uncertainty associated with their mapping in the context of EUSeaMap, and how to integrate assessment from specific habitat types at the national, subregional, and regional level. The process will also be informed by the analyses of methods adopted in the context of MSP, among others. 

The development of specific case studies with a transboundary context in the Adriatic Sea, the Ionian Sea and Central Mediterranean Sea subregions (Strait of Sicily), and in the Western Mediterranean Sea subregion will provide specific insights to foster consistency in the applications at subregional levels and will inform the application in the overall Mediterranean context. The case studies will be used to test methodological applications concerning the selection of habitat levels, the mapping and the assessment integration at the sub-regional level. Methods to identify and rank the role of key pressures will be reviewed through direct applications in case studies. Particular attention will be given to fishing as a physical pressure disturbing seabed habitats, species, and communities, and to the investigation of the potential implications of different management measures to reduce the impact on seafloor physical integrity and benthic communities through simulations. 

Established models developed in the context of EU/DGMARE funded projects (e.g., MANTIS) will be adapted and used for transboundary/large scale simulations while taking into account the overall Mediterranean picture of fishing pressure, as derived from the most up-to-date analyses combining AIS and VMS data and modelling approaches. Altogether, these analyses along with an assessment of measures to address other relevant sources of physical pressures will contribute to build a roadmap towards the establishment of common Mediterranean-wide measures to reduce the impact of physical pressures (loss and damage) on benthic habitats. The bow-tie analysis will be applied for the assessment of the prevention and mitigation measures needed to reduce the uncertainties of achieving seafloor integrity, according to specific case studies. 

All this will result in the identification of technical specifications and the framework that should foster consistency in addressing seafloor integrity. These outcomes will be shared with RAC/SPA and Activity 6, thus contributing to the efforts put forward in the context of the Ecosystem Approach process towards GES achievement in the Mediterranean Sea.

The specific objectives of Activity 3 are: 

O3.1: Support Competent Authorities (CAs) for the implementation of the next phase of the MSFD about physical pressures on seafloor integrity and benthic communities;

O3.2: Address key elements that can enhance the consistency of the Mediterranean approach towards the protection of seafloor integrity concerning the level of habitat classification, uncertainty associated with maps and scales of assessment of status and pressures;

O3.3: Review current methods to identify and rank key pressures on seafloor integrity and provide a framework to support a consistent approach in the Mediterranean Sea;

O3.4: Explore different measures to reduce physical pressures on seafloor integrity (in particular fishing) using large scale/transboundary case studies based on up-to-date modelling approaches;

O3.5: Integrate the overall outcomes into a portfolio of potential measures and provide a roadmap in support of the establishment of a Mediterranean-wide approach to reduce the impact of physical pressures on seafloor integrity;

O3.6: Support RAC/SPA effort towards the definition of the approach to reach GES in the Mediterranean Sea for seafloor integrity.


Task 3.1: Enhancing consistency in subregional and regional approaches to benthic habitats and scales in the Mediterranean Sea.

Task 3.2: Harmonizing the approaches to identify key physical pressures on benthic habitat and relative role at subregional and regional level.

Task 3.3: Assessment and implications of alternative measures for reducing physical disturbance from fisheries and other key pressures under different scenarios.


D3.1: Report on enhancing consistency in subregional and regional approaches to benthic habitats specification and ecologically relevant scales (M18) (ISPRA).

D3.2: Proposal for a common framework for identifying/rank key pressures (M18) (IzVRS).

D3.3: Portfolio of alternative measures to reduce pressures on the seafloor with key examples (M24) (CONISMA).

D3.4: Roadmap towards common assessment and measures to limit physical disturbance on seafloor integrity in the Mediterranean Sea (M24) (ISPRA).


Leader: Sasa Raicevich e-mail: sasa.raicevich@isprambiente.it