Italy: Scientists gather to bolster knowledge of Mediterranean marine and coastal biodiversity

Genoa: At least 150 scientists will take part in the “Mediterranean Symposia on Marine Vegetation, Coralligenous, Dark Habitats and Non-Indigenous Species”, which will take place on 19-23 September 2022 in Genoa, Italy.

This event, convened by SPA/RAC, a Regional Activity Centre of the Mediterranean Action Plan of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/MAP), will be one of the most important scientific gatherings dedicated to the study of marine and coastal biodiversity in the Mediterranean. To organize it, SPA/RAC has joined forces with the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), the University of Genoa and its Department of Earth, the Environment and Life Sciences, and the Società Italiana di Biologia Marina association (SIBM). The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) has endorsed the Mediterranean Symposia as an Ocean Decade Action.

During the five-day event, participants will pore over the scientific literature and the latest findings pertaining to:

the sustainable management and restoration of Posidonia oceanica meadows, (widely known as the “lungs of the Mediterranean”) which produce oxygen, provide a habitat for several species and constitute an important carbon sink.

the conservation status and monitoring methods of coralligenous, the three-dimensional habitats that are home to 15-20 per cent of Mediterranean species;

dark habitats in the Mediterranean, which are subject to mounting pressure from economic activities and climate change but remain little known to scientists and decision-makers; biological invasions in the Mediterranean Sea, which will be addressed from the perspective of monitoring and management options. Non-native species (NIS) are a considerable threat to Mediterranean biodiversity. In 2020, more than 1,150 such species were reported by Mediterranean countries (109 are considered invasive).

On the sidelines of the Mediterranean Symposia, a photographic exhibition will present the main discoveries made in the Ligurian Sea by the deep marine zoology research group of the University of Genoa, over ten years of undersea exploration. The exhibition titled “Deep-sea corals of the Ligurian Sea: a tale of extraordinary discoveries” offers a compelling look at the reach and sheer size of the human footprint in supposedly remote marine environments. It was created by Marzia Bo, Francesco Enrichetti and Federico Betti in the framework of the Project “Lost coral reefs: ancient bioherms in a modern world”, financed by the University of Genova (Italy) in 2020-2022.

The Mediterranean Symposia are part of the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention system’s science-based endeavor for healthy Mediterranean marine and coastal ecosystems that underpin the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in the region. The outcomes will provide a robust science platform for regional efforts to hit the 30 by 30 conservation target (part of the much anticipated post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework under UNCBD). Thanks to SPA/RAC’s efforts, that important target is already enshrined in the landmark regional strategies on biodiversity conservation adopted by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention at COP 22 (Antalya, Türkiye, 7-10 December 2022).

The Mediterranean Symposia sessions will be broadcast live on the SPA/RAC YouTube channel.