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summaries - seventh MARBENA e-conference

Summary of discussions on Topic 1.1: The role of top predators (incl. gelatinous organisms) and large nekton (incl. whales & dolphins, seals, sharks, turtles) in biodiversity

Alessandro DE MADDALENA1 and Ahmet KIDEYS2

1Mediterranean Shark Research Group, Italy - ( 2Middle East Technical University; Institute of Marine Sciences, Turkey -(

The session was introduced by Ahmet Kideys and Alessandro de Maddalena that suggested that the role of the "super-predator" (i.e. the man) on biodiversity is not always negative. While human accelerated the rate of extinctions (e.g. 100 times for mammals compared to background levels of 0.5 extinctions per 100 years, Barbault et al. 1995), it also increased biodiversity in many parts of the world with introductions. In the case of Levantine Sea, the phenomenon is especially important due to the Lessepsian migration since the man opened Suez canal in 1869 causing Indo-Pacific species to settle in the eastern Mediterranean. Fifty-seven fish species alone, denoting about 10% in the entire Mediterranean are Lessepsian migrants here (Golani et al., 2002). Some of these species, such as the lizardfish Saurida undosquamis are now often dominant in trawl catches providing a good income to the fishery sector.

Martin Bilio suggested that the fact that the man may increase biodiversity depends on the situation. It needs to know what type of top predator is being introduced and which trophic levels does it influence directly. If the top predator is of commercial importance, much would depend on the degree of exploitation. Also, it would be important to know whether this top predator is mono- or multiphageous, as well as which and how many trophic levels would its preying activity affect. Kerim Ben Mustapha suggested that our background is probably insufficient for evaluating if man is increasing biodiversity. The lack of historical data and actual studies that aren't wide enough to give us a real overview of marine ecosystems' functioning and therefore of their state. Impact of man's activities can be seen as positive, if we stand to fisheries, invasive "commercial" species increased fisheries income but it's worst to stop at this point. The problem is global, as Prof. Carlo Heip wrote it "Microbes, plants and animals do not respect borders and many problems dealing with their ecology, exploitation and conservation cannot be tackled in a national context", and as such, we should not answer this question without having in mind the global changes that are affecting our seas/life see for instance the Eu report on climate changes, predicting an important increase in Europe's temperature during the next 50 years (EEA, 2004). Therefore Kerim Ben Mustapha suggested that there is no need of man's intervention to "advisedly" increase BD, since there is enough changes nowadays (natural and artificial) to weaken the natural imunities of the ecosystems.

Igor Mitrofanov underlined the fact that it needs to speak about human influence, not only as a "predator", since there are different types of activities with different results. As a "super-predator" he can only reduce the biodiversity by over-exploitation. Introducing of valuable species is another type of activity, as well as it is accidental introduction with ballast waters or by constructing channels. In this case man plays a role of geological factor. In this sense, Alessandro De Maddalena, underlined the problem of the species accidentally killed by commercial fishermen and thrown-back into the sea because they are considered of none interest for fisheries or are protected, and those caught by recreational anglers, often not to be consumed. Humans also have a less direct but just as harmful effect on marine life because of depletion of resources, environmental pollution and habitat destruction.

Ferruccio Maltagliati, considering factors that increase biodiversity (mutation, genetical drift, natural selection, speciation, habitat ecological diversity) concluded that while man cannot directly increase biodiversity by means of his activities, there can be some instances of indirect increase of levels of biodiversity. For example, the presence of a man made barrier to gene flow can (theoretically) promote population divergence, namely an increase of biodiversity at population-level. Ferruccio Maltagliati, proposed the problem should be shifted toward the problem of acceptability of a given human impact on marine natural systems. Unfortunately, economic interests very often assume priority higher than ecological interests. In the same direction, Daphne Cuvelier arised the question if do we want to maintain or create high biodiversity per se (introductions of species by man) or do we want to maintain a 'natural' situation with possibly lower biodiversity but with less human impact? Ferruccio Maltagliati underlined the fact that an increase of local biodiversity does not mean that the total biodiversity will be positively affected. In best cases the total biodiversity does not increase but remains constant. Therefore we should always reason in terms of total biodiversity, and in this sense introductions cannot increase the biodiversity.

Ahmet Kideys suggested that however in some cases the introduction of species from an area to another may have positive effects, especially when the species is disappearing from the area where it is endemic. An example may be the cladoceran Centropages, lost from the samples in the Caspian, but widespread causing problems in introduced areas such as Baltic and Great Lakes: the introduced populations gives man opportunity to repopulate the Caspian with the cladoceran. M. Khalil, on the introduction of indo-Pacific origin species via the Red Sea and Suez Canal and its success of colonizing the Eastern Mediterranean shores, stressed that he most important factor which help these invaders to colonize the region is their high possibility to compete with native species, to tolerate pollution and their feeding habits as most of them are predators. M. Khalil judged that these predator invaders are reducing biodiversity and Nejla Deeb suggested that ecological monitoring programs are required to control this phenomenon. A. Badr concluded that since marine ecosystems attempt to obtain balance and stability, we have to allow the environment to regain its balance without human disturbance.

Anthony Moss suggested that man will never serve as a biodiversity enhancer, because of the crude fishing mechanisms he uses. Anyway Ahmet Kideys note that a crude fishing practice with lots of discarded bycatch is the trawling, but according to Zenetos (1996-1997) species number and abundance were higher in the regularly trawled area (466 species) than in the untrawled (174 species). In this sense, Ferruccio Maltagliati, cited that Connell (1978) and, successively, many other ecologists have taught us that intermediate levels of disturbance can enhance biodiversity. There is therefore a theoretical possibility that a crude fishing determining intermediate disturbance could increase biodiversity, but definitive evidences lack if we reason in terms of total biodiversity instead on a local scale. Kolbe et al. found that the increase of genetic variation in a Cuban Lizard is due to multiple introductions from different geographical sources. This produces introduced populations that are more genetically variable than each of the source populations. So, reasoning in local terms, genetic variation (ultimately, "biodiversity") is enhanced. However, strictly speaking, from a total biodiversity perspective, the total within-population genetic variation of the species is not enhanced because the introduced population is only a mere rearrangement of pre-existing genotypes.

Ahmet Kideys and Alessandro de Maddalena presented two options regarding the effect of removal of native predators from the trophic network. In certain ecosystems particularly for those with high biodiversity, the removal of predator may not have any apparent effect (i.e. redundancy hypothesis). However, in many cases removal of predation will decrease the bioversity. With the pioneering study of Paine (1969) in the intertidal shores of the northwestern America, the role of predation in maintaining the biodiversity is clearly understood, at least for some marine ecosystems. Paine removed the starfish (the top-predator) from the system and observed that the number of prey species collapsed from 15 to eight, and a single species, a mussel, covered almost all the experimental site. The starfish was thus a "keystone species" for this ecosystem. Unfortunately, similar studies are lacking with respect to gelatinous organisms and large nekton in the world seas. So we cannot clearly validate the importance of these top predators on the ecosystems of the eastern Mediterranean.

Ahmet Kideys and Alessandro de Maddalena also asked for ideas about which methods have to be used to understand the role of the top predators on biodiversity.

Martin Bilio pointed out that it depends on the type of top predator and on the type environment (ecosystem). Factors to be studied would be (a) trophic relations, (b) spatial distribution of the components, concerning preferences of the respective range of environmental conditions. Carna Milos proposed the example of the gelatinous zooplankton's predatory role, of which the knowledge derives mainly from studies of large Scyphomedusan species. On the other hand small hydromedusae are the most diverse gelatinous plankton group (Boero & Bouillon, 1993) being themself endangered by ecosystem crises like hypoxia / anoxia (Benovic & Lucic, 2000) and mucilage phenomenon. In comparison with investigations of composition and abundance of gelatinous zooplankton in the gulf of Trieste (northern Adriatic) in 70'ties (Malej, 1977) and in 80'ties (Benovic et al., 1987) Milos (2003) listed less species and their abundance was lower in year 2001. Although the composition and abundance of gelatinous organisms may change from year to year the phenomenon of mucilage that was quite intensive during 2001 was the major reason for this reduction.

Alenka Malej underlined the fact that massive outbreaks of native and introduced gelatinous organisms, particularly of large scyphomedusae and ctenophores, are well documented in many areas including the southern and eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Black sea (CIESM, 2001). Sometimes the outbreaks are sporadic events and of short duration. In other cases a more sustained increase in gelatinous organisms has been related to the regime shift (i.e. change in atmospheric and oceanic conditions, Mills, 2001, Malej & Malej, 2004, Niermann, 2004). Field studies done in different marine environments indicated that outbreaks of gelatinous organisms had similar effects on pelagic food web: a decrease of mesozooplankton biomass accompanied by plankton community changes (Purcell et al., 1999, Brodeur et al., 2002). For example: a shift from copepod-dominated community towards predominance of some small gelatinous taxa (Noctiluca scintillans, and Thaliacea) and increased importance of Cladocera was observed during outbreak of the jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca in the northern Adriatic (Malej 1989). These community changes that were associated with reduction of zooplankton biomass indicated a change in ecosystem functioning. On the other hand, it is more difficult to demonstrate the effect of gelatinous predators on species richness. Moreover, in contrast to benthic environment where exclusion experiments were used to demonstrate the role of top predators in maintaining biodiversity, such experiments with multispecies pelagic communities are much more difficult. More recently, CAS (complex adaptive system) theory has been proposed as useful framework that could contribute to understanding the role of biodiversity for ecosystem functioning (Norberg, 2004).

Ahmet Kideys and Alessandro de Maddalena, stated that among the top predators, while cetaceans and sea turtles are protected and the bony fish fishery is partially regulated in the Mediterranean, very few countries (Italy, Malta) have specific (but not strictly obeyed) laws for shark protection (but only for the Carcharodon carcharias, and Cetorhinus maximus). Protection only from targeted fishery does not mean a real protection and therefore due to other reasons (habitat loss, pollution, bycatch etc), the population size of all these large nekton are decreasing. Once upon a time, due to natural mortality, the carcase of these large animals were the food of several bacteria (some of which are sulphur-reducing chemosynthetic) and animals on the sea bottom. Now, we could only speculate about this biota that their species diversity must have been affected badly. Alessandro De Maddalena underlined that sharks are more vulnerable to fishery than bony fishes. Since few species prey on them, sharks are naturally highly vulnerable to overexploitation as they have long sexual maturation period, low fecundity, long gestation periods and they produce small numbers of young. Moreover many shark species segregate by size and sex and exploitation of sharks in a nursery area can be particularly devastating. These fishes are unable to withstand long periods of overexploitation since this has long term effects and rebuilding shark populations takes many years. Most commercial shark fisheries collapse within a few years (Watts, 2001).

Adib Saad presented the situation of cartilaginous fish on the Syrian coast. In the course of 3 years of observation (2000-2003), 37 species of Chondrichtyes are inventoried (Saad et al., 2004). In this study, 2 species were found in the Eastern Mediterranean for the first time, namely Carcharhinus obscurus and Torpedo (Torpedo) sinuspersici, the latter represents a new lessipian migration. Several species, that were reported previously, were not observed again, this concerns relatively common species like Scyliorhinus stellaris, Mustelus asterias, Torpedo torpedo, Myliobatis aquila, Sphyrina zygaena. This phenomenon can most likely be attributed to a decline in their population. An important decrease in the stock of Rhinobatos rhinobatos has been noted too. To mark out the biodiversity of the Chondrichtyes in a decent way in the Eastern Mediterranean, research efforts in deep waters and continuing surveys in the framework of a programme for regional cooperation is necessary.

Lovrenc Lipej stressed that while we are aware of the population estimates of the fin whale in the Mediterranean (Notarbartolo di Sciara et al., 2003) and of the status of the monk seal, this is certainly not the case with sharks, and especially in the Adriatic Sea and the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. In the Adriatic sea, at least 28 shark species are reported to date (Bello, 1999). However, among them many are recorded very rarely and we lack any data on some species in the last fifty years. Such species were only rarely reported, since they are inhabiting deep water waters, obviously of less importance for fishermen. The rest of the Adriatic shark assemblage is represented by commercial shark species, which are heavily fished, especially Squalus acanthias, S. blainvillei, Scyliorhinus canicula, S. stellaris, Mustelus mustelus, M. asterias and M. punctulatus. Today, the most studied shark species are the last mentioned ones. The majority of works are dealing with reproductive biology (Zupanovic, 1961, Jardas, 1972), while only few works are speaking of feeding preferences of the mentioned species. Such situation is not the peculiarity of the Adriatic, but it can be stated also for the whole eastern Mediterranean.

Lovrenc Lipej indicated three main reasons for this paucity of data: a lack of financial support for projects on the biological aspects of sharks in the Adriatic, a lack of specialists, and the obvious difficulties encountered to study sharks in their environment. But without a basic knowledge on shark biology and ecology we certainly cannot asses their role in structuring biodiversity. As Alessandro De Maddalena pointed out, in the Mediterranean region, despite their being important parts of marine ecosystems, shark research is often neglected in favour of study of the more commercially important bony fishes. It is also necessary to better manage fisheries in which sharks constitute a significant bycatch. In the Mediterranean, lack of management is leading to extinction of many shark species, therefore the stability of the marine ecosystems is in serious danger. Obviously, as indicated by Ferruccio Maltagliati, different species of sharks need different protection measures, given their ecological, biological, behavioural and demographic characteristics. Unfortunately, as Alessandro De Maddalena underlined, at the present, the number of species needing some kind of protective measure is very high: Cugini & De Maddalena (2003) cited 11 shark species that need immediate protective measures (Echinorhinus brucus, Carcharias taurus, Odontaspis ferox, Carcharodon carcharias, Isurus oxyrinchus, Lamna nasus, Galeorhinus galeus, Carcharhinus plumbeus, Prionace galuca, Sphyrna zygaena, Oxynotus centrina), that is 22,4% of the 49 shark species recorded in the Mediterranean area. We must add that most of other Mediterranean shark species need also fishery regulation measures accompanied by an effective control. Alessandro De Maddalena suggested that a strong reduction of by-catch captures is the first step in conservation of Mediterranean shark populations, since species such as P. glauca and I. oxyrinchus are strongly affected by fishing for other species such as tuna and swordfish (Buencuerpo et al., 1998).

The number of papers on sharks published in recent years has grown noticeably (see for example Slovenian journal Annales, Series historia naturalis), and this is surely an excellent thing, but the works produced are mostly based on the kind of studies that a researcher can carry with its own personal resources (morphology, reproduction, distribution, etc.). Producing works on population estimates is another thing, that need other, much more expensive, methods. Alessandro De Maddalena stated that the partial lack of shark specialists is simply a result of the lack of funds. The possibilities of working on sharks in Mediterranean countries are almost inexisting. We told about a "partial lack" of shark specialists, because really we have a good number of ichthyologists working on sharks (most of them now united in the Mediterranean Shark Research Group), but even them are hardly hindered in their work because lack of funds from their Governments. Therefore Alessandro De Maddalena concluded that the main problem is to find the way to force our governments in changing their politics of fund investing in marine biological area before it is too late. Piia Tuomisto pointed out the existence of the INCO Call FP6-2004-ACC-SSA-2, Specific Support Actions (SSA) for Associated Candidate Countries, with a budget of 19.8 Million Euro, targeted at research institutes in Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.

Michael Stachowitsch considered that sea turtles are unique in that they face threats from two ecosystems, terrestrial and marine. Researches on sea turtles in Turkey showed an insidious deterioation of the situation, visibly evident in the state of the nesting beaches, for example. Despite their status as Special Protected Areas, these beaches are, from year to year, declining with respect to construction, light pollution, jetskiing, sand removal, etc. While we trying to save nesting beaches and helping help a few thousand hatchlings reach the sea hundreds of adults are being killed every year.

Bjorndal & Jackson (2003) treat hawksbills and green turtles and make reconstructions based on past and present population estimates and the ecological roles of the two species in the Caribbean. Accordingly, the removal of hawksbills (95% reduction from preexploitation levels) probably has a major effect on the balance between sponges and corals in coral reefs (hawksbills consume sponges, and sponges are main space competitors with corals). An equally convincing argument is made for the effect of removing green turtles, which once had a major impact on Caribbean sea grass beds as grazers; this role has been minimized and may explain some of the deleterious developments recently recorded in sea grass beds. If we transpose such new knowledge to the Mediterranean and include a host of other highly impacted top predators, we may get some kind of idea about the terrible, ongoing, and irreversible damage being done to the marine ecosystem and to biodiversity here.

Sawsan Hassan pointed out that the presence of predators such as marine mammals, sharks and turtles indicates a healthy and 'safely' marine ecosystem. Many exploiters see in the existence of top predators an encouraging cause for touristic investment, and ecologists suggest that the presence of these animals warrants the establishment of Marine Protected Areas.

Pimm (1986) suggests that species-rich communities are more resistant to invasions and hence invasive predators may not have apparent functional role on ecosystem dynamics. Barbault (1995) extrapolates Pimm's findings suggesting temperate biomes (with lower species richness) should be more susceptible to invasions. The ctenophore invasions occurred in the eastern Mediterranean and the Caspian Sea provides us extremely valuable information to produce theoretical generalisations on the ongoing debate. As it is known, the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi was transported via ballast waters from the northwestern Atlantic to the Black Sea where caused an unprecedented havoc in the pelagic ecosystem causing a dramatic decrease in fish catches and hence fishery economy (Kideys, 2002). During its peak periods of development, several zooplankton species noted to be either very low in abundance or even disappeared (Kideys, 2000). Although pollution (as well as eutrophication) was blamed for the disappearances, M. leidyi might have also a contribution in this event. After this ctenophore accidentally transported to the Caspian in late 1990s, its adverse impact on the biodiversity in this new environment was a clear-cut case: intense monitoring data (unpublished data of A.E. Kideys, R. Abolghaseem and S. Bagheri) revealed that during 2000 and 2001, a mere of four species belonging to copepods and cladocerans occurred in the samples compared to a total of 29 taxa in previous years! Its effect on benthic biodiversity is also unprecedented (Hashimian, unpublished data). Based on some other components too, it appears that the Caspian Sea is even much worst affected than the Black Sea. So, in this case there seems a good correlation with the species-richness and impact of the invasive top predator. The biodiversity is lower in the Caspian (542 free-living metazoan spp) compared to the Black Sea (1729 spp). Although M. leidyi was also transported to the Levantine and the Aegean Sea, no adverse effect was observed in these areas with higher species richness. Based on the eastern Mediterranean experience, however, we can suggest a new generalisation: another most important factor about the sensitivity to invasives, must be the immunity of a system. The more it is exposed to the invader, the more the system gaines immunity. With respect to Caspian, it has no connection to world oceans and hence no immunity to several marine species withstanding low salinity (14%o) which could be transported only by man.

Alenka Malej asked if biocontrol (i.e. introduction of predator of invasive organism) as a part of strategy for control of invasions of alien species can be accepted. Ahmet Kideys and Alessandro de Maddalena noted that after M. leidyi another ctenophore, Beroe ovata accidentally transported to the Black Sea, apparently from the northwest Atlantic (Bayha, 2004). The impact of this predatory ctenophore (feeding on M. leidyi) has been very positive for the Black Sea ecosystem (Kideys, 2002). Several copepod species disappeared are now again present in the samples, higher biomass of zooplankton, higher pelagic fish catches, etc. B. ovata exclusively feeds on ctenophores (the only other ctenophore species in the Black Sea is the Pleurobrachia rhodopis which is more restricted to deeper waters). In the Caspian there are no other ctenophores except M. leidyi. B. ovata was tested if it would feed on some other potential organisms which was not the case. Results show that B. ovata could be an ecosystem-saving agent in the Caspian Sea (Kideys et al. 2004) for fishery but more importantly for its valuable biodiversity (most of which are endemics) which is at risk. Anthony Moss suggested that biocontrol may be a reasonable proposal only if we can exhaustively demonstrate that the predator of choice is extremely specific in prey choice. Considering the impact of Mnemiopsis on the Black Sea and the Caspian. Anthony Moss agrees that Mnemiopsis spp. are largely responsible for a drop in biodiversity in those bodies of water, because Mnemiopsis is a particularly broad-spectrum feeder. In contrast, Beroe ovata, which has been proposed to be used as a predator for Mnemiopsis in the Caspian, indeed appears to be a monospecific feeder; it feeds only on ctenophores. However Anthony Moss also noted that larval feeding has to date been examined by only Sullivan and Gifford (2004), that observed it consumes large quantities of dinoflagellates, flagellates and ciliates, while displaying food selection behavior. Mnemiopsis, then, does more than simply preys on fish stocks, copepods and the like. In such an circumstance, Beroe, if it behaves as expected, will be expected to selectively crop the Mnemiopsis spp. while not affecting other species. In such a case, by reducing the broad spectrum feeding effect at that trophic level, biodiversity could very well be expected to increase, as long as there are embayments, deep water locations, cysts or long-lived eggs, that can recruit eventually back into their original distribution. Indiginous species, realizing less severe selection pressure, would be able to once again play their normal role. However Beroe may have sufficient plasticity in its feeding habits so that it might be able to crop at some other level in the trophic ladder. We won't know until Beroe is introduced, whether it may find alternative food once the Mnemiopsis is heavily cropped. Even so, Mnemiopsis will probably not be completely eliminated, so that Beroe should be able to maintain a population, and rapidly respond to increases in Mnemiopsis populations.

However, Ahmet Kideys sees further risk to the Caspian ecosystem extremely low. Biocontrol, including use of alien species, is a method used extensively in agriculture, but so far no example exists for the marine environment. So far hundreds species intentionally introduced to these ecosystems, and in no case, scientific background was, as well established as in B. ovata. We cannot say there is zero risk from B. ovata, but we can say that the native biodiversity (most of which are endemics) will greatly benefit from such introduction. Our scientific ethics necessitates such action to save biodiversity (as well as economical problems of the fishery sector).

Summary of discussions on Topic 1.2: Monitoring studies on marine biodiversity in the Mediterranean, with special reference to Eastern and Southern countries

Chedly RAIS

Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas, Tunesia - (

Making reference to the topic's introduction, the debate addressed the following main issues:

Do we need to standardise sampling methods, return of results (cartography, etc.)? Standardization of sampling and further procedures is important. Otherwise it is sometimes very difficult to compare results of different studies, especially for species needing special way of sampling, and could be easily missed, or their abundance could be estimated in wrong way. But standardization is a long way, especially in regions with political problems. Exchange of data (and any scientific networks and joint programmes) in such regions is also problematic. The first step could be detail description of sampling and proceeding methods.

The elaboration of sampling guidelines could help standardising the monitoring of marine biodiversity, but the reality of the field, the specific target of each study could make it very difficult, sometimes senseless, to follow the guidelines because too generalist. It is a long and hard task to produce guidelines that find the balance between general and specific needs in scientific samplings. Such guidelines for sampling methods should be at the same time sufficient clear to be a good starting point to set up a sampling protocol, but also enough flexible to adapt them to the subject of the study and to the context in which it is carried out (available resources in form of people, time, sampling tools and funds).

As it is the case in other fields in Biodiversity Information, also in Marine Biodiversity there are a lot of results/Data sleeping out there, which are not enough visible. A lot might have been partly used for scientific publications, but are not accessible in a standardized and summarized way to the decision makers to in some way prove them the value of this kind of studies for economical and social purposes, that for example the whole throphic chain matters and not just the target "commercial" species. In that way already existing data could be valorised and already spend funds justified, Information or knowledge gaps detected and submit targeted and well argumented projects to the decision makers and fund raising agencies. This would be more cost effective

It was also underlined that we should consider older data that are not taken in a "standard" way, be it for lack of resources or evolution of the techniques. While these data often prove to have a great value, it may take more efforts to validate them and make them public in a proper way.

For some participants, before harmonisation and setting up standardized methods and guidelines, we should take stock of what we have, list the species and habitats already recorded to date per country (or update existing listing); their geographical location, the bibliography dealing with the issue etc.

Gaps in Taxonomy and lack of taxonomists
The participants highlighted the importance of taxonomy. One participant suggested consulting the Case studies of Bionet-International with the topic: Why taxonomy matters (A series of case studies highlighting Taxonomy's Value to Society at

Considering that taxonomy is such a ramified science, no one country (and region) could have high-qualified taxonomists for all groups of plants and animals. Collaboration projects under certain International organizations (CIESM, FAO, WWF, UNDP, etc.) are the right way to joint efforts in strengthening our capabilities in taxonomy.

Priorities for monitoring programmes
Even if all is important, the discussion allowed highlighting some priority fields. In this context, taxonomy and mapping species and habitat distribution were felt as matter of primary priority. It was also underlined that scientific work should be done on the ground for recording the biodiversity in southern and eastern Mediterranean especially Levantine Basin. Special attention has to be paid to the role of Suez Canal and Lessepsian migration and the role of the High Dam (Asswan) and their effects on the communities of the eastern Mediterranean. The monitoring of the impact of the civil constructions on the coast and spreading of cities, tourist villages or new harbours, deserves to be addressed as priority.

Some participants stressed the need for joint, cooperative and synchronized work through well-organized projects addressing all targets of marine ecology in this area.

Considering the significant decline of biodiversity noticed in the eastern Mediterranean and the changes in the fauna and flora composition caused by the exotic species, the participants to the debate recommended to focus the scientific work on the following issues:

More visibility for the monitoring achievements and role.
There is an urgent need for a very important effort targeted at valorising research in the direction of the public opinion and the decision makers. Yet, as biodiversity has never made any factory turn, apart for a limited number of pharmaceutical compounds, focus has to be put on the 'Ecosystem' importance. As it is necessary to have healthy ecosystems for sanitary, tourist and patrimonial aspects and as there is no healthy functional ecosystem without biodiversity, this can be the way to get people convinced. In this context, marine scientists should work jointly with economists and functional ecology specialists to promote the maintenance of a certain biodiversity, otherwise they will be seen as people trying to get money for the sake of their narrow interests.

There is a need for a stronger "Mediterranean voice" advocating needs of this region. It may come from strengthening of the research component of MAP (Mediterranean Action Plan) in collaboration with the "ICES Mediterranean counterpart" CIESM.

Summary of discussions on Topic 1.3: Historical data sets and grey literature: the value of "real" data and the need for quality control

Izdihar AMMAR1 and Paolo MAGNI2

1Tishreen University; High Institute of Marine Research, Syria - ( 2Foundation IMC - International Marine Centre, Italy - (

A general consensus was reached on the importance and need of historical data sets in assessing medium- and long-term trends in marine populations and community structures and ultimately the quality of the environment. Patricia Mergen of the Belgian Biodiversity Information Facility (Belgium) stressed the importance of cooperation among specialists, as in many cases the information is spread regionally and locally. As a matter of fact, the value of similar biological and environmental data obtained across different research programmes for specific areas can be greatly increased by merging them into common data sets to determine more broadly applicable relationships or trends. At the same time, Izhihar Ammar of the Tishreen University (Syria) pointed out the lack of historical data sets which may also occur, especially in some eastern Mediterranean countries, such as Syria, where the study of marine biodiversity started relatively recently. Additional drawbacks include the fact that storage and preservation of historical information or data occur in many different ways (e.g. written archives, word, excel, access or more elaborated data basing system) and for many different purposes. Last but not least, in the southern and eastern Mediterranean basin much work and information is only available in languages other than English. Thus, setting up large and centralized databases may prove to be very time and effort consuming, often even frustrating. To cope with such difficulties, Mergen suggested an alternative solution where every local or regional institution or even an individual scientist can keep his way of working, his own database system, etc. A software is installed on top of the database which enables to give correspondences with standard data exchange schemas. A central portal uses the software and the information that has been entered. From the portal, the distributed data can be queried and shown. It is important to note that in this way the data remain with its owner.

Edward Vanden Berghe of the Flanders Marine Data and Information Centre (Belgium) indicated that the best way to integrate individual data sets in large consolidated data systems is through a system of distributed, interlinked databases. Modern technology, making use of XML over the web, has made this easily achievable. Vanden Berghe cited two major global activities which have been initiated along this line, such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF, and the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS, Also at a European scale, relevant international initiatives include the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES, and the Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning Network of Excellence (MarBEF, Finally, Paolo Magni (IMC - Oristano, Italy) mentioned the Study Group on Benthic Indicators of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO as an example of merging synoptic information on benthic faunal condition (e.g. measures of community composition) and environmental variables (e.g. sediment organic matter) from different coastal regions world-wide to look for consistent patterns of response in selected indicators (

Kerim Ben Mustapha of the Institut National des Sciences et Technologies de la Mer (Tunisia) agreed on the fact that large data bases and networks, such as ICES and MarBEF, already exist, but also affirmed that they are not accessible for southern-eastern institutions/scientists, at least for project proposals. Mergen replied that "free access to data" was indeed one of the most discussed topic in GBIF and ENBI meetings. A solution suggested at the last ENBI meeting in Prague was to give free access to data and to earn money if needed by offering services related to the data. Mergen also indicated that all the data that can be found now at are accessible and free of charge, provided that data use agreement and citation of the providers are made when the data are used.

Vladimir Vladymyrov of the IOC/UNESCO IODE Project Office highlighted that in comparison with physical and chemical data, the sources of historical biological data and the most interesting combined biological / physical / chemical data are very limited. He indicated the grey literature as a potentially important source of information, which has not been explored properly yet. As an example, he mentioned the data obtained within the Former Soviet Union in the form of so-called "preprints" and "deposited papers" that were not limited in volumes and contained often very interesting data. Some of these publications have been already lost, others are in growing danger of being lost. Vladymyrov suggested to arrange a project or a series of projects to find, collect, translate to English, digitize, and make available as soon as possible all still available publications that contain historical biological data. Ahmet Kideys of the Institute of Marine Sciences, METU (Turkey), argued that while the main problem with not publishing the data in the Former Soviet Union was the "security", in many cases in the eastern and southern countries an individual investigator wants to hide the data from others, so only he could use them. Kideys cited, as an example of a potential solution to this problem, what occurs in his country (Turkey), where the TUBITAK (Turkish Research Council) is the governing body for research and distribution of funds for this. In this case, the reports prepared at the end of any project could be requested and made available via the web sources. Kideys also acknowledged that there is a need for action from a central body to encourage research bodies in different countries to cooperate. A suggestion concerning the access to data was made at this point by Mergen who proposed that when starting projects, greater care should always be put on longer term issues, including the use of standard and compatible IT tools, to ease the work of potential partners in these kind of projects and reduce long term costs to maintain and upgrade the system and delays in the production of deliverables.

Kerim Ben Mustapha pointed out that in the list of networks and topics to be enhanced there should be not only those "a la mode" (Posidonia, exotic species, population of soft bottoms, etc.), but also indicators from the high seas and habitats off the coastline (au large), such as bancs/"sea-mountains/hills", as any disturbance of these ecosystems which should be considered as "Monument naturel" will have a strong impact on littoral ones. Maltagliati (Pisa University, Italy) asked whether we could find a link between the more classical ecological-historical data sets and DNA-based data sets, in order to obtain sound information on the recent historical aspects of the biota of a given region.

Sami Lakkis of the Lebanese University (Lebanon) and Waad Sabour (Syria) also contributed to the discussion on Topic 1.3 by responding to and commenting on the "Main lines so far" highlighted by the session's Chairs. They especially agreed on the need for integration of existing surveillance networks and parallel promotion of sub-regional initiatives. The search for means and financing necessary for this integration was considered a priority.

Vlado Malacic of the National Institute of Biology (Slovenia) argued on a better clarification of the term "real" data indicated in the Introduction to Topic 1.3. Malacic rightly pointed out a distinction between data obtained by some "hard and solid" work and data obtained "instantaneously" and in "continuous" with a high repetition rate, that are used in oceanography and meteorology, so that many phenomena occurring at different frequencies could be extracted. These are "real time" data as opposed to "near real time" data, i.e. those that are retrieved with some (fixed) delay, and still enable periodical analysis and forecast of phenomena. Malacic also introduced the concept of "reliable" data, further expanded by Vladymyrov in terms of quality assurance and quality control of biological data.

Vladimir Vladymyrov drew our attention to the quality assurance and quality control (QA & QC) of biological data. He mentioned a simple quality code system recommended by GETADE group (IOC's Group of Experts on the Technical Aspects of Data Exchange) which was used for physical, chemical and biophysical (optical and chlorophyll) data. However, this was impossible for biological data, as there were no established procedures/algorithms for such and biologists had not manage to establish any. Vladymyrov indicated that there are some guidelines for preparation and submission of biological data mostly dealing with provided metadata and data formatting, for example, ICES MDM guidelines for plankton data (, but there are apparently no guidelines for biological data QA and QC. Vladymyrov finally stressed that this problem is of great importance and special urgent efforts are needed to try to solve it.

Summary of discussions on Topic 1.4: New techniques, tools and approaches for the study of marine biodiversity on the regional (Mediterranean) scale

Lovrenc Lipej & Andreja Ramšak

National Institute of Biology, Marine Biological Station Piran, Slovenia - ( - (

Although the use of non-destructive techniques somewhere still causes some strong debate regarding biases and accuracy, no one of contributors discussed this methodology. Only two contributors have discussed the use of new techniques in vivo. Adib Saad considered the multilevel approach as the proper one, e.g. compiling classic methods and new techniques. He thinks that for the use of new techniques for studying marine biodiversity in vivo or in vitro, specialists of traditional systematics are needed, because how can an unqualified diver identify a marine organism at sight? In a reply, Lovrenc Lipej and Andreja Ramšak pointed out that only qualified, trained researchers are able to identify fishes and other organisms at sight. According to them, such techniques could give satisfactory answers on the status and diversity of infralittoral fish assemblagess. Morad Awad reported on the new technique, GIS associated with acoustic surveys. Marine GIS technology associated with recent submarine acoustic survey are essential and helpful tools, showing the distribution and conservation of several components of biodiversity, helping to identify species that should be present in the regional and local seas.

Alexis Zrimec proposed the use of biophotonics as a new approach in the biodiversity research. The mentioned approach has a potential to be closely related with the biodiversity, not only at species but also at subspecies levels.

One of the discussion points was the international standardization of sensitive analytical techniques that should be carried out to ensure their repeatability. As we stressed, standardization could be achieved more easily in coordinated collaborative projects where partners use the same methodology.

It seems that the majority of contributors are more or less favouring the multilevel approach, although that could be a very expensive job. Others are including cooperation as an important factor, which can be as much important as the use of new tools, practices and approaches. A coordinated research work in the region is perhaps a good solution. The majority of contributors are thinking in that way. Some examples of co-operations were pointed out such as network of excellence MARBEF (, where each partner offers sampling facilities to another partner in the network and the Mediterranean Shark Research Group.

Some discussion points still remain unanswered. More thoughts should be given to design concerted actions in biodiversity assessment and incorporation of new approaches such as use of non-destructive methods (e.g. SCUBA mapping) and incorporation of modern genetic methods. The study of species that are not so "funding attractive" must became more frequent, because biodiversity of those species is practically unknown. An interesting question was posted under topic 1.3 by Prof. Sami Lakkis and Dr. Waad Sabour about finding a link between classical ecological-historical datasets and DNA-based datasets in order to obtain sound information on the recent historical aspects of the biota. One of the possibilities would be the use of genetic markers for ecologically important traits through targeting of specific genes or gene families instead of using neutral markers such as microsatellites. Variations in functional regions of genes which enable species and individuals to survive in certain geographic range or niche could be more informative than neutral markers and their quantitative genetic variations could be measured directly (van Tienderen et al., 2002). This approach demands knowledge from several disciplines of biology; at first we have to find out which species and traits are ecologically important, following the identification of genes which affect particular traits, develop the markers within genes or in the regions flanking the genes.

Summary of discussions on Topic 1.5: Do we need a revision of our biodiversity research agenda?

Ferdinando BOERO

Consorzio Nazionale Interuniversitario per le Scienze del Mare; University of Lecce; Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Biologiche e Ambientali; Laboratory of Zoology and Marine Biology, Italy - (

The introduction to the session tried to highlight possible novel approaches to the study of biodiversity, giving proper value to the amount of information "hidden" in taxonomic literature. The proposal aimed at putting to-day biodiversity data (in form of species lists) into a historical framework, comparing what is being found in a given sampling session with what has been found in the past. Taxonomic papers are a treasure of information and usually refer the record of each species to a given habitat type. Of course we need to build a "taxonomy" of habitat types, and this is far from being settled at a European level. Catalogued habitat types can be either too detailed, or too general, providing a blurred picture of biodiversity at habitat level. Taking the taxonomic literature on each species, a taxonomist is able, for his own group, to build a matrix of habitat types against the list of the species recorded from each habitat type. Every time a given habitat type is sampled, we have a species list and report on what we find, but we do not care much about what we do not find. Since the greatest bulk of biodiversity is made of inconspicuous species, if is very difficult to perceive the "absence" of "tiny things". Threatened species are usually conspicuous and well known, and this probably does not reflect the extent of the biodiversity crisis.

There is a great need of finding proper ways to give value to historical data on biodiversity, so that taxonomy is not simply a tool to identify specimens.

Linking species lists to habitat types, furthermore, joins two levels of the perception of biodiversity (the third is the genetic diversity within species). A further step of the European Register of Marine Species, for instance, might be to ascribe each species to one or more habitat types and to calculate how many times each species has been recorded, so to identify more or less frequent species. This exercise might even highlight great changes in the species composition of the various habitat types, since taxonomic literature formally starts with Linnaeus.

Ahmet Kideys lamented that, besides species, also taxonomists are disappearing and that all this concern about taxonomy usually does not imply proper funding to the training and the availability of job opportunities for taxonomists. This is the main problem of the biodiversity agenda: train people that are able to recognise biodiversity at a species level and use them! This problem is being tackled by the National Science Foundation of the United States of America with the Partnership for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy, but such project has no counterpart in Europe!

Manos Koutrakis expressed disagreement in considering some species as more important than others, just because they are better known (i.e. we have historical records on them). This is another relevant part of the biodiversity research agenda: we should arrive to a satisfactory level of knowledge for all species. We cannot say that a species is not important because we do not know much about it!

Kerim Ben Mustapha lamented the difficulties in having access to international journals for publication, and also the (useless) complications of most procedures for applying to Research Project Funding. He also remarked that literature coming from countries such as Tunisia is ignored by authors of "general" reports, so that relevant data are not incorporated in papers that should cover a given aspect on a geographical scale (e. g. the status of Mediterranean sea grasses).

Jan Haspelagh, the Librarian of Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), remarked that modern librarians have the tools to dig out information even from "non conventional" sources and that there are databases devoted to solve such problem. As an example, he contributed with this list of sites:

The website to IOC's International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange. ODINAFRICA and ODINCARSA are part of this network. The websites of respectively the international, and European networks of marine information centres and experts The Open Archives Initiative community supports the establishment of open-access institutional archives, containing a wide array of scientific literature from peer-reviewed papers to reports, symposium papers, theses, etc. This harvesting tool searches 17 Open Archive collections simultaneously. A very good example of an institutional open archive at a renowned oceanographic research centre (Southampton Oceanography Centre, UK), that is highly succesfull due to the cooperation of all researchers.

F. Boero remarked that the presence of a good librarian (information specialist) is not the rule in most scientific institutions. By the way, in the catalogue of VLIZ the publications of F. Boero are 32, whereas he has 172 published papers! It is not easy to find everything! Taxonomists, however, must be aware of all taxonomic literature on their group, due to the law of priority and the Zoological Record is The tool to have access to this kind of information.

Jakov Dulcic lamented that "scientists" with low or non-existent publication scores can be consulted as "experts" to run international projects. The competence of any scientist is evident from his/her publication score, so it is our duty to publish biodiversity papers in the best journals. If this practice is not followed, any person can pretend to be a specialist and receive attention from funding agencies.

This discussion on how to publish own results went on also in other sections of the forum. Boero remarked that some countries suddenly became very represented in international journals (for instance with articles dealing with the invasion of the ctenophore Mnemiopsis in the Black Sea); he also remarked that international journals are very keen to accept contributions from countries that are not the "usual" ones, but the quality standards have to be respected. Maybe there is also a need of courses in scientific writing, so to provide the formal tools to give proper value to own work, especially in the countries that do not have a tradition of presence in international journals. Mohamed Nejmeddine Bradai summarised the outcome of the discussion with these four points:

  1. give proper importance to taxonomy, not only with kind words but also with solid facts.
  2. availability and use of historical data, which are often lacking
  3. habitat awareness, to protect biodiversity as a whole, we have to protect the natural habitats from overexploitation.
  4. For the Mediterranean and more specifically for the Eastern Basin, we have to make a joint effort to study exotic species and above all their impact on native species and total biodiversity.
A fifth point might be to give proper dignity to biodiversity literature, helping scientists to publish their results in international journals.

Almost all participants to the discussion expressed some doubts about the way scientific projects are funded, sometimes providing direct evidence of what is a "general" impression.

Summary of discussions on Topic 2.1: Endangered biodiversity and management of marine protected areas, wetlands, lagoons, estuaries and seagrass meadows

Izdihar AMMAR1, Marian-Traian GOMOIU2 and Paolo MAGNI3

1Tishreen University; High Institute of Marine Research, Syria - ( 2National Institute of Marine Geology and Ecology; Constantza Branch: 304, Romania - ( 3Foundation IMC - International Marine Centre, Italy - (

Several contributions were given to this rather broad topic. Following the Introduction by Grimes et al., Ferdinando Boero of Lecce University (Italy) started the discussion with an interesting title, "people, biodiversity and culture", and the assertion that the more we institute MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) the more we see that their presence is useless unless the people (both local and tourists) are aware of the importance of protecting biodiversity and landscapes in general. In Boero's view, locals are irritated by limits to their freedom and do not want to wait for the promised medium-long term advantages. Even when a policy of intensive use of television to promote biodiversity protection has started, like in Italy, apparently this tool reaches only those who are already sensitive to the problem. Boero indicated that we should press our governments to introduce the respect of nature as an important part of school curricula, including the proper training of teachers, so that all individuals are exposed to some sort of environmental education. Boero concluded that no policy will ever succeed if there is no culture backing it. Izdihar Ammar of the Tishreen University (Syria) replied that the scientific, economic and social characters of the MPAs are the main issues, but in any case, it is necessary to put specials laws and quality terms for every MPA. This should lead to the desired success. Ammar cited the case of Syria with the successful case study in the Ibn-Hani protected area. Conviction of the beneficiaries and strictness in respecting protection terms allowed reform to that area which has now started to show a return of a lot of species from different taxa, after it had begun to deteriorate. This reality was also acknowledged by those working in scientific research and fisheries. Ammar hopes that, in this region of the Mediterranean sea, national administrations will coordinate their actions with each other to join a net of MPAs on the bases of international laws and status. Ammar concluded with the wish that humans should stay away from these matters for some time in order to allow the marine environment to recover its health.

Morad Awad of the National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries (Egypt) affirmed that the attitudes of the non-living resources are opposite to the trends of the living resources. As an example, Awad indicated that the hydrocarbon marine exploitation, accompanied by organic and oil pollution as well as the establishment of numerous platforms and associated utility buildings, is nowadays increasing enormously in the southeastern Mediterranean waters. This is affecting directly or indirectly the living resources existing in the that region, and hence its biodiversity. Awad also mentioned the continuous development of touristic activities and the human impacts on the marine environment, with a substantial increase of domestic pollution. Awad gave further examples, such as navigation, maritime transport and the harboring facilities, that negatively affect the existing life stocks, acting against the protection and reservation of our natural resources. On the other hand, Awad acknowledged that it is impossible to defeat the promotion and development of civilization; and enhancement of human modern culture, keeping in mind the necessity of fishing as an industry and fish a popular source of human protein. A fundamental question which Awad raised was how to make the balance between these two major and contrasting attitudes. He indicated that we need extra comprehensive tools, e.g. simulation models, modern technology in marine satellite imageries, state of the art aquatic fish hybridization, excessive marine remote sensing monitoring, as well as the enhancement and promotion of human resources in a good, qualitative manner (e.g. through higher education, training, high building capacity, public awareness, etc.).

Ahmet Kideys of the Institute of Marine Sciences, METU (Turkey) indicated that setting up MPA's around the Mediterranean was a goal planned by the surrounding countries at the PAM in 1985, which established the RACSPA for that purposes (entre autre) and which ended with the SPA-biodiversity protocol of the 90's. Kideys pointed out that the number of SPA had been raised, but questioned how efficient they are in terms of conservation of biodiversity, export of productivity, public awareness and marine sciences. He concluded by saying that we can't be satisfied and that we need a monitoring/control organism in order to see how much countries are really ready to go in that direction. He believed that the lack of financial support can not be seen yet as a valid argument. Kerim Ben Mustapha of the Institut National des Sciences et Technologies de la Mer (Tunisia) agreed on the main lines discussed, but indicated that we should also take the opportunity of the protocol on PSA-biodiversity to setup MPA's in the High Seas, which are urgently needed for several reasons.

A remark was made by Glamuzina Branko of the University of Dubrovnik (Croatia) who asked: who needs protection? Branko indicated that we have to make detailed cost-benefit analysis and to involve the influence on local people's lives before we initiate the process of protection. Otherwise, it doesn't work and we have numerous examples. Speaking of the long-term benefit of developing eco-tourism and other eco-friendly activities is not enough. Branko thinks that we have to develop middle-term compensation funds for locals in order to protect and enhance their living conditions, before a positive influence of protection becomes a reality. Therefore, we have to develop this method and include it in a strategy of protected areas development. Ali Gab-Alla of the Suez Canal University (Egypt) highlighted that the Suez Canal convoy many species to the eastern Mediterranean. In addition, the High Dam effects the water quality of this basin changing the geology, hydrology, hydrography, fish communities and benthic communities also. Gab-Alla indicated that we should consider the filling operations of lagoons and lakes. These wetlands are very important areas for marine organisms to breed and spawn. They are also stop sites for migrating birds. We should study carefully these areas, which represent a route for migrating European birds. We should protect these fragile and very sensitive coastal habitats.

Ahmet Kideys asked whether the Black Sea is today one of the most seriously damaged seas in the world and added some points to the Introduction by Gomoiu relevant to the Black Sea. Kideys cited a question he was asked by a prominent marine ecologist from the eastern Mediterranean: are any fish surviving in the Black Sea? This question was a clear example of the lack of knowledge, accompanied by a negative idea that very significant negative events occurred in the Black Sea in the last decades, of scientists who have never been to this sea nor have been exposed to the publications available. Kideys indicated that we should differentiate two phenomena here: (1) The events taking place in the shallow northwestern shelf are the extreme cases and do differ significantly from the entire basin. (2) The Black Sea still provides the highest fish catch among all Mediterranean countries due to the abundance of anchovy. Kideys also cited and mentioned that recently several publications appeared in peer-viewed journals stating that the open Black Sea pelagic ecosystem has been recovering speedily. He gave the example of Turkish anchovy catches: after its fishery almost collapsed to about 50 thousand tons (from about 280 thousand tons), the average annual catch value of this fish during 1995-2001 was above 270 thousand tons! Kideys concluded his remarks by saying that if he would classify a sea being one of the most seriously damaged seas in the world, today we would put the Caspian Sea at the top.

Summary of discussions on Topic 2.2: Biodiversity conservation, impact of human activities, environmental policy and public awareness


Cyprus Wild Life Society, Cyprus - (

The introduction to the subject of biodiversity conservation in relation to human activities focused on alien species coming in through the Suez Canal. This acted as a forum for discussions on introductions and the need for more comprehensive policy decisions on the introduction of alien species in the Mediterranean. The permanence of such introductions in the Mediterranean marine environment and the futility of eradication measures were highlighted. Inevitably there was an overlap in the discussions with Topic 2.3 "Climate change and exotic/invasive species" which however did not detract in any way from the substance of the discussions - but in effect helped these in a synergistic way. The significance of alien species as the main threat to biodiversity, after habitat destruction, was highlighted in the discussions.

It was apparent from the discussions that though there was wide agreement that all man made introductions had to be controlled, irrespective of the pathways of introduction, the immigration through the Canal was contested by some participants as a special case, some arguing that this needs to be considered as a "natural process". This generated wide ranging discussions on basic issues, including the "negative and positive merits" of introductions and on the role of scientists (ethical etc) and of plate tectonics. There was also some obvious divergence of opinion on the issue, which perhaps reflects the more general lack of public awareness of the fact that the Suez Canal is man made and that it is acting as a permanent conduit for Erythrean and Indo-Pacific biota into the Mediterranean. It was put forward that Lessepsian immigrants need, inevitably, to be considered as introductions. It was also highlighted that this immigration process is ongoing and that new species are arriving in the Mediterranean Sea all the time. In the introduction it was stressed that not controlling this immigration was like "leaving the door open while closing the windows". The ecological revolution, which is obvious in the eastern basin, was highlighted and it was mentioned that this revolution is inevitably spreading to the west Mediterranean.

The possibility and feasibility of controlling the invasion, so as to stop additional species from entering the Mediterranean, by suitable salinity barriers in the Canal was proposed in the introduction to the Topic. In the discussions the causes for the increasing rate of inflow of organisms into the Mediterranean through the Canal were brought up - and the need for controlling the immigration underlined. Salinity barriers were mentioned as they are the simplest, but others may be studied.

In addition the Black Sea Red Data Book was mentioned and the need for additional marine protected areas in this sea was brought up. The need for revising this book in order to reassess the species included was pointed out. The invasions and the sources of at least some invasive species in the Black Sea, through aquaculture practices, were also mentioned, as was the special nature of this sea.

Tourism in the Mediterranean was briefly discussed with deliberations as to whether this was an opportunity for conservation or a threat to biodiversity.

The present summary may not reflect all the views expressed in the discussions as these ranged widely.

Summary of discussions on Topic 2.3: Climate change and exotic/invasive species (Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea)

Jakov DULCIC1 andTamara SHIGANOVA2

1Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries; Laboratory of Ichthyology and Coastal Fishery, Croatia - ( 2Russian Academy of Sciences; P. P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russia - (

The session was introduced by Jakov Dulcic who outlined current knowledge on changes in quantitative and qualitative composition of the Adriatic ichthyofauna and possible effects of climate changes (such as NAO variations) on such changes. Northward spreading of thermophilic species in the Adriatic and possible impact of allochtonous on the autochtonous species were also outlined. Than session was introduced by Tamara Shiganova who outlined current knowledge on the invasive species problem in Black Sea and their effect on the Black Sea ecosystem. It was stressed that the problem of invasive species in the Black Sea is a real problem for all region due to penetration many of invasive species further to the Caspian Sea and sometimes to the Baltic Sea, therefore the Black Sea became very important recipient and donor area. During last decades the great problem was created due to penetration Ponto-Caspian species from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea, lakes, reservoirs and rivers of Europe. The introduction was ended by a series of questions regarding climate change and invasive species (including Lessepisan migrants), which opened the floor for discussion.

According to the contributions posted by different colleagues we should pointed next main topics discussed: a) northward spreading of warm-water species, b) influence of new species on ecology and fisheries, c) terminology (exotic, lessepsian migrants, aliens, erythrean aliens, invasive, non-native) and d) biological invasions in Black Sea. But in general, the topic included two important problems which overlap in one hand and could be separated in two main problems for ecosystem. Therefore discussion was separated on two main problems: invasive species and climate change. The most inputs were devoted to invasive/exotic/nonindigenous species (NIS). First contributions were concern the role of climate change in penetration of species in the adjective areas (northward) (Mediterranization of the Black and Adriatic Sea, Lessepsian migrations).

Many fish species may move towards high latitudes, as the sea becomes warmer. Year-to-year changes in sea surface temperature closely related to climate fluctuations may be responsible for these longitudinal range extensions. The main problems in discussing records of southern species northwardly are probably the spareseness of the data and that many of the records, especially the old ones, are often incomplete. It is often impossible to know exactly the year of occurrence of a certain species, because authors of systematic and/or floro-faunistic works do not always state how long before publishing they collected their specimens. Similarly, findings of the adults of long-living species give no information about the exact year of settling. The main problem could be connected with no real historical series of surveys. In many surveys, the recording of a species greatly reflects the presence of a relevant specialist! However, in some areas there are many years of experience in monitoring "unusual" or "alien" species with different techniques. Many of the records are of great interest (in Adriatic for example), especially of three species: Thalassoma pavo, Sparisoma cretense and Pomatomus saltatrix, which are in great abundances moving to the northern parts of the Adriatic. Main discussion was taken in distinguishing two types of northward spreading of warm-water species in the Adriatic Sea. Several questions arised during discussion: "Could we attribute the same phenomena, e.g. northward spreading, to species such as Balistes carolinensis and Trachipterus trachypterus, as well? How many records are enough to judge whether a species is spreading versus north? Can we take into consideration as the northward migrants only species, established in the new area, such as Balistes?"

During last decades, different interesting phenomena were recorded in the northern Adriatic. One of them is certainly the "typical" northward spreading of southern species. If there is an indicator of such events, such as Balistes carolinensis, that we can take this as a fact, especially since the species is now established in this area. However, the occurrence of some deep-waters species such as Trachipterus trachypterus, could be more easily attributed to the ingression of south Adriatic waters, which is an event happening in peculiar years. During last decades, different interesting phenomena were recorded in the northern Adriatic. One of them is certainly the "typical" northward spreading of southern species. If there is an indicator of such events, such as Balistes carolinensis, that we can take this as a fact, especially since the species is now established in this area. However, the occurrence of some deep-waters species such as Trachipterus, could be more easily attributed to the ingression of south Adriatic waters, which is an event happening in peculiar years. It was also point out some evidence of very unusual records, such as the occurrence of a dozen basking sharks in the northern Adriatic Sea in 2001, but also in subsequent years. And there is also the increasing number of records even of such big animals, fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) certainly are. Obviously, temperature is the main factor (and a direct evidence of climate change), however, in the case of basking sharks and whales, probably also proper zooplankton availability could have some rule among other factors. Finally contributors agree that perhaps in this case we should speak about northward spreading only in such cases, when the newcomer really enlarged his areal and should be therefore considered as an established species. Some authors noted that spreading organisms northward probably could be explained that it is easier for euriterm species to establish in biotope with lower temperature. There are several species which were introduced and established in the Black Sea (temperate water body) from Adriatic Sea. Among them were representatives of different group benthic Cunearca cornea and small fish Gambusia affinis. Some contributions noted significant changes, in the area of southeastern Adriatic, in some ecological parameters (i.e. instead of sparids we have significant abundance of new serranids) what surely influence food web chains, as now dominance of top predators is present - as groupers (mainly Epinephelus ssp.) are. But this on the other hand creates new rich fishery resources and benefit to welfare of local people. However, the "ecological price" or influence on local fish community is not investigated. As this process is still in front of our eyes, we will have the opportunity to record these changes and later to approximate influences in upper parts of Adriatic. Then discussion was connected with the role of devoted effect of invaders on ecosystems (examples of Rhopilema nomadica, Rapana venosa, Caulerpa taxifolia, Mnemiopsis leidyi were pointed). New species in a given area are usually seen as undesired additions to some sort of ideal fauna and flors. Some cases of pests, such as Mnemiopsis, are surely a nuisance to the functioning of the ecosystem they are thrown in, and the call for controlk of ballast waters is to be carefully enforced. The introduction of species beyond their natural range is rising sharply, due to increased transport, trade, travelling, and tourism and the unprecedented accessibility of goods resulting from globalisation. These activities provides vectors and pathways for living plants, animals and biological material to cross biogeographical barriers that would usually block their way. Most alien species do not become invasive or cause problems in their new locations: many have considerable benefits to society. However, the subset of alien species that are invasive can have significant environmental, economic and public health impacts and present a significant risk of the wholesale homogenisation of ecosystems. Invasive alien species are now considered to be the second cause of global biodiversity loss after direct habitat destruction and have adverse environmental, economic and public health impacts from the local level upwards. The part of discussion was spawned by a question how to correct say: invasive, exotic or non-indigenous species and which species we can identify as invasive and which may say just alien.

At the end some priorities and actions could be propose: a) an understanding of invasion patterns: evaluations of described records, collection of specimens, field surveys, targeting habitats and areas which are most closely linked with known introduction vectors and molecular analyses, b) supporting and development management for control ballast waters and ship hulls floating in local areas, c) monitoring, modelling and predictions of the behaviour of an invasive species in recipient ecosystem and its effect on its trophic web, d) comparative analysis of the variability of species diversity, dominated species in space and time and environmental processes in the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Black Sea in the context of global climate oscillations, their effect on regional climate variations and exotic species, and e) the establishment of a philosophy of modifying policies and practices in the light of experience-the experimental approach to the implementation of policy.

Summary of discussions on Topic 2.4: Environmental variability and biodiversity predictability: data collection and ocean models - what to do?

Temel OGUZ1, Izdihar AMMAR2 and Paolo MAGNI3

1Middle East Technical University; Institute of Marine Sciences, Turkey - ( 2Tishreen University; High Institute of Marine Research, Syria - ( 3Foundation IMC - International Marine Centre, Italy - (

This topic raised a rather controversial and fast moving debate with a drastic response from Ferdinando Boero (Lecce University - Italy) to the Introduction by Oguz et al. Boero argued that ecological systems are historical and non linear and that history cannot be predicted and non linear systems are chaotic and predictions fail over the medium-long term. He asserted that when variables are more than two, the prediction is fundamentally impossible. Several examples were given to show the difficulty, if not the impossibility, to predict biodiversity such as the little success of modelling of fisheries. Boero explained that a very small event can have an impact that is disproportionate to the size of the event itself and that models are alright until a little event arrives and disrupts them. He acknowledged that we have to learn modelling, but we have also to identify proper variables to include in the model. As an example, Boero indicated that a fisheries model without larval mortality and gelatinous zooplankton outbreaks is not very informative. Boero concluded his first intervention on Topic 2.4 with the paradox on his view that, in the era of biodiversity, the people who know biodiversity are vanishing and we produce models on biodiversity without actually knowing about it. Maltagliati (Pisa University, Italy) replied and agreed with Boero's assertion that reliable previsions cannot be made on a historical scale. Maltagliati however acknowledged that, on a smaller scale, somethings can be quite reliably predicted by ecologists if you know exactly which is (are) the causative factor(s). Maltagliati suggested that maybe climate is the most important factor ruling ecosystems, but it is certainly not the only one. Climate cannot be predicted but, for instance, certain human-provoked alterations of natural systems are well known. For example, the effects that the release of a given contaminant have on organisms can be predicted. Ecotoxicologists, community ecologists and population geneticists can give great contributions to that. Maltagliati concluded wondering whether the problem is in the ecological modeling and cited what he was told by a statistician teacher that: "...all models are not realistic but somehow useful". In response, Boero stressed the fact that we are speaking of environmental variability and biodiversity predictability. He indicated that the difficulties stand with the high number of variables affecting the environment and their impact on biodiversity. Boero affirmed that the reductionistic approach of taking one variable at a time (the single contaminant) conflicts with the emerging properties of ecological systems and of complex systems in general. Boero said that it is alright to produce reductionistic models, but then we have to merge them. Otherwise we have only elegant exercises that work until one condition fails: that the rest of the system remains unvaried while we make change only one variable at a time.

Boero finally acknowledged that whereas models and predictions are not useless, we have to develop also a complementary view of how the environment works, a new natural history. In a subsequent and final message, Boero indicated that there is a great need for a new theoretical framework aimed at putting different approaches (of experimental ecologists and modellers) together but that, unfortunately, people want to continue to do what they usually do. Boero suggested that the solution is to make funds available to bridge these gaps and to force people to integrate approaches because it is rewarding from a funding point of view. Boero indicated that we usually make projects aimed at producing factual results via experimentation, but we need also projects aimed at producing conceptual results based on brain use, so to produce new hypotheses to test with experimental projects. He concluded saying that what we have to envy in physics is: theoretical physics determines the course of experimental physics. On the other hand he affirmed that our theoretical ecology cannot be purely equational, in the way theoretical physics is.

Temel Oguz generally shares Boero's opinion about predictability of ecological systems. He also believes that at the moment we are far from making real predictions in ecosystems, except maybe in some simple and observationally well-studied regions. The ecosystem models at the moment are too simplistic to identify small details of ecosystem functioning which are, on the other hand, quite important for the success of prediction. Considering the fact that after 50 years of investment in meteorology, our successful prediction capability at present is not more than 5 days. So, prediction of ecological systems is even more challenging and it is now time to face this challenge.

Summary of discussions on Topic 2.5: Regional and international cooperation and comparative situations in the Mediterranean and Black Seas

Izdihar AMMAR1, Paolo MAGNI2, Alenka MALEJ3 and Snejana MONCHEVA4

1Tishreen University; High Institute of Marine Research, Syria - ( 2Foundation IMC - International Marine Centre, Italy - ( 3National Institute of Biology, Marine Biological Station Piran, Slovenia - ( 4Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; Institute of Oceanology, Bulgaria - (

The last topic of the joint Eastern and Southern Mediterranean and the Black Sea session addressed the issue of regional and international cooperation in these two marine basins. Introducing this topic, the Chairs stressed that despite many international agreements on different aspects of ocean monitoring, research, and sustainable use and some successful regional programmes, there is a need of a concerted cross-nation effort of researchers and decision makers to improve communication and to establish concrete biodiversity research and monitoring priorities in the two regions. A series of questions were posed in particular on how to bridge north and south, east and west in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. This challenging issue stimulated a very lively discussion on the theme which continued till the end of e-conference. Oksana Tarasova from the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea against Pollution (Turkey) expressed her opinion that the legal and international frameworks are aimed at building such bridges. She explained that the Black Sea Commission, through its institutional network, is making attempts to clearly formulate the needs in scientific research aimed at reducing scientific uncertainty and on integration of new knowledge into the work program of the Commission. The Black Sea information system that is being created and is expected to be finalized in one year will give an opportunity for the Black Sea scientists. On the other side, the knowledge obtained by scientific research shall be formulated in a manner that will allow translating scientific findings in policies and actions for relevant information. She believes that the financial sources for such activities could be national, regional, international or private but clearly stated and justified research priorities will help to identify which source could be used for a specific purpose. As an example of the Commission's activity taking advantage of new electronic tools, Tarasova mentioned establishment of a zooplankton expert network of which Ahmet Kideys of the Institute of Marine Sciences, METU (Turkey), who has been working extensively on zooplankton of the Black Sea for a long time was unaware. Kideys remarked that inclusion of majority of good scientists and institutes from the region is essential for success of the programme and gave the NATO programme as positive case.

Ferdinando Boero (Lecce University - Italy) agreed with the situation depicted in the introduction about many agreements but much less integration. He went further in stating that protocols signed by authorities rarely started factual cooperation among the scientific communities. His experience when preparing a report on Mediterranean biodiversity for the Mediterranean Regional Activity Centre on Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA) indicated that there were scientists in all Mediterranean countries but the state of knowledge was sparse and there was no strategy. Boero suggested that the scientific community should identify some issues of high priority and inform decision makers that this information is most needed. As a first step, he proposed the preparation of a formal description of habitat types in the Mediterranean followed by reconstruction of their distribution; by Boero's opinion this is doable in relatively short time if proper funds become available. He also came up with the proposal that we should try to establish world-wide activities to assess marine biodiversity in a similar manner as geophysical mapping was done in the sixties during the International Geophysical Year. And finally he called for a strong theoretical effort and for building of a conceptual model regarding marine biodiversity. In reply to Boero's message, Kerim Ben Mustapha of the Institut National des Sciences et Technologies de la Mer (Tunisia) suggested to start with the "easiest" issues, i.e. each country should start by recording all the lists and bibliography related to marine biodiversity. This would give more accurate picture of the actual state and would also help to identify gaps. Kerim Ben Mustapha also advocated the need for joint field work either bilateral or multilateral/regional that would help to harmonise scientific culture among scientists from different countries. By his opinion increasing number of regional/international fora/agreements has not brought concrete cooperation of scientists from different countries on field; therefore he called for proposals for joint field campaigns focusing on biodiversity. His ideas were supported by Morad Award of the National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries (Egypt) who stressed the importance of initiating a project on sensitivity mapping covering the whole southern and eastern Mediterranean shores. This major project would be contributed and participated by all the surrounding countries, as well as by the international agencies and organizations. Furthermore, Morad Award gave the MAMA project (1st MedGOOS network project) as a good example of coordination; this project established the multi-national network with a partnership from all riparian countries and a regional platform for marine observations and forecasts. He also believes that cooperation and communication could be improved through enhancing cooperation among MAP countries and the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, by creating European/Northern/Southern Mediterranean Centres, launching technology platforms, increasing mobility and improving coordination of national and international research programmes. Ahmet Kideys underlined the importance of the NATO Science for Stability projects in the Black Sea region with very successful cooperation of scientists from riparian countries that produced hundreds of good quality publications and also helped create the environmental database for the Black Sea.

Aldo Manos of the NAGREF - Fisheries Research Institute (Greece) argued that one of the functions of marine environment research, though not the main one, is to influence policies that can correct undesirable trends which have been identified and quantified, and for which clear links have been established with specific human activities. In order to influence policy the results of research must reach decision makers in a form that are both understandable and relevant to them. He suggested that transparency has to be improved particularly between programmes since they are developed without an over-all picture of all the other relevant activities in the same field. Duplication of efforts by the same research institutions, in the same areas, and on the same subjects, is thus hard to avoid. Manos questioned whether requirement of full disclosure and exchange of information between programmes when planning and financing new research should become a routine. This would promote specialization in research and ensure that a critical mass of resources is devoted to priority subjects. He also highlighted transparency of research to the general public as a prerequisite of long-term political and financial support, therefore the provision of information to the media and NGO should become a standard feature built into research projects. MAP / MED POL views on regional cooperation on Mediterranean marine diversity monitoring were communicated by Colpan Polat Beken, MED POL programme officer (Greece). Marine biodiversity is not included in the core objectives and activities of MED POL as these issues are handled by MAP/SPA/RAC. Anyhow, Polat Beken referred to monitoring and research components of the two strategic action programmes SAP-MED and SAP-BIO. In particular, SAP-BIO programme aims to protect the biodiversity and living resources of the Mediterranean, as well as their habitats. The programme was approved recently (2003) and it defines the overall needs and gaps at the regional level. Inventorying, mapping and monitoring of Mediterranean coastal and marine biodiversity are defined as one of the top priorities of the programme. National reports provided during the preparation of the SAP-BIO commonly highlighted the need to establish regional and national monitoring programme on biodiversity and to enhance research efforts to further improve the knowledge. For a better management of the monitoring activities within the frame of MAP mandate and activities, cooperation between the regional activity centres and MED POL is essential. SAP-MED and SAP-BIO need to be interactively implemented and some of the programme objectives, for example those of monitoring, could be bilaterally checked and common technicalities and needs of information should be discovered.

Izdihar Ammar of the Tishreen University (Syria) raised the point that the lack of knowledge and absence of strategy to work jointly is a responsibility of institutional administration and not only of the researchers themselves. Many steps have been taken by the Syrian government to encourage and support scientific collaboration with other universities and scientific institutions and centres in and outside the country. In the field of marine sciences, there are now many scientific cooperation programmes between Syrian researchers and researchers from Lebanon, Egypt, Oman, Greece, Tunisia, Italy and France. The list of joint projects which are being carried out by national and non-national efforts indicates that despite limited coast and financial and other problems, Syria is putting a lot of effort into the study of the marine ecosystem; she supplemented her statements with an extensive list of publications in Arabic. Nevertheless, Ammar was not optimistic concerning the future of marine biodiversity and called for action by competent authorities. In reply to her message, Boero stated that the long list of contributions on Syrian biodiversity is not available to most people. The documents in Arabic are not understandable by most of the scientific community, and the contributions to CIESM and SIBM societies are available only to those who attend the congress and to the associates of the society. He believes that very important information is published in a way that is not easy to find. In contrast to Boero, Kerim Ben Mustapha understood Ammar's pessimism, which, he believes, can be linked to the lack of involvement of the scientific communities in thinking globally. He also argued that the SPA & BD protocol of the Barcelona convention, which rules the implementation of MPA in high seas and countries bordering waters (SPAMI), should be better explored as a tool for multilateral cooperation. Further to this, Amir Ibrahim of the Tishreen University (Syria) suggested joint research projects carried out under the umbrella of the regional organization and authorities are the direct and most effective way of cooperation. In reply to Ibrahim's message, Kideys invited Ibrahim and his colleagues to the Middle East Technical University, Erdemli in Turkey, to discuss bilateral cooperation.

Summary of discussions on Topic 3.1: From taxonomy to patterns and processes - the problem of "classical taxonomist guild extinction" and the need to develop advance biodiversity research in the Black Sea


Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; Institute of Oceanology, Bulgaria - (

In the introduction to the session the view that rethinking and reconsidering the strategy of capacity building and biodiversity research in the Black Sea is the stairway to understand the patterns, processes, and consequences of changing marine biological diversity was expressed, formulating a number of questions to discuss alternatives in facing "graying taxonomist" crisis in the Black Sea, the need of new generation of systematists, understanding the dimension of biodiversity, progress in sampling and sensing instrumentation, experimental techniques and molecular genetic methods, predictive models. Are we doing enough for promoting the research results among the global scientific community, where are we on the way of developing Computer-Aided Identification (CAI) and data-basing Biological informatics in the Black Sea were part of the themes to streamline discussion.

The session received a response by 10 participants and among all taxonomy emerged as one of the core discussion topic in three major aspects - causes of decline of systematic studies, the need of new generation of taxonomists and possible solutions.

"The death of taxonomy" was related to competition (Ferdinando Boero) -competition for projects (e.g. money to fuel research) and carrier building. The "paradox that taxonomists are becoming extinct in the era of biodiversity" was linked to misuse of biodiversity, substituting the role of taxonomy in studding biodiversity. The fact that it takes a long-time to train a decent taxonomist, and the difficulties to publish papers on taxonomy in high impact factor journals was specifically underlined as one of the key reasons making taxonomy less attractive. The possible solution given was to follow the practice in United States - promoting taxonomy with special projects aimed at training taxonomists that are both molecular and traditional. Biodiversity money is to be labeled taxonomy explicitly and the selection of partners in networks should be based on relevant expertise. The appeal for larger support for training marine taxonomists - the 'old-fashioned' and the 'new-fashioned' ways together was supported by Bella Galil, stressing that MARBENA could help in this mission.

Ferruccio Maltagliati opposed that funding for taxonomy and crisis of taxonomists are two separate problems, the latter one related more to the choice of research fields by young researchers rather than funding for taxonomic research. New-fashioned taxonomists (sensu Boero and Galil) could (better, should) be involved in biodiversity conservation programs at equal bases. The low rank of taxonomic studies was associated in a way to the low competitiveness due to lack of flexibility of those involved in the policy of science. The result is that young people are not attracted by taxonomy because those who compel it are not powerful enough to warrant a perspective future. It was emphasized that scientific community needs taxonomists, but dealing with a sub sub sub species only is not enough to explain ecosytem functioning (one may call this reductionism Donatella Del Piero -about taxonomists). The existing confusion in taxonomic nomenclature and the need of updated inventory and revision was strongly underlined. Violeta Velikova pointed out the lack of contemporary identification books and modern manual for the Black Sea phytoplankton based on both LM and SEM to fill in the gaps of knowledge especially regarding taxonomy of small flagellates, which bloom so often, being so diverse and so "wonderfully unknown" , including all the difficult for identification naked dinoflagellates (for example genus Karenia, Takayama, Karlodinium have not yet "arrived" to the Black Sea inventory) together with a number of misidentified or unknown species.. The lack of interest to taxonomic research was again stressed as the most serious problem in the Black Sea region. The need of national programmes, that may allow scientists to devote time and money for species identification as well as the study of rare species (the problem of time-scales) in order to understand the ecosystem performance were advocated in particular. Kerim Ben Mustapha shared the difficulties the Black Sea and the south-eastern Med countries experience in publishing papers in specified high ranked journals, based on less advanced methods ("while I have problems in identifying the different categories of sponges cells, colleagues are able to follow larval stages and integrate their findings in phylogenic-taxonomic papers; not to speak about biochemical/gentic patterns...and so on"). A possible solution to overcome the lack of proper equipment and expertise was found in international collaboration (Bryozoans -with the support of Prof. Cocito, Italy; Ascidians - with the support of Prof. Ramos from Alicante, Spain, etc.).

Valentina Todorova promote further the discussion on systematic research, taxonomic competence and collaboration. Within the UNDP-GEF Black Sea Ecosystem Recovery Project (BSERP) a joint Research Cruise aimed at assessing the benthic diversity and recent ecological status in the North-western Black Sea area was an excellent opportunity for an international team of scientists from Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine to harmonize sampling and processing procedures but also to compare taxonomic expertise while identifying species onboard. The first results reported manifested that each of the teams had identified different number of species despite the equal sampling effort and harmonized procedures. It was clearly evident that a taxonomic revision of the fauna in the Black Sea was needed calling imperatively on raising the standard of taxonomic competence in order to produce comparable results and consistent conclusions. Inter-laboratory training, exercises and testing was suggested as a powerful mechanism to increase the quality and precision of taxonomic identification.

Dragos Micu (a young scientist) gave a strong support to taxonomy raising the point of preserving and building on the wealth of taxonomic knowledge accumulated by our predecessors. The setting of several taxonomically oriented databases (CLEMAM, ERMS, etc.) undertaken during the last 10 years was given as a good example as an excellent basis for regional and international scientific communication and cooperation. Again it was underlined that the taxonomy of Black sea biota is more or less in a state of "chaos". The published work "Annotated Checklist of the Marine Mollusca from the Romanian Black Sea" was suggested as a good initiative to follow with other phyla as well.

The persistence of a "taxonomical iron curtain" between Russian scientists and the rest Black Sea taxonomists was viewed as one of the main difficulties on the way to taxonomic unification while communication and scientific networking at basin-wide scale - one of the best solutions. Two important issues were also advocated - the proper selection of experts responsible to communicate results and acting as policy-maker's advisers ("bad information is worse than no information") and making research results available to the scientific community - considered at least as important as the quality of the work itself. Publishing in national journals in English was envisaged as an alternative. The voice of another young scientist, Luydmila Kamburska was also in full support of traditional taxonomy giving at least a breath of hope for the future of systematics ('still the science is a passion, and taxonomy is a challenge"). Although difficult to be an expert in both traditional and "modern" taxonomy, young scientists willing to study taxonomy and go deeply with the ecological meaning of that are already prepared for the long way to go -first to get the taxonomic knowledge and then trying with computers and modeling.

A social anthropologist, Ivelina Moncheva gave a little bit different flavor to join efforts - to follow the historical experience in ancient culture (from chronology to synchronicity). A chronic of abrupt biodiversity changes existing within the same time-frame (data matrix), might help elucidating similarity (synchrony) between different geographical locations and basins. Thus similar questions and problems could be identified that will help scientists to look for general patterns, common answers and forecast.

Dragos Micu proposed a generalization as a Black Sea "to do" list:

I personally fully agree that taxonomy is in need of recognition from the funding agencies, but I am also in favor of what we call "scientific initiative" or "scientific dedication" in order to be part of the solution. And I am extremely happy to hear the voices of young scientists advocating this, and still rather disappointed from the limited participation by the Black Sea scientists. May be the establishment of Regional taxonomic centres could help to concentrate the available potential as an appropriate tool to promote the systematic research in the Black Sea riparian countries at relatively low cost.

Summary of discussions on Topic 3.2: Microbiota, deep sea biodiversity and unexploited habitats - the neglected biodiversity


University of Trieste; Marine Biology Laboratory, Italy - (

One of the most noticeable results of this topic discussion is that we are still far away from a general consensus on the importance of the smallest biological components in controlling the whole marine system. This topic indeed obtained only few reactions (by Khatuna Akhalaia, Snejana Moncheva, Lyubomir Dimitrov&Valentina Doncheva and Valentina Turk) compared to some others devoted to taxonomy or top predator management. Mediterranean scientists are still more involved in the visible world than in its microbiology or biochemical pathways. This lack of interest (or expertise) builds up one of the largest scientific gaps in the Mediterranean area compared to what is going on in other European scientific communities, not to mention the USA. Marine biologists (or better marine ecologists) should know the role of microbial world since the beginning of their career, and "Microbial ecology" has to become one of the main courses of the second level degree in Marine Biology. We are still too few in each of our Mediterranean countries (if any in some of them) to force people at the large to think also to the invisible world in the ocean. It still difficult to think at the ocean because our lack of the third dimension, usually common people experience the ocean from the shore or (few) from a boat, which means the very narrow coastal system (where they can appreciate seaweeds, macroalgae, crabs, shells, etc.) or the ocean surface (where they can see fish or dolphins). It is very difficult for them to think at other bacteria than pathogens and usually they simply do not know how many "good" bacteria the ocean can host. It is the duty of marine scientists to introduce at every level this basic knowledge to improve our efforts in maintaining high marine biodiversity also in the prokaryotic realm, which is the most important one in controlling the general health of the marine ecosystem.

Summary of discussions on Topic 3.3: In search of pressure-state-response biodiversity indicators: extending science to policy

Christos Arvanitidis1 and Valentina Todorova2

1 Hellenic Centre of Marine Research; Environmental Technology and Management Group, Greece - ( 2Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; Institute of Oceanology; Marine Biology and Ecology, Bulgaria - (

Almost three weeks after the start of the seventh MARBENA e-Conference obviously there was some weariness in the participants to which I render the small number of contributions received in response to topic 3.3.

Dr. Maria Ketsetzopoulou provided very useful comment on the importance of communication between scientists and politicians. She discussed about the environmental consequences of economic growth and about the importance of sustainable development. There is a broad consensus that development has an economic, a social and an environmental dimension and will only be sustainable if there is a balance between the different factors that contribute to the overall quality of life. According the related EC documents, all policies must have sustainable development as their core objective. A sustainable development strategy should be a catalyst for the policy- makers and public opinion in the coming years and become a driving force for institutional reforms and for changes in corporate and consumer behaviour. Policy should focus on steady long-term management strategy which allows business and individuals to plan better and adjust gradually, thereby greatly reducing the costs of change. Systematic dialogue with representatives of consumers, whose interests are often overlooked, should improve the quality of regulation and accelerate its implementation. Sustainable development calls for sweeping economic reform to create new markets and 'get prices right', for example, by ensuring that prices paid for goods and services include the costs of damage caused by pollution. In this way, markets will stimulate companies and consumers to take better account of the effects of their behaviour. Science and research also have a central role to play in guiding political decisions. To assess progress toward these objectives, they need to be supplemented by a set of accurate indicators, measuring sustainable development at an aggregate level the economic, environmental and social changes. Finally, as the success of any sustainable development depends on changes in people's behaviour, governments must do more to educate ad inform business and citizens. All these presuppose at least three successive steps of a common algorithm: support of research progress, interactive socio-economic environmental scientific options, translated into appropriate management tools. The critical point in this cycle is the close interaction between researchers and decision-makers, both still in need of continuous learning how to communicate and work together. Thus joint training and workshops involving scientists and stakeholders might prove efficient.

Christos Arvanitidis responded to the above with the suggestion that one potential step forward to break the ice between science and policy is the valuation of the Marine Biodiversity. This can be achieved by implementing either monetary or non monetary values to all goods and services provided by the Marine Ecosystems. Valuation of the Marine Biodiversity is the main focus of the Theme 3 of the MarBEF Network of Excellence. Yet, it is at least encouraging to know that the algorithm has been already initiated.

Ferdinando Boero opposed that ecological economics is not a satisfactory approach because it is morally wrong to valuate people's life against economic profit. "What is the value of YOUR life?" he provoked. In the era of political correctedness, the life of a person should have the same value throughout the world. However, it is a common practice countries from the so called "first world" to settle their most polluting enterprises in "emerging" countries, since the price they should pay for environmental accidents (including the death of people) is much lower. He warned that we should not rely on lawyers and accountants to solve the environment related issues or we will be in trouble.

Kerim Ben Mustapha suggested some relevant references, which reflect on how to give an economical value to the "indirect" natural ecosytem functioning: World watch institue reports : "State of the earth 1997; 1998 ", L. Brown, 2003, and "adbusters" magazine of 1997 and 1998.

In further input Ferdinando Boero reminded that giving a monetary evaluation to the "goods and services" that biodiversity is providing us is very risky, because often pollution is economically convenient. He gave his preference of ecological ethics to ecological economics approach, despite his agreement that nowerdays money is the value of everything, including our lifes.

Ferruccio Maltagliati's view of economic ecology was not so pessimistic. In his opinion ecologists can fight the dangerous contradictions between ecology and economy by providing sound ecological ethics to economists.

The relevance of indicators as communication tools between science and policy was highlighted by Kremena Stefanova who commented that indicators synthesize complex data into integrated surrogates that are understandable to management and more applicable in environmental policy and decision making. She considered that a great variety of indices of species diversity exist that are useful as ecological state indicators but these are usually not sensitive in distinguishing the impact on diversity of different environmental pressures. I would emphasize on the continued need for further standardization of diversity indices and quality assurance of data.

In addition to indices I would suggest that full species lists are very appropriate indicator for assessment of marine diversity of certain marine areas, habitats, etc. For the conservation of marine communities a full community analysis has to be done. Focusing on sensitive species might be given priority. I want to stress the importance of adequate taxonomic determination, hence taxonomic revision, harmonization and expertise enhancement within the Black Sea and between Black Sea and other European seas is recommended in such a way that neighboring countries identify down to the same taxonomic levels according to the same taxonomic standard.

Common discussion and synthesis - Summary

Paolo Magni1, Alenka Malej2, Snejana Moncheva3

1Foundation IMC - International Marine Centre, Italy - ( 2National Institute of Biology, Marine Biological Station Piran, Slovenia - ( 3Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; Institute of Oceanology, Bulgaria - (

During the common discussion an outline of the main issues addressed during the Conference was introduced by the MARBENA7 organisers, formulating the main challenges in future perspective "What directions do we have to take further? Which research questions to put on the top of the priority list? How could we enhance co-operation among countries within the Mediterranean and Black sea regions and co-operation with EU? Which financial and policy instruments could be used to promote this co-operation?".

Christos Arvanitidis stressed the need to focus on the main gaps that emerge from the discussions and provided a very comprehensive "what to do" shopping list to serve as a guideline for the future activities:

Amir Ibrahim elaborated further on the data-base development and regional collaboration. Taking into account the wide cultural and language diversity in the Mediterranean basin and the great number of publications in native languages, he suggested to include in the data-base a list of published papers with extended abstracts in English in order to make them available to a wider scientific community and readers. This activity has been already initiated at Tishreen University in Syria and in the near future all the information will be placed on a specially designed web site devoted to marine science. In addition due to the diversity of political status (some Mediterranean countries being EC members are obliged to strictly follow the European legislations approaching specific environmental issues, such as bathing water criteria for example, while others are not) the harmonization of environmental legislation is seen as a crucial step towards effective regional cooperation.

Ferdinando Boero extended the discussion from "what to do" to "how to do it". Among the two options - a top down attitude or a bottom up approach he gave preference to the second one, considering the forum to be the first step. He emphasized that English is the language of science and strongly supported the idea of translating non-English papers. The Mediterranean, furthermore, is a mini-ocean and is a model of what will happen in the future to the rest of the world ocean. It is the best European sea for this purpose, since it has a very high biodiversity and is going through the greatest biogeographic event in the recent times: the entrance of tropical species through the Suez Canal. The other issue he stressed is predictability, which should be added to the list of future perspectives. The main concern is that the paucity of variables is conducive making predictability more feasible in simple systems, with a low number of variables. The problem is that Mediterranean science is more descriptive than predictive, compared to some other seas. The second concern is related to the applicability of models developed in other basins - is a Baltic model applicable to the Mediterranean? The possible solution could be to have "northern" scientists coming down to the Med and perform some Mediterranean ecology, leaving the inter-tidal aside. And the third concern expressed is that the habitat directive seems to have left Mediterranean marine biodiversity aside. Can we do something to give the Mediterranean the importance it deserves?

Morad Awad gave his full support to the enhancement of cooperation between Mediterranean countries in general and between its Northern and Southern borders in particular.

Kerim Ben Mustapha suggested that a possible way of attracting students to work on taxonomy is to link taxonomic studies to "attractive" projects and programs that are of high potential to raise money from politicians (ex MPA). SPA (SPAMI) has been foreseen to play an important role in strengthening regional cooperation as a high priority issue for the progress of biodiversity studies and conservation. Rather than focusing on old literature, an inventory of biodiversity by each country, following a common format will help better the setting of regional data-base and assist attracting money from EU projects; GEF; CBD; foundations etc.

In support of this, Ahmet Kideys reminded that EU has already opened a special call for Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria which could be extended to include other countries in the Black Sea and eastern (and southern) Mediterranean to enlarge cooperation. In addition, bilateral agreements between research organizations might prove very useful, advocated by the results achieved within a number of joint research projects between Ukraine and Turkey. A Georgian NGO representative, Khatuna Akhalaia appealed for improved information flow and increased public awareness on environmental problems, reporting the approach of the Association 'Colchis Medea' for Atlantic, Colchis sturgeon protection.

Snejana Moncheva summarized that we need SMART scientific objectives - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Resoursed and Time foreseenable that we have to go for, based on WISDOM - Will (scientific and political), Insight (thorough knowledge), Social perception in order to Develop Options for Management (sustainable) the marine environment And biodiversity protection.

Practical organisation and statistics

Edward Vanden Berghe

Flanders Marine Data and Information Centre. Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ). Vismijn, Pakhuizen 45-52, B-8400 Ostend, Belgium - (

The conference was organized as a moderated bulletin board. Both the introduction to the themes and topics, and summaries of the discussions, were available on the Internet, ( Contributions to the conference were posted through a form on the web site.

A total of 13 topics, split up into three sessions, were discussed in three weeks ( This conference was multilingual. The introductions were posted in the following languages:

For practical reasons, only English and French messages were accepted to be posted on the forum. French and Arabic messages were translated/summarised into English. No contributions in Russian were sent.

The co-chairs were responsible to open the discussion by making their opening statements and to follow up the discussion. They were also responsible to provide a general summary and synthesis of the discussions.

The basic flow of information of the conference was through the WWW. This was done to stimulate 'external' parties to participate in the discussion. To make sure the conference was widely known, mailing lists of several organizations and activities were used to invite all interested parties to register. Access to the general pages of the conference, and to the summaries, is open to everyone. To be able to post messages and also to view posted messages, registration through a form on the web site was necessary. The requests for registration were handled individually; applicants were informed of successful registration in an e-mail. Once registered, access to the forum was possible by logging-in with user-defined username. The obliged login username aids in referring to the authors' details by linking to IMIS (Integrated Marine Information System), and in addition enables us to score participation during the course of the conference.

Registered participants: 1250
Number of countries: 46
Participants requesting summaries through e-mail: 322
Numbers of addresses on the general circulation list: 2878
Number of messages: 256
Number of contributors: 68
Number of contributing policy makers: 5
Number of contributing NGO's: 6

Hits on marbena web site: 41,723 (from 15 Augustus to 15 October 2004)
Hits on /cgi-bin/marbena.exe: 15,398
Hits on /marbena: 26,325 or 5,401 html pages
Total number of pages requested: 20,799

General coordination: Carlo Heip ,Herman Hummel and Pim van Avesaath
Web site and conference hosted by VLIZ