Assessing ecosystem services in the Mediterranean Large Marine Ecosystem
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO is working together with the University of Brest to assess the ecosystem services provided by cetaceans (i.e. whales and dolphins) in the Mediterranean Large Marine Ecosystem. The activities are undertaken in the context of ECOPOTENTIAL, a project funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 initiative.
Cetaceans are widely present in the Mediterranean Sea, and are known to contribute significantly to tourism, directly through whale and dolphin watching tourism, and indirectly when coastal visitors see them. Most Mediterranean cetaceans live within areas of significant importance for biodiversity and fisheries management, such as marine protected areas or national parks. Despite their high existence value, these cetaceans are under threat from human activities and environmental problems, from collisions with shipping vessels to overfishing and microplastic pollution.
IOC activities during the ECOPOTENTIAL project will focus on using earth observations along with in situ data, and information provided through IOC’s Ocean Biogeographic Information System, to assess the state of whale-watching tourism in the Mediterranean. Three major types of variables will be assessed: the state of the cetacean population in the Mediterranean; the major human and ecological drivers of change in their population density (i.e. impacts of fishing, sea surface temperature changes); and the benefits provided to the local human population, like benefits from tourism and whale watching activities.
The project will also develop communication and dissemination tools to both engage communities through citizen science and educational activities, and to communicate the importance of earth observation and data for the management of marine protected areas.
A large EU Horizon 2020 project, ECOPOTENTIAL blends earth observations, data analysis and modelling tools to provide nature-based ecosystem management solutions for internationally recognised Protected Areas. ECOPOTENTIAL assessments of protected areas consider cross-scale geosphere-biosphere interactions at both regional and continental scales, addressing long-term and large-scale environmental and ecological challenges. The first ECOPOTENTIAL General Assembly was held in Texel (The Netherlands) on 27-29 June 2016.
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