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Citizen science: a successful tool for monitoring biodiversity in Marine Protected Areas

  • Autori: Mioni Erika; Merlino Silvia; Mannino Anna Maria
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2018
  • Tipologia: Abstract in atti di convegno pubblicato in volume
  • OA Link:


In the last few decades, anthopogenic activities, introduction of Non-Indigenous Species (NIS, i.e. organisms introduced outside of their natural range), and climate changes, have significantly affected Mediterranean marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (Coll et al., 2010). All that is also true for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), whose major aim is biodiversity conservation. Therefore, monitoring and surveillance plans are strongly needed, and the creation of public awareness campaigns might be effective tool to plan effective management and conservation strategies in MPAs. Since intensive monitoring programs could be very expensive, citizen science, the involvement of citizens in science (including conservation, natural resource and environment), could be a useful tool for gathering data in monitoring plan that would otherwise be impossible to collect because of limitations on time and resources (Tulloch et al., 2013). Therefore, citizen science may have management, awareness, education and scientific implications. We report the experience of two citizen science projects carried out in MPAs. Precisely, the project “Blue Paths” and the project “Caulerpa cylindracea – Egadi Islands”. “Blue Paths”, promoted and ideated by the Unified School District ISA 2 “2 Giugno” of La Spezia, with the partnership of Marine Parks and Research Centers (CNR-ISMAR and DLTM) aimed at: 1) monitoring the coastal flora and fauna in selected MPAs within the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Sea, and 2) promoting a scientific literacy in marine science through the direct involvement of citizens. Researchers, teachers and volunteers worked together to help school students in the identification of the organisms collected during visual census activities. In addition to the high educational value (Mioni et al., 2016), the project had significant scientific fallouts. In particular, a 5 years campaign (May 2014-May 2018) carried out at Pianosa Island, in the National Park of Tuscan Archipelago, allowed to record both time series of data and the presence of the NIS Aplysia dactylomela, a yellowish-brownish opistobranch with black rings that make it easily identifiable (Mioni et al., 2018). The project “Caulerpa cylindracea – Egadi Islands”, sponsored by the STEBICEF Department of the University of Palermo and by the Egadi Islands MPA, aimed at monitoring the spread dynamics of the “sea grape” C. cylindracea within the Egadi Islands MPA. The project, registering 156 sightings, allowed to gather information on the behaviour strategies of this alga but also on other NIS (Mannino, Balistreri, 2018). It also allowed to highlight as the presence of C. cylindracea, favoured the settlement of another NIS, the tube-building sabellid Branchiomma bairdi. In June 2017, another citizen science project “Aliens in the sea”, also sponsored by the STEBICEF Department and aiming at collecting data on 19 marine NIS (vegetal and animal) along the Sicilian coasts, was launched. Citizen science is a rigorous process, indistinguishable from conventional science apart from the participation of volunteers. When properly designed, carried out, and evaluated, citizen science can efficiently generate high-quality data, and help solve problems.