CIGESMED for divers: Establishing a citizen science initiative for the mapping and monitoring of coralligenous assemblages in the Mediterranean Sea

Abstract : Background Over the last decade, inventorying and monitoring of marine biodiversity has significantly benefited from the active engagement of volunteers. Although several Citizen Science projects concern tropical reef ecosystems worldwide, none of the existing initiatives has yet specifically focused on their Mediterranean equivalents. Mediterranean coralline reefs, known as “coralligenous”, are bioherms primarily built by calcifying rhodophytes on hard substrates under dim-light conditions; they are considered hotspots of biodiversity and are extremely popular among divers due to their complex structure, conspicuous biological wealth and high aesthetic value. Nevertheless, data on their distribution, structure and conservation status is lacking for several Mediterranean areas while they are vulnerable to an increasing number of threats. New information In the framework of CIGESMED SeasEra (ERAnet) project a specialized Citizen Science project was launched, aiming to engage enthusiast divers in the study and monitoring of Mediterranean coralligenous assemblages through the gathering of basic information regarding their spatial occurrence, assemblage structure and associated pressures or threats. For its active implementation, a data collection protocol and a multilingual website were developed, comprising an educational module and a data submission platform. Georeferenced data reporting focuses on: (a) basic topographic and abiotic features for the preliminary description of each site, and the creation of data series for sites receiving multiple visits; (b) presence and relative abundance of typical conspicuous species, as well as (c) existence of pressures and imminent threats, for the characterization and assessment of coralligenous assemblages. A variety of tools is provided to facilitate end users, while divers have the choice to report additional information and are encouraged to upload their photographs. The long-term goal is the development of an active community of amateur observers providing widespread and ecologically significant data on coralligenous assemblages.
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Vasilis Gerovasileiou, Thanos Dailianis, Emmanouela Panteri, Nikitas Michalakis, Giulia Gatti, et al.. CIGESMED for divers: Establishing a citizen science initiative for the mapping and monitoring of coralligenous assemblages in the Mediterranean Sea. Biodiversity Data Journal, Pensoft, 2016, 54 (e8692), ⟨http://bdj.pensoft.net/⟩. ⟨10.3897/BDJ.4.e8692⟩. ⟨hal-01392025⟩

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