The Mediterranean Sea’s biodiversity and ecosystems face many threats due to anthropogenic factors. Some of these include high human population growth, coastal urbanization, accelerated human activities and climate change. To enhance the formation of a science-based system of marine protected areas in the Mediterranean Sea, data on the spatial distribution of ecological features (abiotic variables, species, communities, habitats and ecosystems) is required to inform conservation scientists and planners. However, the spatial data required is often lacking. In this review, we aim to address the status of our knowledge for three major types of spatial information: bathymetry, classification of marine habitats and species distributions. To exemplify the data gaps and the approaches to bridge them, we examine case studies that systematically prioritize conservation in the Mediterranean Sea. We found that the availability and spatial resolution of information required for setting conservation goals largely varies among and within the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, with more and better quality data often available for the European countries located in the western Mediterranean Sea. Additionally, the Mediterranean Sea is lagging behind other marine regions where conservation planning adopting rigorous criteria has been applied in the past 20 years. Therefore, we call upon scientists, governments and international governmental and non-governmental conservation organizations to harmonize current approaches in marine mapping and to develop a framework applicable throughout the Mediterranean region before more countries undertake further extensive habitat mapping, so that future conservation planning can use integrated spatial data sets.
Journal review article
Marine Ecology - Progress Series, 2014, Vol 205, p. 261-281