WP2 - Mapping of habitats, human impacts and ecosystem services

Work Package (WP 2) "Mapping of habitats, human impacts and ecosystem services" has strengthened the knowledge on deep-sea processes related to the themes indicated in the title; this was realised through a multidisciplinary approach, deeply integrating the geological, biological and oceanographic components, and trough coordinated activities in the study areas; the aim was to gain a systemic view of the deep marine environment, poorly known but very widespread. The main scientific results are:

A1 - Development of integrated analysis of geo-bio-oceanographic data for habitat mapping

Habitat maps at the regional scale (areas of the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic) have been produced, essentially based on data collected in other projects; conversely a local scale multidisciplinary studies have been conducted, aimed at mapping benthic communities in the upper reaches of the Gioia and Bari canyons and in areas of fluid emission (offshore Zannone and on Hyblean-Maltese escarpment) with a collection of original data and integrated research between research groups.

Multidisciplinary study of the Zannone giant pockmark and surrounding areas (Tyrrhenian Sea). The seafloor of the areas affected by fluid emissions is characterized by pockmarks, bacterial mats authigenic crusts and mounds

Multidisciplinary study of the Bari Canyon (Adriatic Sea) with definition of benthic habitats

A2 - Input, transfer and distribution processes of contaminants and their effects on deep sea ecosystems

By sampling and analysing organic and inorganic contaminants in the areas of Taranto, Milazzo, Catania, Sicily Channel, GioiaTauro, Augusta, Cagliari, a study of contaminant transport mechanisms, conditioned by seafloor morphologies and sedimentary/oceanographic processes, was realised. For instance it was experimentally computed the Hg flow from Augusta harbour (one of the areas most severely impacted by human activities) to the deep Ionian basin. Finally, a geochemical characterization of hydrothermal emissions offshore of Vatican Cape and the emissions monitoring of some volcanic seamounts in the South Tyrrhenian was realised.

Bathymetry and seafloor sampling of the Milazzo Canyon (Tyrrhenian Sea). Organic and inorganic trend of contaminants from the coastline to the offshore area (grabs). Vertical profile of the contaminants in box-corer sediments

Sampling of sediment and water (box-corer) off the Augusta Bay (Ionian Sea). HgT in depth profile of the on-shore sediments indicate Hg values above the ICRAM, ERL and ERM limits (0.15 ppm and 0.7 ppm); whereas off-shore sediments are contaminated in the upper 0-5 cm, with values that are above the background level of Mediterranean sediments (0.035 ppm, Di Leonardo et al., 2006). The August Bay is a point source of HgT to the Mediterranean basin with a release of 2.16 kmol of Hg /yr

A3 - Evaluation of deep sea ecosystem services and their possible decline due to of man-induced and natural environmental changes

The action is aimed at defining the ecosystem services (functions essential to maintaining resources and environments of socio-economic interest) of deep sea habitats and to highlight the relevance of the deep Mediterranean marine environment. In the Bari canyon, main study area for this action, a study of biodiversity has been realised with the identification of bento-pelagic species of economic interest and new bento-pelagic and benthic species. Always on the Puglia continental margin, the study of cold-water corals associations has been deepened, being the latter ecosystems of enormous value and hotspots of biodiversity in the deep.

Benthopelagic species identified in the Bari Canyon (Adriatic Sea) by the MEMO lander

Benthic and benthopelagic assemblages identified in the Bari Canyon and in the cold water coral province of S. Maria di Leuca

A4 - Interactions between bottom currents and specific topographic features and effects on the seabed

The study of the interaction between current and seabed morphologies was carried out in the Gioia canyon; here the erosive-depositional features related to oceanographic processes were analysed, that drive the dynamics up to he genesis of the canyon. The oceanographic processes in the Bari Canyon and in the Messina Strait were studied, where dune fields are present, generated by bottom current and possibly by internal waves. A simulation was carried out of the circulation of the Adriatic Sea in 2012 during a particularly relevant event of formation of cold waters feeding the deep basin of the Eastern Mediterranean; the study of the deep circulation of the Tyrrhenian Sea from measurements acquired from deep sea mooring and pre-existing data was also realised.

Upper panel, hydrologic and current meter data of the area between the Gioia and Mesima canyons. The sections show salinity, potential temperature, current cross-section (positive = toward the section) and the current along-section (positive values = toward the sea), beam attenuation [1/m], potential temperature vs salinity. Lower panel, oceanographic condition in the Adriatic Sea during 23/03/2012 at 6 pm. On the left, the isopicnal surface of 29.4 and the marked flow descending along the upper slope in the “Gondola” area; on the right, a blow up of the off-shelf cascading