Report | March 15, 2019

Guidelines for inventoring and monitoring of dark habitats in the Mediterranean Sea

Dark habitats are distributed throughout the Mediterranean basin from the sea surface (i.e. caves) to the deep-sea realm. Various habitats of unique scientific and conservation interest are included in this broad habitat category, such as dark caves, submarine canyons, seamounts and chemo-synthetic features supporting sensitive assemblages which require special protection. Therefore, dark habitats were considered under the Action Plan adopted in the Eighteenth Ordinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention (Turkey, December 2013). In the context of implementation schedule of the Dark Habitats Action Plan (UNEP-MAP-RAC/SPA, 2015a) a set of guidelines should be identified aiming to reduce the imminent pressures and threats affecting these vulnerable assemblages. This document aims to establish guidelines for inventorying and monitoring Mediterranean deep-sea habitats and marine caves in order to settle the basis for a regional-based assessment. Furthermore, it aims at reviewing the known distribution and main characteristics of these ecosystems. Although the Dark Habitats Action Plan covers entirely dark caves, inventorying and monitoring initiatives focusing on marine caves should consider the cave habitat as a whole. Therefore, this document presents methodologies which cover both semi-dark and dark caves.