Cumulative human impacts on Mediterranean and Black Sea marine ecosystems: assessing current pressures and opportunities

Management of marine ecosystems requires spatial information on current impacts. In several marine regions, including the Mediterranean and Black Sea, legal mandates and agreements to implement ecosystem-based management and spatial plans provide new opportunities to balance uses and protection of marine ecosystems. Analyses of the intensity and distribution of cumulative impacts of human activities directly connected to the ecological goals of these policy efforts are critically needed. Quantification and mapping of the cumulative impact of 22 drivers to 17 marine ecosystems reveals that 20% of the entire basin and 60–99% of the territorial waters of EU member states are heavily impacted, with high human impact occurring in all ecoregions and territorial waters. Less than 1% of these regions are relatively unaffected. This high impact results from multiple drivers, rather than one individual use or stressor, with climatic drivers (increasing temperature and UV, and acidification), demersal fishing, ship traffic, and, in coastal areas, pollution from land accounting for a majority of cumulative impacts. These results show that coordinated management of key areas and activities could significantly improve the condition of these marine ecosystems.

Micheli F., Halpern B. S., Walbridge S., Ciriaco S., Ferretti F., Fraschetti S., Lewison R., Nykjaer L. & Rosenberg A. A., 2013. Cumulative human impacts on Mediterranean and Black Sea marine ecosystems: assessing current pressures and opportunities. PLoS ONE 8(12): e79889. Article.

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