Study Underway to Survey Europe's Marine Biodiversity
Scientists from 16 countries have begun a new EU funded survey that focuses on marine biodiversity, and the environmental standing of the seas in Europe. The DEVOTES ('Development of innovative tools for understanding marine biodiversity and assessing good environmental status') has clinched almost 9 million EUR in funding under the Environment Theme of the Seventh Framework Program. Led by the Spanish Marine and Food Technological Centre AZTI-Tecnalia, more than 250 scientists from 23 research centers in the EU, Asia and North America are working together to improve our understanding of how marine biodiversity is affected by human activities and global changes. Over the years, researchers in academic and fisheries institutes and museums have conducted studies focused on marine biodiversity research, generating inventories of marine plants and animals. More than 33,000 species have since been identified in the seas around Europe, with 760 of these identified at the start of the 21st century. The Census of Marine Life, meanwhile, found that there are around 240,000 marine species worldwide, and current estimates of the total number of living marine species ranges from 700,000 to 2.2 million. Millions of microscopic Bacteria or Archaea are not included in these data. The DEVOTES project is associated with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (Directive 2008/56/EC), which targets marine environment protection and conservation. In order to obtain their target within the next eight years, the EU Member States will use what scientific knowledge is available to evaluate marine environment protection and conservation along with the effect of human activities, such as changes in food webs, marine eutrophication, hydrography and introduction of alien species. A major aim of DEVOTES is to test the indicators proposed by the EC, and develop new ones for assessment at species, habitats and ecosystems level, for the status classification of marine waters, integrating the indicators into a unified assessment of the biodiversity and the cost-effective implementation of the indicators (i.e. by defining monitoring and assessment strategies). DEVOTES is thus also intended to develop/test/validate innovative integrative modeling tools to further strengthen our understanding of ecosystem and biodiversity changes (space & time); such tools can be used by statutory bodies, SMEs and marine research institutes to monitor biodiversity, applying both empirical and automatic data acquisition. This objective will demonstrate the utility of innovative monitoring systems capable of efficiently providing data on a range of parameters (including those from non-EU countries), used as indicators of GES, and for the integration of the information into a unique assessment.