Article

Diving for science - science for diving: volunteer scuba divers support science and conservation in the Mediterranean Sea: Citizen Science for Mediterranean MPAs

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Abstract

Recreational diving engages 20 million people worldwide. Most of the literature refers to tropical destinations but at least 1 million dives per year take place in Mediterranean marine protected areas (MPAs). 2. Divers may negatively affect underwater habitats. However, if effectively engaged, they can contribute to science, territorial management and more sustainable local economies. 3. During 2006–2014, volunteers trained by the not-for-profit organization Reef Check Italia (RCI) completed 24 714 observations and 2417 dives in six Mediterranean countries, contributing to a dataset that supports scientific papers about climate change, rare and non-indigenous species (NIS), and informs MPA management decision-making. 4. The wide range of opportunities offered by this dataset is illustrated with two examples relevant to marine conservation in the context of MPA management. They concern: (i) the spread of the NIS Caulerpa cylindracea along the Ligurian coasts, with a focus on Portofino MPA, and (ii) the distribution and abundance of protected species in the Portofino MPA. 5. A diver-focused survey showed that RCI volunteers are highly committed, and that participation in RCI activities has led to a better understanding of, and a sense of stewardship towards, favoured dive sites and the marine world. Knowing who volunteers are, and why they volunteer in their favourite sector, is crucial to designing citizen-science based projects able to achieve their multiple goals.

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... Participation of scuba divers and snorkelers in citizen science programs is still not enough exploited [8,31,32] because submerged aquatic environments are more difficult to explore [6], and because a diving license and a costly gear are required. Nowadays smartphones include cameras and Internet connection integrated in one tool; therefore, it is easy and fast to acquire and to share pictures or videos from the coast or from a boat by a smartphone. ...
... Marine conservation initiatives involving volunteers (marine citizen science) thrived in the last decade [5] and were mainly focused on marine litter, invasive species, seabirds, marine mammals and turtles [6,7]. Citizen scientists may contribute to conservation by detecting target species [8], taking samples or by collecting biodiversity data following standardized protocols [9]; in any case the involvement of citizens greatly speeds up and improves the acquisition of information allowing the extension of the geographical scale and the temporal range of studies with a relatively limited investment [10][11][12][13]. In addition to collecting biodiversity data (occurrence, abundance and other eco-ethological information), one of the main outcomes of citizen science projects is the enhanced knowledge and consciousness of the public about marine environment [14][15][16][17]. ...
... Cryptic species in general are not suitable for involving citizens in scientific data collection, due to their difficult detection [8]. Due to its features, H. carunculata can be considered as a 'charismatic' species [51]; therefore, data on its distribution and behavior could be collected with the help of scuba divers and bathers that can easily identify it. ...
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Article
The aim of this research is to set a successful strategy for engaging citizen marine scientists and to obtain reliable data on marine species. The case study of this work is the bearded fireworm Hermodice carunculata, a charismatic species spreading from the southern Mediterranean probably in relation to global warming. To achieve research objectives, some emerging technologies (mainly social platforms) were combined with web ecological knowledge (i.e., data, pictures and videos about the target species published on the WWW for non-scientific purposes) and questionnaires, in order to invite people to collect ecological data on the amphinomid worm from the Adriatic Sea and to interact with involved people. In order to address future fruitful citizen science campaigns, strengths and weakness of each used method were illustrated; for example, the importance of informing and thanking involved people by customizing interactions with citizens was highlighted. Moreover, a decisive boost in people engagement may be obtained through sharing the information about citizen science project in online newspapers. Finally, the work provides novel scientific information on the polychete’s distribution, the northernmost occurrence record of H. carunculata in the Mediterranean Sea and new insights on predatory behavior on other living benthic species.
... Land-owners and local residents (Marshall et al. 2016;Niemiec et al. 2016;Saavedra and Medina 2020;Dunn et al. 2021) have a vested interest in their own neighborhoods or properties, are more locally oriented, and therefore motivated by the desire to protect their livelihood/food/income opportunities, develop social interactions with their neighbors and contribute to their community. Hunters (Stien and Hausner 2018) and divers (Carballo-Cárdenas and Tobi 2016; Cerrano et al. 2017) are often motivated by the opportunity for fun and enjoyment, outdoor recreation/sport, and contact with nature. Additionally, divers reported an attachment to a particular place (e.g. a preference for certain diving spots; Cerrano et al. 2017), a desire to contribute to science, share knowledge and develop personally/career-wise. ...
... Hunters (Stien and Hausner 2018) and divers (Carballo-Cárdenas and Tobi 2016; Cerrano et al. 2017) are often motivated by the opportunity for fun and enjoyment, outdoor recreation/sport, and contact with nature. Additionally, divers reported an attachment to a particular place (e.g. a preference for certain diving spots; Cerrano et al. 2017), a desire to contribute to science, share knowledge and develop personally/career-wise. Pagès et al. (2019) observed differences in motivations within groups of project volunteers controlling the same IAS, ranging from helping nature to protecting private property, or seeing the IAS as threatening to their recreational activities. ...
... This implies that experiences during volunteer activities influence motivations, however, this change in motivation can be both positive and negative. Creating unique experiences for participants, e.g. by visiting places which are otherwise off limits can be an incentive to participate and can also result in a greater sense of responsibility for the volunteer or better relations between volunteers, stakeholders and management authorities based on trust (Cerrano et al. 2017;Pagès et al. 2018). ...
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Article
People make an important contribution to the study and management of biological invasions, as many monitoring and control projects rely heavily on volunteer assistance. Understanding the reasons why people participate in such projects is critical for successful recruitment and retention of volunteers. We used a meta-synthesis approach to extract, analyze and synthesize the available information from 28 selected studies investigating motivations of volunteers to engage in monitoring and control of invasive alien species (IAS). Our findings show how motivations fit three broad themes, reflecting environmental concerns, social motivations, and personal reasons. An important outcome of this study is the description of motivations that are unique to the IAS context: supporting IAS management, protecting native species and habitats, and livelihood/food/income protection or opportunities. In addition, our study reflects on important methodological choices for investigating volunteer motivations as well as ethical issues that may arise in practice. We conclude with a set of recommendations for project design and future research on volunteer motivations in IAS contexts, emphasizing the importance of collaboration with social scientists.
... Most research on factors that determine divers' participation has focused on actual participants in MCS projects [35]. There are only few studies focusing on potential participants (i.e. ...
... The existing body of knowledge suggests that diving experience plays an important role in determining the extent to which divers are interested and participate in MCS. For example, Cerrano et al. [35] found that people with greater diving experience contribute more to MCS. Similarly, Arvanitidis et al. [40] and Lucrezi et al. [23] concluded that more experienced divers have a greater interest in MCS. ...
... That is, we defined inexperienced divers as those with fewer than 20 dives [52], medium experienced divers as those with 20-59 dives (as 60 is the minimum number to obtain a professional certification in PADI, personal communication of Julio Salvatori, Regional Manager of PADI in South America on August 5th, 2019). We also created two additional categories; "highly experienced divers" with 500-999 dives [30,52] and "expert divers", which are defined here as those with more than 1000 dives [35,52]. Using these categories, a score of 1 was given for those who had accumulated <20 dives, 2 for divers with 20-59 dives, 3 for 60-499 dives, 4 for 500-999 dives, and 5 for divers who had accumulated >1000 dives. ...
Article
The emergence of citizen science has opened new possibilities for research to inform management and conservation policies. This requires a deep understanding and inclusion of diverse stakeholders. In marine environments, divers are among the largest groups of citizen science volunteers, compared to other marine users. However, little is known about how the diversity of divers can affect their interest and participation in citizen science. Using 229 structured face-to-face interviews we investigated differences in diving specialization levels among diver types (i.e. artisanal fishers, dive instructors, recreational divers, divers with scientific background, and others) and we evaluated the relationship between diving specialization level and actual participation in Marine Citizen Science. Findings show important differences in diving specialization levels among diver types. Recreational divers have the lowest levels of specialization and artisanal fishers the highest. High levels of scientific training favored participation in the citizen science project, but there was no relationship between diving specialization level and participation rate. We conclude that different diver types have particular strengths and requirements to participate in Marine Citizen Science, and that integrating a diversity of divers can create important synergies. Taking the heterogeneity of potential participants into account will help engage a greater diversity of volunteers in citizen science and thus contribute to generating better policies and stakeholder support for marine conservation and sustainable management.
... This study aims to provide a biotic index to environmental managers and decision-makersthe RCMed species sensitivity (MedSens) index, based on open data collected under the Reef Check Mediterranean Underwater Coastal Environment Monitoring (RCMed U-CEM) protocol (www.reefcheckmed.org; Cerrano et al., 2017). The MedSens index is not purport to replace detailed studies and the indices applied by professional researchers, such as the Coralligenous Assemblage Index (CAI; Deter et al., 2012), the Coralligenous Assessment by Reef Scape Estimate index (COARSE; Gatti et al., 2015), the Ecological Status of Coralligenous Assemblages index (ESCA; Piazzi et al., 2017), the Index Coralligenous approach (INDEX-COR; Sartoretto et al., 2017), the Standardized Coralligenous Evaluation procedure (STAR; Piazzi et al., 2019), and the 3D-complexity index (Valisano et al., 2019). ...
... The RCMed volunteers (mainly scuba divers, but also free divers and snorkelers; EcoDivers hereafter) collect data on the abundances of selected taxa according to the U-CEM protocol (Cerrano et al., 2017). After a short training course and the verification of their learning and abilities, EcoDivers can make independent observations along random swim (Hill and Wilkinson, 2004). ...
... The most-searched taxa are attractive and iconic species, such as the red coral Corallium rubrum and sea fans Paramuricea clavata and Eunicella cavolini. Less conspicuous but highly concerning species, such as invasive algae in the genus Caulerpa, are also frequently surveyed (Cerrano et al., 2017). ...
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Article
Citizen science (CS) projects may provide community-based ecosystem monitoring, expanding our ability to collect data across space and time. However, the data from CS are often not effectively integrated into institutional monitoring programs and decision-making processes, especially in marine conservation. This limitation is partially due to difficulties in accessing the data and the lack of tools and indices for proper management at intended spatial and temporal scales. MedSens is a biotic index specifically developed to provide information on the environmental status of subtidal rocky coastal habitats, filling a gap between marine CS and coastal management in the Mediterranean Sea. The MedSens index is based on 25 selected species, incorporating their sensitivities to the pressures indicated by the European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and open data on their distributions and abundances, collected by trained volunteers (scuba divers, free divers and snorkelers) using the Reef Check Mediterranean Underwater Coastal Environment Monitoring (RCMed U-CEM) protocol. The species sensitivities were assessed relative to their resistance and resilience against physical, chemical, and biological pressures, according to benchmark levels and a literature review. The MedSens index was calibrated on a dataset of 33,021 observations from 569 volunteers (2001–2019), along six countries’ coasts. A free and user-friendly QGIS plugin allows easy index calculation for areas and time frames of interest. The MedSens index was applied to Mediterranean marine protected areas (MPAs) and the management and monitoring zones within Italian MPAs. In the studied cases, the MedSens index responds well to the local pressures documented by previous investigations. MedSens converts the data collected by trained volunteers into an effective monitoring tool for the Mediterranean subtidal rocky coastal habitats. MedSens can help conservationists and decision-makers identify the main pressures acting in these habitats, as required by the MSFD, supporting them in the implementation of appropriate marine biodiversity conservation measures and better communicate the results of their actions. By directly involving stakeholders, this approach increases public awareness and the acceptability of management decisions, enabling more participatory conservation tactics.
... Before going snorkeling or diving, each EcoDiver has to Habitus: S, sessile; M, motile; SW, free-swimming. Protection status: B2-3, 1979 Bern Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats, annex 2-3; P2-3, 1995 Protocol concerning Mediterranean specially protected areas and biological diversity (after Barcelona 1976), annex 2-3; H4-5, 1992 European Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, annex 4-5; C2, 1973 CITES Washington Convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, annex 2. (*) one or more protected species belong to this genus, (**) the two Mediterranean species belong to this genus are protected (modified from Cerrano et al., 2017). ...
... Over the years the dataset has been successfully used to complement studies on the spatial and the temporal distribution of key marine species such as the habitat-forming corals in the central-eastern Mediterranean (Özalp and Alparslan, 2016;Di Camillo et al., 2018), the pink sea-fan Eunicella verrucosa (Chimienti, 2020), as well as of rare and/or endangered species like the gold coral Savalia savaglia (Giusti et al., 2015), the zooxanthellate soft coral Maasella edwardsii (Özalp and Ateş, 2015), and the sponge Geodia cydonium (Turicchia et al., 2013). These data can also help in tracking mass mortality events and assess the possible effects of climate change (Pairaud et al., 2014;Ponti et al., 2018;Turicchia et al., 2018;Garrabou et al., 2019) and the invasion of the non-indigenous species Caulerpa taxifolia and Caulerpa cylindracea (Montefalcone et al., 2015;Cerrano et al., 2017). Moreover, the dataset can be used in assessing the protected and sensitive species richness within the marine protected areas (Turicchia et al., 2015(Turicchia et al., , 2016Cerrano et al., 2017), and in offering an effective monitoring tool for the Mediterranean subtidal rocky coastal habitats through the MedSens biotic index (Turicchia et al., 2021a). ...
... These data can also help in tracking mass mortality events and assess the possible effects of climate change (Pairaud et al., 2014;Ponti et al., 2018;Turicchia et al., 2018;Garrabou et al., 2019) and the invasion of the non-indigenous species Caulerpa taxifolia and Caulerpa cylindracea (Montefalcone et al., 2015;Cerrano et al., 2017). Moreover, the dataset can be used in assessing the protected and sensitive species richness within the marine protected areas (Turicchia et al., 2015(Turicchia et al., , 2016Cerrano et al., 2017), and in offering an effective monitoring tool for the Mediterranean subtidal rocky coastal habitats through the MedSens biotic index (Turicchia et al., 2021a). ...
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Article
Since 2001, trained snorkelers, freedivers, and scuba diver volunteers (collectively called EcoDivers) have been recording data on the distribution, abundance, and bathymetric range of 43 selected key marine species along the Mediterranean Sea coasts using the Reef Check Mediterranean Underwater Coastal Environment Monitoring (RCMed U-CEM) protocol. The taxa, including algae, invertebrates, and fishes, were selected by a combination of criteria, including ease of identification and being a key indicator of shifts in the Mediterranean subtidal habitats due to local pressures and climate change. The dataset collected using the RCMed U-CEM protocol is openly accessible across different platforms and allows for various uses. It has proven to be useful for several purposes, such as monitoring the ecological status of Mediterranean coastal environments, assessing the effects of human impacts and management interventions, as well as complementing scientific papers on species distribution and abundance, distribution modeling, and historical series. Also, the commitment of volunteers promotes marine stewardship and environmental awareness in marine conservation. Here, we describe the RCMed U-CEM protocol from training volunteers to recording, delivering, and sharing data, including the quality assurance and control (QA/QC) procedures.
... Over half of the publications (14) identified and examined the ecological impacts of recreational activities, such as biodiversity (Pasternak et al., 2019), distribution of marine organisms (Vieira et al., 2020;Brodie et al., 2018;Cerrano et al., 2017;Branchini et al., 2015a, b;Hourston et al., 2015;Hussey et al., 2013;Lorenzo et al., 2011;Goffredo et al., 2004), population of species (Brommer et al., 2017;Kay et al., 2017;Rösner et al., 2014;Erb et al., 2012), and water quality (Valois et al., 2020). They studied various outdoor recreation activities, including scuba diving, fishing, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, horse-riding, and hunting (Supplemental material Table 1). ...
... Notably, however, all the reviewed studies reported their first or preliminary applications of citizen science-based monitoring approaches, and few discussed how specific management decisions or practices have been informed by the citizen-generated data. For instance, a resulted map generated by citizen science data allows managers to recognize the spatial distribution and abundance of protected species across the Portofino Marine Protected Area in Italy, and develop various management practices to conserve those species (Cerrano et al., 2017). As evidence surrounding the management and policy implications of broader citizen science efforts grows (McKinley et al., 2017), more studies are needed to explore how this new source of information can be used to inform PA management. ...
... In some cases, specialized recreationists may be the ideal citizen scientists. For instance, a number of studies have used scuba divers to assess ecological impact on reefs and marine species (Vieira et al., 2020;Cerrano et al., 2017;Branchini et al., 2015a, b). In other cases, however, valuable data might be collected from general PA visitors without any kind of training (Muñoz et al., 2019;Korpilo et al., 2018;Brown et al., 2017). ...
Article
As the popularity of nature-based recreation and tourism grows, protected area (PA) managers around the world are faced with escalating monitoring and management challenges across spatial and temporal scales. Citizen science, an emerging research approach which involves active public participation and collaboration with scientists in the scientific process, is an innovative tool that could help managers address these challenges. This study applied the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review Recommendations (PRISMA) protocol to review published studies that utilized citizen science methods in recreation research, examining the extent and nature of such applications and identifying future opportunities. We identified 20 peer-reviewed journal articles from the Web of Science, most of which were published since 2015. These studies utilized different citizen science approaches to examine recreation patterns, behaviors, and impacts in terrestrial and marine PAs. We found that citizen science was used most often in marine PAs, with specialized recreationists (e.g., SCUBA divers) as the most frequent contributors. The types of volunteers recruited differed by their sources (i.e., general public, recreation specialists, and organizational affiliates) and roles (i.e., volunteers as agents of data collection and volunteers as research subjects), with innovative technology (e.g., participatory GIS) creating new engagement opportunities. Despite these benefits, the accuracy and reliability of citizen science data remain important considerations for managers. Our review demonstrates how citizen science can inform management and enhance public participation in PA stewardship activities, and it reveals the need for more research to explore applications of citizen science in different recreation contexts.
... Much research has categorised divers' experience levels according to the number of years diving and the highest scuba diving qualification held (S1 Table). In time, however, the need to deploy more variables to explain scuba diving experience has become evident [10][11][12][13][14]. Research has been using scuba diving experience as one of the components characterising scuba diver specialisation (S1 Table). ...
... This period corresponds to peak diving at the study areas [35]. Using the recorded number of dives logged at the study areas annually (approximately 50,000 in Portofino and 30,000 in Ponta do Ouro) and assuming that a single diver would log at least three dives per year at each study area [10], the population was established as approximately 17,000 divers in Portofino and 10,000 in Ponta do Ouro. ...
... The scuba divers were mostly male, middle aged and well-educated people, and skewed towards high experience and loyalty to the study areas. This profile partly reflects that of divers described in similar research carried out at both tropical [18,21,25,28,52,62-66] and non-tropical diving destinations [10,[12][13]16,20,22,[29][30]53,[67][68][69][70], making it possible to generalise some of the implications of this study to different diving destinations. ...
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Article
Scuba diving experience-which can include accumulated diving experience and familiarity with a diving location-is an important descriptor of diver specialisation and behaviour. Formulating and applying generalisations on scuba diving experience and its effects could assist the management of diving destinations around the world. This requires research that tests whether the influences of scuba diving experience are consistent across divers' segments at different locations. The study assessed and compared the influence of scuba diving experience at two study areas in Italy and Mozambique. Scuba divers (N = 499) participated in a survey of diver segmentation, experience, and perceptions. The influence of diving experience on perceptions was determined using canonical correspondence analysis (CCA). Experienced divers provided positive self-assessments, were less satisfied with dive sites' health and management, and viewed the impacts of scuba diving activities less critically than novice divers. Scuba diving experience exerted similar influences on divers, regardless of the study area. However, remarkable differences also emerged between the study areas. Therefore, the use of generalisations on scuba diving experience remains a delicate issue. Recommendations were formulated for the management of experienced scuba diving markets and for the use of generalisations on diving experience to manage diving destinations.
... Various works have also highlighted the active, positive role the public can play in researching and monitoring marine algae, including participatory monitoring or citizen science. Examples include public participation in the monitoring of alien species of marine algae, kelp forests and coralline algae (Gerovasileiou et al., 2016;Cerrano et al., 2017;Freiwald et al., 2018;Mannino et al., 2021). ...
... They include various stakeholders (e.g., beachgoers, scuba divers, regular visitors) with different views that could affect how support for research, monitoring and management of marine algae is shaped. For example, recreational scuba divers may value marine algae as a tourism offering, and be willing to contribute to their monitoring to assess ecological change in coastal environments (Cerrano et al., 2017;Lucrezi, 2021;Merkel et al., 2021). Consequently, this study specifically focused on answering the following research questions: What are coastal users' general knowledge of and attitudes towards marine algae, their research and monitoring? ...
... Beach use may be associated with better awareness of specific types of algae, such as those that are cast up as wrack, those that are normally found in surf and intertidal zones, and those that are toxic to bathers (Alves et al., 2014). Going underwater, scuba divers are likely to possess a greater awareness of other species of marine algae, such as constructors of coralligenous reefs, invasive algae (e.g., Caulerpa), ecological indicators like Cystoseira, and marine algae popular in tourism including kelps (Cerrano et al., 2017;Lucrezi, 2021;Mannino et al., 2021). It must be noted that, regardless of coastal use, age may play an important role in greater awareness of recurrent phenomena including harmful algal blooms (Kuhar et al., 2009), and this may be a reason why older people in this study were more familiar with the toxic dinoflagellate O. ovata. ...
Article
Marine algae offer numerous extrinsic and intrinsic ecosystem services. Human impacts and climate change, however, have contributed to disrupting or compromising their ecology and distribution. Continuing research and monitoring of marine algae are pivotal but require public support. This study investigated public knowledge of and attitude towards marine algae and support for their research and monitoring. The focus was coastal users, a diversified group of interest for research into the perceptions of marine algae. The study was carried out in the Conero Riviera (Adriatic Sea, Italy), a location where coastal users come into contact with several types of marine algae. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2020 with 202 randomly selected scuba divers, beach and promenade visitors in the Riviera. Data analysis was thematic and statistical. Participants possessed basic knowledge of marine algae, which was more sophisticated among scuba divers. Coastal users ascribed both extrinsic and intrinsic values to marine algae. Most participants recognised the importance of protecting and managing marine algae while supported research and monitoring, prioritising types of marine algae which provide specific extrinsic and intrinsic ecosystem services. Based on the results, strategies of outreach, communication and engagement are suggested for the study location and types of coastal users. This study contributed to the growing body of research on Ocean Literacy, confirming the importance of investigating perceptions of marine resources to steer research, management and outreach strategies.
... Divers are one of the main volunteer groups participating in marine CS projects ( Thiel et al., 2014) and one of the most interested marine user groups (Martin et al., 2016b). However, little knowledge exists about the profiles of divers who join CS projects ( Cerrano et al., 2016) and even less information is available about those who are not joining. Here we present a study of different types of divers in Chile, their background characteristics, diving experience level and their preferences for different ways of participating in marine CS. ...
... Existing evidence suggests that divers participating in CS projects have a high education level, previous interest in science and high diving experience (Arvanitidis et al., 2011;Cerrano et al., 2016;Lucrezi et al., 2018). Martin et al. (2016b) studied public interest in marine CS and found that SCUBA divers have the highest level of interest in CS among many marine user types. ...
... Furthermore, they found a greater proportion of divers with professional certifications had participated in CS than basic divers. Although previous studies generated important knowledge for CS design (e.g., Cerrano et al., 2016;Martin et al., 2016b;Lucrezi et al., 2018), they focused primarily on the recreational SCUBA diving industry, excluding other groups who either work or recreate underwater, such as fishermen (especially those using hookah) and free divers (snorkelers). These groups possess the potential to contribute to the same CS projects that aim to engage SCUBA divers. ...
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Article
Divers have widely participated in citizen science (CS) projects and are one of the main groups of marine citizen scientists. However, there is little knowledge about profiles of, and incentives for potential divers to join CS projects. To date, most studies have focused on the SCUBA diving industry; nevertheless, there is a diversity of divers, not all using SCUBA, who engage in different activities during their dives. Differences in diver profiles could affect their willingness and ability to contribute to CS. In this study, we compare the diving profile, interests, preferences and motivations to participate in CS of five diver types (artisanal fishermen, recreational divers, instructors, scientific divers, and others). All divers have strong interests in participating in CS projects, with no major differences among diver types. In general, they are interested in a wide variety of themes related to CS but they prefer simple sampling protocols. Divers are motivated to participate in CS to learn about the sea and contribute to science. Some important differences among diver types were found, with artisanal fishermen having significantly more dive experience than other diver types, but less free time during their dives and limited access to some communication channels and technologies. These characteristics make them ideal partners to contribute their local ecological knowledge (LEK) to local CS projects. In contrast, recreational divers have the least experience but most free time during their dives and good access to cameras and communications channels, making them suitable partners for large-scale CS projects that do not require a high level of species knowledge. Instructors and scientific divers are well-placed to coordinate and supervise CS activities. The results confirm that divers are not all alike and specific considerations have to be taken into account to improve the contribution of each diver type to CS. The findings provide essential information for the design of different types of CS projects. By considering the relevant incentives and opportunities for diverse diver groups, marine CS projects will make efficient gains in volunteer recruitment, retention, and collaborative generation of knowledge about the marine environment.
... Divers are one of the main volunteer groups participating in marine CS projects (Thiel et al., 2014) and one of the most interested marine user groups (Martin et al., 2016b). However, little knowledge exists about the profiles of divers who join CS projects (Cerrano et al., 2016) and even less information is available about those who are not joining. Here we present a study of different types of divers in Chile, their background characteristics, diving experience level and their preferences for different ways of participating in marine CS. ...
... Existing evidence suggests that divers participating in CS projects have a high education level, previous interest in science and high diving experience (Arvanitidis et al., 2011;Cerrano et al., 2016;Lucrezi et al., 2018). Martin et al. (2016b) studied public interest in marine CS and found that SCUBA divers have the highest level of interest in CS among many marine user types. ...
... Furthermore, they found a greater proportion of divers with professional certifications had participated in CS than basic divers. Although previous studies generated important knowledge for CS design (e.g., Cerrano et al., 2016;Martin et al., 2016b;Lucrezi et al., 2018), they focused primarily on the recreational SCUBA diving industry, excluding other groups who either work or recreate underwater, such as fishermen (especially those using hookah) and free divers (snorkelers). These groups possess the potential to contribute to the same CS projects that aim to engage SCUBA divers. ...
... Vahl) C. Agardh (Spanish, French, Italian and Croatian coasts) and Caulerpa taxifolia var. distichophylla (Sonder) Verlaque, Huisman and Procaccini (along the Maltese coasts, in the central Mediterranean) in the Mediterranean Sea [19,[52][53][54][55][56][57][58] (Figure 1). All the Caulerpa taxa showed invasive behavior with significant impacts on the native communities. ...
... Case 2 was related to the monitoring of C. cylindracea along the Ligurian coast, including the Portofino MPA [57]. The monitoring was carried out by Reef Check Italia Onlus (RCI), a non-profit organization involving volunteer divers in the Mediterranean Sea that developed protocols for coastal environment monitoring. ...
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Article
Tracking Marine Alien Macroalgae in the Mediterranean Sea: The Contribution of Citizen Citizen and Remote Sensing Anna Maria Mannino, Flavio Borfecchia, Carla Micheli Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, Vol 9, 3, 288, Ed. MDPI ABSTRACT The accelerating rate of the introduction of non-indigenous species (NIS) and the magnitude of shipping traffic make the Mediterranean Sea a hotspot of biological invasions. For the effective management of NIS, early detection and intensive monitoring over time and space are essential. Here, we present an overview of possible applications of citizen science and remote sensing in monitoring alien seaweeds in the Mediterranean Sea. Citizen science activities, involving the public (e.g., tourists, fishermen, divers) in the collection of data, have great potential for monitoring NIS. The innovative methodologies, based on remote sensing techniques coupled with in situ/laboratory advanced sampling/analysis methods for tracking such species, may be useful and effective tools for easily assessing NIS distribution patterns and monitoring the space/time changes in habitats in order to support the sustainable management of the ecosystems. The reported case studies highlight how these cost-effective systems can be useful complementary tools for monitoring NIS, especially in marine protected areas, which, despite their fundamental role in the conservation of marine biodiversity, are not immune to the introduction of NIS. To ensure effective and long-lasting management strategies, collaborations between researchers, policy makers and citizens are essential.
... These can be grouped into ecocentric (wanting to contribute to the protection of marine species and habitats based on intrinsic rather than extrinsic values), personal development, personal well-being, and social values. The first group can encompass concern for marine animals and marine conservation (Bradford & Israel, 2004;Campbell & Smith, 2005); wanting to give back to a meaningful cause, such as animal conservation (Campbell & Smith, 2005;Kitney et al., 2018); and stewardship and bequest values (Cerrano et al., 2017). The second group can include interest in fields such as marine biology, ecology and conservation (Kitney et al., 2018); and wanting to gain experience and learn new skills also to contribute to career development (Bradford & Israel, 2004;Campbell & Smith, 2005;Roques et al., 2018). ...
... The third group can encompass wanting to improve one's selfesteem and sense of fulfilment, gain recognition in a community, and feel important and useful (Carvache-Franco et al., 2019;Germann Molz, 2017;Lo & Lee, 2011). The last group can comprise concern for people who live in communities affected by marine issues (Bradford & Israel, 2004); wanting to enjoy new places and cultures (Campbell & Smith, 2005;Roques et al., 2018); and wanting to contribute to science (Cerrano et al., 2017). ...
Article
Marine wildlife voluntourism (MVT) is a niche with potential that warrants research on the dynamics underpinning MVT experiences, to steer sustainable development. This study investigated influential factors in marine wildlife voluntourists' satisfaction and post-experience attitudes, through structural equation modelling (SEM). Southern Africa was the location of the research, given its growing popularity as an MVT destination and its need for marine conservation efforts. From June 2019 to June 2020, a questionnaire survey was administered to 142 tourists at three MVT organisations in South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar. SEM identified ecocentric motivations and the perceived ethical conduct of MVT organisations as positively influencing satisfaction and post-experience attitudes towards education, the environment, compliance and advocacy, volunteering, citizen science, career choices, and paying for conservation. This study emphasised the importance of coupling the right tourist mindset with ethical roundness to make MVT a successful form of tourism with multiple direct and indirect benefits. ARTICLE HISTORY
... Many of the featured recreational activities in oceanic islands, such as Madeira, focus on the sea, namely scuba diving, spearfishing, whale watching, and recreational fishing [73][74][75]. Involving stakeholders and their clients can complement and improve scientific data at various spatial and temporal scales [76,77]. Citizen science may contribute to ecological conservation by collecting environmental and biological data or by targeting particular species [76][77][78][79][80]. ...
... Involving stakeholders and their clients can complement and improve scientific data at various spatial and temporal scales [76,77]. Citizen science may contribute to ecological conservation by collecting environmental and biological data or by targeting particular species [76][77][78][79][80]. In the last decade, marine citizen science was widely employed in identifying different threats of marine ecosystems (e.g., marine litter or NIS [80][81][82]) and monitoring of/detecting iconic species [81,82]. ...
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Article
Current trends in the global climate facilitate the displacement of numerous marine species from their native distribution ranges to higher latitudes when facing warming conditions. In this work, we analyzed occurrences of a circumtropical reef fish, the spotfin burrfish, Chilomycterus reticulatus (Linnaeus, 1958), in the Madeira Archipelago (NE Atlantic) between 1898 and 2021. In addition to available data sources, we performed an online survey to assess the distribution and presence of this species in the Madeira Archipelago, along with other relevant information, such as size class and year of the first sighting. In total, 28 valid participants responded to the online survey, georeferencing 119 C. reticulatus sightings and confirming its presence in all archipelago islands. The invasiveness of the species was screened using the Aquatic Species Invasiveness Screening Kit. Five assessments rated the fish as being of medium risk of establishing a local population and becoming invasive. Current temperature trends might have facilitated multiple sightings of this thermophilic species in the Madeira Archipelago. The present study indicates an increase in C. reticulatus sightings in the region. This underlines the need for updated comprehensive information on species diversity and distribution to support informed management and decisions. The spread of yet another thermophilic species in Madeiran waters provides further evidence of an ongoing tropicalization, emphasizing the need for monitoring programs and the potential of citizen science in complementing such programs.
... For this protocol, 43 taxa were selected based on two or more criteria, including ease of identification, being included in the international lists of protected species, being sensitive to human impacts, and being key indicators of the shift that Mediterranean coastal habitats can undergo under local pressures and climate change. Morphologically and ecologically similar species have been included at the genus or higher taxa level (Cerrano et al., 2017). Before going diving or snorkeling, each trained EcoDiver chooses one or more taxa, among the 43 included in the protocol ( Table 1), to actively search for, according to the type of habitat typology, survey depth, and personal interests. ...
... In these regards, the application of the RCMed_2001-2020 dataset ranges from: monitoring the ecological status of Mediterranean coastal environments to assessing the effects of human impacts and management interventions (Turicchia et al., 2021a); raising public awareness; and involving people in marine conservation (Lucrezi et al., 2018 and references therein). Moreover, the dataset has been used to complement scientific papers on species distribution and abundance, distribution modeling, and comparing historical data series (Cerrano et al., 2017;Ponti et al., 2018;Turicchia et al., 2018). A list of applications and publications obtained by applying the protocol and using this data is kept up to date on the Reef Check Med website, and authors are encouraged to report their outcomes. ...
... In particular, data were extrapolated from three main platforms: iNaturalist (www.inaturalist.org, a social network of nature enthusiasts that share and cross-validate photographic observations), the Global Biodiversity [46]). This latter platform includes a semi-quantitative estimation of abundances. ...
... These habitats are of primary importance for marine conservation [1] but often proper protection initiatives cannot be applied due to the lack of knowledge about the presence and the distribution of the key structural species [52]. Citizen science projects based on effective and shared protocols can represent a promising source of additional information about the distribution of conspicuous species [23,46], particularly in the case of iconic taxa such as alcyonaceans. This is also the case of the pink sea fan, E. verrucosa, that has been considered a rare or uncommon gorgonian in the Mediterranean Sea [22,23]. ...
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Article
The pink sea fan Eunicella verrucosa (Cnidaria, Anthozoa, Alcyonacea) can form coral forests at mesophotic depths in the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the recognized importance of these habitats, they have been scantly studied and their distribution is mostly unknown. This study reports the new finding of E. verrucosa forests in the Mediterranean Sea, and the updated distribution of this species that has been considered rare in the basin. In particular, one site off Sanremo (Ligurian Sea) was characterized by a monospecific population of E. verrucosa with 2.3 ± 0.2 colonies m−2. By combining new records, literature, and citizen science data, the species is believed to be widespread in the basin with few or isolated colonies, and 19 E. verrucosa forests were identified. The overall associated community showed how these coral forests are essential for species of conservation interest, as well as for species of high commercial value. For this reason, proper protection and management strategies are necessary.
... and other observational networks indexed by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF, www.gbif.org). In particular, RCMed is the largest Web-GIS of underwater observations carried out according to a standard protocol (which includes abundance class estimations and absence reports) by trained volunteers in the Mediterranean Sea (Cerrano et al., 2017). Seawatchers platform collates photographic records that are identified by a pool of experts. ...
... RCMed provides the largest dataset on gorgonians abundance estimation, and it is to date the only source that considers the 'absence' data explicitly. Data consistency is ensured by multiple observations simultaneously carried out by different trained observers and often reiterated in time (Cerrano et al., 2017). On the other end, platforms like Seawatchers and iNaturalist require no training to be approached by nature enthusiasts because species identification relies on the involvement of experts and cross-validations. ...
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Conference Paper
Healthy coralligenous habitats may host dense populations of gorgonians, like Paramuricea clavata and Eunicella cavolini that build marine animal forests. According to recent studies, these forests appeared able to increase the resilience of coralligenous habitats and to enhance the structural complexity and bioconstruction processes. They are also able to increase species diversity and limit the invasion of alien species. The major limitation in the conservation of these forests is the lack of knowledge on their actual distribution and the extents of their ecological roles. Nowadays, by combining information from scientific literature, citizen science projects and the World Wide Web is possible to fill part of these gaps and draw a more comprehensive picture for the Mediterranean Sea. This knowledge represents the baseline to address effective conservation measures on gorgonian forests and coralligenous accretions.
... ocean temperature, pollutants, harmful algal blooms, alien species, animal migrations) (Kelly et al., 2020;Thiel et al., 2014). These contributions are possible thanks to the flexible ways they can be provided, for example, by taking and sharing pictures on social media (Krželj et al., 2020), compiling standard information cards during transect sampling (Cerrano et al., 2017), and using apps to log GPS coordinates or upload information collected through dedicated smartphone infrastructure (Ceccaroni et al., 2020;Pecl et al., 2019b). Additionally, different recreational groups tend to possess the basic skills and equipment required to contribute, such as diving qualifications and underwater cameras (Hermoso et al., 2019). ...
... The potential of recreational divers' inclusion and participation in kelp monitoring efforts is promising, as cold-water diving is an activity normally practised by specialised groups holding strong ties to their local diving environments and possessing good knowledge of such environments (Cerrano et al., 2017;Hermoso et al., 2021b;Lucrezi et al., 2018b). Among these groups, growing apprehension about human stressors and ecosystem shifts jeopardising kelp forests and kelp-based recreation may prompt interest in contributing to kelp management including monitoring (Assis et al., 2018;Hynes et al., 2021;Pecl et al., 2019a). ...
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Article
Coastal and marine recreational groups have been widely involved in activities of environmental monitoring, also referred to as participatory or citizen science. There are, however, several factors influencing interest and ultimately participation by these groups, ranging from demographic to recreation specialisation, attitudinal and behavioural variables. These need to be considered when designing citizen science projects as well as recruitment and engagement approaches. Kelp forests are cold-water coastal ecosystems holding enormous intrinsic and extrinsic value and are under pressure from local and global stressors. Scientists worldwide have called for increased long-term kelp monitoring efforts to fill data gaps and exploit the ecological indicator properties of kelp to monitor environmental change. They have also called for research focusing on people and raising public awareness to garner support for kelp conservation. Citizen science could be one of many strategies to address these calls, with recreational divers being central contributors to local and international kelp monitoring projects. This study aimed to assess recreational divers’ interest in kelp monitoring, characterising those wishing to contribute based on variables known to influence interest and participation in citizen science, and comparing different geographic regions. A phenomenology approach in qualitative research was used to collect data from 100 kelp divers in South Africa and New Zealand. Thematic analysis, the quantification of qualitative data and statistical analysis were used to describe the sample. All participants were interested in kelp monitoring, providing reasons which were significantly related to specific variables. Previous participation in kelp projects by a proportion of the sample enabled the profiling of those who may ultimately commit to kelp monitoring. Geographic comparisons revealed how kelp divers largely have experiences, knowledge and attitudes regarding kelp and its monitoring in common, while also showing important context-specific differences. The results of this study were used to generate five scenarios of recreational divers’ involvement in kelp citizen science, including field-based monitoring as part of local and international projects, public education, miscellaneous conservation activities, and “opportunistic” kelp monitoring. The data ultimately aim to provide useful information for the planning and development of both local and international kelp monitoring initiatives based on citizen science.
... Bathing, scuba diving, and sport fishing are allowed. On the whole, over 70,000 scuba divers per year plunge into the water of the Portofino Protected Marine Area [92]. ...
... Salmona and Varardi [91] discuss the socioeconomic aspects of the protected marine area, whereas other contributions deal with underwater tourism and related impact on the ecosystem. Cerrano et al. [92] stress the importance of volunteer scuba divers for scientific activities aiming at the conservation of Mediterranean natural resources and [106] describe the success of scuba diving in the Portofino protected marine area. Furthermore, Lucrezi et al. [107] illustrate the contribution of scuba divers in the management of protected marine areas and, again, Lucrezi et al. [107] pinpoints the correct balance between scuba diving activities and environmental sustainability. ...
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Article
Interest in geoheritage research has grown over the past 25 years and several countries have issued laws to encourage improvement and conservation. Investigations on geosites are prevalently carried out on land environments, although the study of underwater marine environments is also of paramount scientific importance. Nevertheless, due to the constraints of underwater environments, these sites have been little explored, also on account of the higher costs and difficulties of surveying. This research has identified and assessed the terrestrial and marine geosites of the Portofino Natural Park and Protected Marine Area, which are internationally famous owing to both the land scenic features and the quality of the marine ecosystem. The goal was to pinpoint the most suitable sites for tourist improvement and fruition and identify possible connections between the two environments. In all, 28 terrestrial sites and 27 marine sites have been identified and their scientific value as well as their ecological, cultural, and aesthetic importance has been assessed. In addition, accessibility, services, and economic potential of geosites has also been taken into account. Both the updated database of terrestrial and marine geosites in the Portofino protected areas and the assessment procedure adopted can become useful tools for the managers of these sites and provide decision-makers with possible strategies for tourist development.
... Data collection by volunteer researchers has become a convenient alternative for scientists and research agencies that lack information and do not have sufficient financial resources (Pattengill-Semmens;Semmens, 2003;Bonney et al., 2015). Volunteers have participated in projects and studies on climate change (Snyder et al., 2019), biodiversity (Golinelli et al, 2015), invasive species (Andow et al., 2016;Anderson et al., 2017), conservation biology (Goffredo et al., 2004;Crall et al., 2011;Cerrano et al., 2017), ethnoknowledge (Guido and Rodriguez, 2015), ecological restoration (Crall et al., 2012), monitoring of marine biodiversity (Goffredo et al., 2010), population ecology (Branchini et al., 2015) and others. Projects such as the Earthwatch Institute and the National Institute of Invasive Species Science (NIISS) seek the help of these volunteers because they need to collect data in large areas (Silvertown, 2009;Crall et al., 2012). ...
... Although the data collected by professional researchers are fundamental and should not be replaced, observations made by recreational divers can provide valuable long-term and large-scale data of the locations where they have dived (Ward-Paige; Lotze, 2011). In addition, citizen science can contribute to territorial management in marine conservation projects (Cerrano et al., 2017). ...
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Article
This study presents the first considerations and observations of the occurrence of the octopus Callistoctopus sp. on the coast of Brazil. Citizen science, used as a research approach, was fundamental to confirm the presence and delimit the distribution of this species on the Brazilian coast. In all, 187 interviews were conducted with octopus fishers in 17 localities surrounding six marine protected areas, between March 2018 and August 2019. During the development of the work, the number of volunteer participants significantly increased, from the initial 107 specialists to about 2180 local informants, including fishers, divers and diving instructors. By using citizen science, it was possible to extend the area of distribution of this new species from the three existing records of individuals captured for the state of Pernambuco and Bahia to 11 records for more than seven states. The citizen science approach was considered useful for the generation of data that complement scientific research, and its greatest obstacle for use in ethnobiological studies was the need to motivate volunteers to increase the robustness of the collected data.
... However, it is also undeniable that there are many dive tourism industries that still prioritize technical diving information over sociocultural information, such as in Malaysia (Salim et al., 2013;Zhang & Chung, 2015), Thailand (Augustine et al., 2016;Dearden et al., 2006) (Pabel & Coghlan, 2011), Italia (Cerrano et al., 2016), and South Africa (Schoeman et al., 2016). ...
... This finding confirms the results of previous studies which have found out that the high caring attitude toward the environment conservation issues of divers and dive operators can reduce the negative impact of recreational diving at various dive sites around the world (Cerrano et al., 2016;Kirkbride-Smith et al., 2013;Lowe & Tejada, 2019;Pabel & Coghlan, 2011;Ríos-Jara et al., 2013;Roche et al., 2016). ...
Article
Through the perspective of partnership for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 17th), this study aims to identify and describe the information gaps among stakeholders of the dive tourism industry of Komodo National Park as one of the super-priority tourism destinations in Indonesia. Researchers studied documents, performed field observation, and conducted in-depth interviews with 20 stakeholders. Qualitative content analysis revealed several notable findings. First, the information gaps among stakeholders are generally linked to knowledge disparity about tourism-technical and local sociocultural issues. Sociocultural information, particularly on environment preservation issues, shows the tendency to predominate everyday discourse rather than tourism technical information. Second, the foreigner community appears to be better than local stakeholders at mastering the sociocultural information discourse, particularly in terms of collaboration on environment preservation information. Further studies are needed to examine the interaction among actors predominating the sociocultural information management and their strategies to collaborate in maximizing the role of Destination Management Organization-Destination Governance (DMO-DG).
... Vahl) C. Agardh (Spanish, French, Italian and Croatian coasts) and Caulerpa taxifolia var. distichophylla (Sonder) Verlaque, Huisman and Procaccini (along the Maltese coasts, in the central Mediterranean) in the Mediterranean Sea [19,[52][53][54][55][56][57][58] (Figure 1). All the Caulerpa taxa showed invasive behavior with significant impacts on the native communities. ...
... Case 2 was related to the monitoring of C. cylindracea along the Ligurian coast, including the Portofino MPA [57]. The monitoring was carried out by Reef Check Italia Onlus (RCI), a non-profit organization involving volunteer divers in the Mediterranean Sea that developed protocols for coastal environment monitoring. ...
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Article
The accelerating rate of non-indigenous species (NIS) introductions and the magnitude of shipping traffic, make the Mediterranean Sea a hotspot of biological invasions. For the effective management of NIS, early detection and intensive monitoring over time and space are essential. Here, we present an overview on possible applications of citizen science and remote sensing in monitoring alien seaweeds in the Mediterranean Sea. Citizen science activities, involving the public (e.g., tourists, fishermen, divers) in the collection of data, have great potential for monitoring NIS. The innovative methodologies based on remote sensing techniques coupled with in situ/laboratory advanced sampling/analysis methods for tracking such species, may be useful and effective tools in easily assessing NIS distribution patterns and monitoring the space/time changes in the habitats for supporting the sustainable management of the ecosystems. The reported case studies highlighted how these cost-effective systems can be useful complementary tools for monitoring NIS, especially in Marine Protected Areas which, despite their fundamental role in the conservation of marine biodiversity, are not immune to NIS introduction. To ensure effective and long-lasting management strategies collaborations between researchers, policy makers and citizens are essential. Keywords: non-indigenous species; Mediterranean Sea; monitoring; managing; citizen science; remote sensing; Landsat 8 OLI
... Vahl) C. Agardh (Spanish, French, Italian and Croatian coasts) and Caulerpa taxifolia var. distichophylla (Sonder) Verlaque, Huisman and Procaccini (along the Maltese coasts, in the central Mediterranean) in the Mediterranean Sea [19,[52][53][54][55][56][57][58] (Figure 1). All the Caulerpa taxa showed invasive behavior with significant impacts on the native communities. ...
... Case 2 was related to the monitoring of C. cylindracea along the Ligurian coast, including the Portofino MPA [57]. The monitoring was carried out by Reef Check Italia Onlus (RCI), a non-profit organization involving volunteer divers in the Mediterranean Sea that developed protocols for coastal environment monitoring. ...
Full-text available
Article
The accelerating rate of non-indigenous species (NIS) introductions and the magnitude of shipping traffic, make the Mediterranean Sea a hotspot of biological invasions. For the effective management of NIS, early detection and intensive monitoring over time and space are essential. Here, we present an overview on possible applications of citizen science and remote sensing in monitoring alien seaweeds in the Mediterranean Sea. Citizen science activities, involving the public (e.g., tourists, fishermen, divers) in the collection of data, have great potential for monitoring NIS. The innovative methodologies based on remote sensing techniques coupled with in situ/laboratory advanced sampling/analysis methods for tracking such species, may be useful and effective tools in easily assessing NIS distribution patterns and monitoring the space/time changes in the habitats for supporting the sustainable management of the ecosystems. The reported case studies highlighted how these cost-effective systems can be useful complementary tools for monitoring NIS, especially in Marine Protected Areas which, despite their fundamental role in the conservation of marine biodiversity, are not immune to NIS introduction. To ensure effective and long-lasting management strategies collaborations between researchers, policy makers and citizens are essential. Keywords: non-indigenous species; Mediterranean Sea; monitoring; managing; citizen science; remote sensing; Landsat 8 OLI
... Moreover an agreement with the not-for-profit organization Reef Check Italia onlus (RCI) is allowing, since 2006, the creation of a very detailed data set about the distribution of more then 40 species. The organization (RCI) trains and involves volunteer divers to collect data, offering the opportunity to develop spatial and temporal trends that could contribute to MPA monitoring (Cerrano et al. 2016). All these works will help to predict future trends in the biodiversity of Portofino SPAMI and examine future options for its efficient management. ...
... Beyond disseminating scientific knowledge, citizen-science includes the society in the scientific process and recognizes its contribution (Cohn, 2008;Nov et al., 2011), promoting engagement in environmental causes, curiosity, interest and responsibility in the subject, which may change behaviors and translate into conservation actions (Trumbull et al., 2000(Trumbull et al., , 2005Evely et al., 2011). Integrating volunteers in data collection allows the formation of large networks that take part of multiregional efforts, including different habitats and organisms (Costello et al., 2010;Teleki, 2012), which often improve the spatial and temporal scope of scientific monitoring (Cohn, 2008;Cerrano et al., 2017). ...
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Article
Overfishing, pollution and global changes threaten reef ecosystems all over the world and several conservation actions emerged to reduce and mitigate such impacts. Citizen-based programs with hands-on conservation experience and voluntarily data collection are a successful way of involving society in the conservation process. We developed and tested a citizen-based monitoring protocol to monitor reef fish and sea turtles during regular recreational diving operations, with minimum impact on the routine of the diving company. We compared data collected by volunteer divers and by trained scientists using this protocol, and assessed the influence of the volunteers´ diving experience in data collection. We found that recreational divers were able to record all the species included in the monitoring slate, providing estimates of species abundance and composition that did not differ from those obtained by trained scientific divers using the same protocol. This method also recorded large reef species, such as rays, sharks and turtles more effectively in comparison to traditional scientific surveys conducted in the same area. Such difference indicates complementarity between the citizen-based monitoring protocol and traditional scientific monitoring methods. The diving experience of recreational divers did not affect their ability to characterize reef assemblages and most volunteers provided a positive feedback of their experience as citizen-scientists. Therefore, recreational divers can be powerful citizen-scientists and implementing similar monitoring protocols in reef areas, particularly in marine protected areas where diving activities are allowed and regulated, seems feasible and a good way to engage divers in data collection and marine conservation.
... Vázquez-Luis et al. 2017;Jones et al. 2018). Once appropriately trained to follow simplified procedures in a systematic manner that can be easily validated, citizen scientists can be a vital asset in all steps of the MME-response process; from the initial detection of the problem to the participation in mitigation and monitoring actions (Foster-Smith and Evans 2003;Cerrano et al. 2017). ...
... The urgent need to extend the spatial scale of our knowledge and to increase public awareness towards scientific questions and marine conservation is offering new perspectives to the next generation of marine scientists. Citizen science projects can represent a very effective tool to obtain data on marine diversity at a wide scale and to sensitize people on the feasibility of a sustainable development [107,108] and scientists are required to drive this process. ...
Chapter
The ocean is a complex three-dimensional world covering approximately 71% of the Earth’s surface offering a huge potential of new discoveries in all the fields of science. The hope is that these discoveries, if adequately supported and implemented, could lead to the finding of sustainable solutions inspiring new technologies and growth strategies. The continuous discovery of new species and their interactions, the increasing understanding of the complex connection between biodiversity and ecosystems functioning, and the dramatic relation between the loss of biodiversity and the spreading of non-indigenous species are clearly stating the importance to strengthen the effort on marine biology studies. The growing interest of young generations on these topics is ultimately confirming this urgent need.
... To this end, information collected from scuba diving can support marine conservation in the context of marine citizen science [82]. Trained divers involved in monitoring programs (i.e., Reef Check) have reduced cost, time, equipment and simplified logistics [83,84]. In this direction, recreational diving represents a potential to continue monitoring and surveillance programs [82], and could be an opportunity to promote photogrammetry at seascape scale to ensure that the risk mitigation approaches are effective. ...
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Article
Recreational diving is known to have both direct and indirect impacts on coral habitats. Direct impacts include increasing sedimentation, breaks and diseases that lead to a decrease in the richness and abundances of hard corals. Indirect impacts include urban development, land management and sewage disposal. The ecological effects of scuba diving on the spatial composition metrics of reef benthic communities are less well studied, and they have not been investigated at seascape scale. In this study, we combine orthomosaics derived from Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry and data-mining techniques to study the spatial composition of reef benthic communities of recreational diving sites at seascape scale (>25 m 2). The study focuses on the case study area of Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve (Mozambique). Results showed that scuba-diving resistant taxa (i.e., sponges and algae) were abundant at small (>850 m 2) and highly dived sites (>3000 dives yr −1), characterized by low diversity and density, and big organisms with complex shapes. Fragile taxa (i.e., Acropora spp.) were abundant at low (365 dives yr −1) and moderately dived sites (1000-3000 dives yr −1) where the greater depth and wider coral reef surfaces attenuate the abrasive effect of waves and re-suspended sediments. Highest taxa diversity and density, and lowest abundance of resistant taxa were recorded at large >2000 m 2) and rarely dived sites. This study highlights the potential applications for a photogrammetric approach to support monitoring programs at Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve (Mozambique), and provides some insight to understand the influence of scuba diving on benthic communities.
... In the last two decades, thanks to the rapid increase of recreational diving activity, researchers have begun to involve recreational divers as volunteers in the collection of scientific data within several large-scale marine monitoring activities (Evans et al., 2000;Goffredo et al., 2004Goffredo et al., , 2010Huveneers et al., 2009;Biggs and Olden, 2011;Silvertown, 2009;Dickinson et al., 2010;Thiel et al., 2014). In the Mediterranean Sea, volunteer divers have been involved in citizen science initiatives regarding the distribution and abundance of protected and alien species (Bramanti et al., 2011;Cerrano et al., 2017: Goffredo et al., 2004Azzurro et al., 2013b), the monitoring of marine biodiversity (Goffredo et al., 2010) and fish diversity (Azzurro et al., 2013a). Dive Against Debris® is Project AWARE's flagship citizen-science program (www. ...
Article
Citizen science programs carried out by volunteers are fundamental for the collection of scientific data on a wide spatial scale. From 2011 to 2018, 468 survey dives were conducted in 172 coastal locations of the Mediterranean Sea through Project AWARE's citizen science program, Dive Against Debris®. During the dives, information was collected on quantity, typology and distribution of seafloor litter in shallow coastal waters. Overall, the observed average density was 43.55 items/100 m2 and plastic was largely the dominant material (55% of the total collected items) on basin scale. The most abundant seafloor litter items were plastic fragments with 9.46%, followed by beverage cans (7.45%). Single-use plastic items constituted 33% of the total marine litter. The results of the study can be used to inform policymakers of the European Community towards specific management action to contrast the marine litter in relation to the distribution of the recorded litter category.
... Vázquez-Luis et al. 2017;Jones et al. 2018). Once appropriately trained to follow simplified procedures in a systematic manner that can be easily validated, citizen scientists can be a vital asset in all steps of the MME-response process; from the initial detection of the problem to the participation in mitigation and monitoring actions (Foster-Smith and Evans 2003;Cerrano et al. 2017). ...
... iv. To promote Citizen Science projects targeting the involvement of divers and fishermen in a large-scale monitoring project, collecting data on the effect of diving and demersal fishing on the status of the benthic communities (Bramanti et al., 2011;Cerrano et al., 2017;Markantonatou et al., 2016;. ...
Article
The main aims of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are the conservation of natural habitats and their biological resources, together with the promotion of an eco-compatible economic fruition. In Mediterranean MPAs, the main threats for hard bottom benthic communities come from fishing and mass tourism, in terms of boating and SCUBA diving. The Portofino MPA (Ligurian Sea, North-western Mediterranean Sea) is one of the top diving destinations in Europe and currently hosts an average of 40,000 dives per year, which are mainly carried out along coralligenous cliffs, a habitat of European Community interest, particularly vulnerable to mechanical damages due to the fragility of its numerous calcified species. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the effects of recreational SCUBA diving on benthic ecosystems characterised by the presence of red coral and other associated fragile species. The impact was assessed through the analysis of the biomasses of target organisms (Corallium rubrum, Leptopsammia pruvoti, Madracis pharensis, and six species of bryozoans) whose fragments were found in the sediments at the base of the cliff. The amounts of these fragments inside the detritus in highly frequented sites were significantly higher than those measured in undisturbed sites, of up to 10 times. Our data suggested a recurrent mechanical action, with also very recent breakages, as demonstrated by the occurrence of living, freshly detached organisms. Red coral and other calcified species may be sensitive also to natural (heavy storms) and human (fishing) mechanical pressures other than diving: the characterization of these impacts in the study sites, however, indicates divers frequentation as the major contributor to the damages inflicted and suggests the need for specific management measures.
... As proposed by Rucci et al. (2022), scuba diving operators should consider adopting smart technology to produce their comparative and competitive advantages and augment the competitiveness level of their diving destination. No doubt that the success of a scuba diving destination directly influences the push and pull determinants or elements (Cerrano et al., 2017;Dimmock & Musa, 2015;Lucrezi et al., 2019;Neto et al., 2017). However, the readiness of a scuba diving destination is also crucially important in attracting the emerging PWD market. ...
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Article
Recognition of Persons with Disabilities (PWD) as a niche tourist market for scuba diving tourism is emerging. This paper empirically investigates the disabled scuba diver’s perception of the scuba diving destination’s readiness to serve the PWD market. We surveyed 284 certified local and international PWD scuba divers. The results show that facilities’ accessibility through flexibility in use, tolerance for error, size and space for approach and use determines scuba diving destination readiness to entertain PWD. In addition, service accessibility through communication support, information, and professionalism reflect scuba diving destination readiness to engage the PWD market. The paper encourages diving tourism operators to overcome the challenge of destination accessibility and readiness to entertain PWD in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030 agenda.
... The engagement of volunteers in science is becoming an established practice with a steadily increasing number of projects, in a variety of disciplines, that deliver information to support science and management (Cohn, 2008;Silvertown, 2009;Hand, 2010;Teleki, 2012). When appropriately designed, validated and communicated, CS projects may serve two main objectives: (1) providing scientifically sound data (often over large temporal and spatial scales) that would otherwise not be collected; (2) promoting public awareness especially in environmental surveys, where volunteers may discover that they are an important cause of the problem, which may generate a motivation to act (Pattengill-Semmens and Semmens, 2003;Cigliano et al., 2015;Theobald et al., 2015;Cerrano et al., 2016). Therefore, CS monitoring projects can deliver a strong educational and conservation message as well as encourage behavioral changes of the participants (Branchini et al., 2015). ...
Article
Information on marine debris along the Mediterranean coast of Israel, especially on the seafloor, is limited. Many recreational divers are enthusiasts of marine conservation and can thus contribute to data collection which does not require highly specialized training. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel together with The Israeli Diving Federation established the diver volunteer program “Sea Guard” (“Mishmar Hayam” in Hebrew), which supports marine conservation through citizen science. The divers were trained in marine ecology and survey methods to conduct independent surveys and lead underwater cleanups. For the first time, we have described the patterns of benthic debris density and composition in the nearshore environment of the southeastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. We found that benthic marine debris in the nearshore along the Israeli Mediterranean coast is primarily plastic, likely originating from the use of local beaches. Fishing, boating and domestic activities also play an important role as sources for marine debris. The currents' regime prevented the debris from accumulating on the seafloor in the nearshore environment, with the exception of several “debris traps”. Our findings will be useful for the development of programs to improve coastal waste management.
... Across the globe, citizen science programs train recreational divers to effectively monitor marine fishes, invertebrates, and algae (Branchini et al., 2015;Cerrano et al., 2016). The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) Volunteer Fish Survey Project trains volunteer divers and snorkelers to independently conduct RDT surveys, creating a system by which thousands of standardized surveys are conducted annually and recorded in a publicly accessible database (Pattengill-Semmens & Semmens, 2003). ...
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Long-term monitoring enables scientists and managers to track changes in the temporal and spatial distributions of fishes. Given the anthropogenic stressors affecting marine ecosystem health, there is a critical need for robust, comprehensive fish monitoring programs. Citizen science can serve as a meaningful, cost-effective strategy to survey fish communities. We compared data from 13,000 surveys collected over 21 years (1998–2019) by Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) volunteer divers to a published compilation of Salish Sea ichthyofauna collected using an assortment of methods. Volunteer divers observed 138 of 261 recognized species in the Salish Sea, expanded the range of 18 species into additional Salish Sea sub-basins, and identified one species novel to the Salish Sea ( Gibbonsia metzi — Striped Kelpfish). To identify Salish Sea fish species that are most suitable to be monitored by underwater visual census and to evaluate confidence in in situ identification, we developed a categorization system based on the likelihood of recreational divers and snorkelers encountering a given species, and on whether identification required a specimen in hand or could be classified to species visually (with or without a high-quality photograph). REEF divers encountered 62% (138 of 223) of the visually detectable species occurring in the region and 85% (102 of 120) of species most likely to be observed by recreational divers. Our findings show that citizen scientists provide valuable monitoring data for over half of the 261 marine and anadromous fish species known to occupy the Salish Sea, many of which are not routinely monitored otherwise.
... However, underwater activities can also provide funding for MPAs and raise awareness about the importance of marine conservation Lucrezi, Milanese, Sarà, et al., 2018). In addition to receiving environmental education that allows them to understand the functions of MPAs (Hammerton & Bucher, 2015;Medio et al., 1997), scuba divers can even be helpful to the scientific community and MPA authorities by sharing information with managers and researchers about the environmental status and possible ecosystem changes in the MPA (Bramanti et al., 2011;Cerrano et al., 2017). Participatory research or citizen science activities are a way to generate new scientific or environmental knowledge by engaging the public in science and enabling divers to make themselves useful by actively participating in different phases of the scientific process (Dickinson et al., 2012). ...
Article
Underwater photography is increasing in popularity. It can have positive effects such as conservation awareness and citizen science. Often, however, photographers neglect good environmental practices and engage in potentially damaging behaviours to the marine environment. The management of underwater photography is particularly relevant in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), where uses of the marine environment need to be carefully balanced. This study aimed to assess and compare underwater photographers’ and non-photographers’ knowledge of codes of conduct in MPAs, as well as self-reported and observed compliance with these codes of conduct, and perceptions of the health of the marine environment including dive sites. Through direct observations and questionnaires, 84 divers were studied in three Italian MPAs in the summer of 2021. The difference between underwater photographers and non-photographers was stark, with the former being more likely to violate MPA rules compared to the latter. There was no difference in knowledge of the effects of their behaviour on the marine environment between underwater photographers and non-photographers. Our results can help provide management considerations to reduce the impacts of underwater photography. Awareness campaigns, pre-dive briefings and the promotion of low-impact underwater photography courses can help to limit unsustainable underwater behaviours among underwater photographers. Effective regulation of underwater photography can increase the carrying capacity of dive sites and have positive environmental and economic effects on MPAs and diving destinations.
... CS projects would help to reconnect our society to nature ( Barragan-Jason et al., 2021;Gaston & Soga, 2020) and increase public awareness of the current status of the environment and the threat that humans represent to ecosystem stability (Cerrano et al., 2017;Schläppy et al., 2017). In line with these authors, we want to show that the objectives of CS go far beyond helping research teams or educating the public about the sciences (Bonney et al., 2014;Vignola et al., 2009): In a global change context and a highly complex world, the involvement of citizens and researchers in a more socio-ecological democracy is critical to facing the dangerous global crisis in which we are currently living (Gardner & Wordley, 2019;Hagedorn et al., 2019;Steffen et al., 2015). ...
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Quantitative plant biology is a growing field, thanks to the substantial progress of models and artificial intelligence dealing with big data. However, collecting large enough datasets is not always straightforward. The citizen science approach can multiply the workforce, hence helping the researchers with data collection and analysis, while also facilitating the spread of scientific knowledge and methods to volunteers. The reciprocal benefits go far beyond the project community: By empowering volunteers and increasing the robustness of scientific results, the scientific method spreads to the socio-ecological scale. This review aims to demonstrate that citizen science has a huge potential (i) for science with the development of different tools to collect and analyse much larger datasets, (ii) for volunteers by increasing their involvement in the project governance and (iii) for the socio-ecological system by increasing the share of the knowledge, thanks to a cascade effect and the help of ‘facilitators’.
... Al contempo, anche specie non indigene sono comparse nelle acque del Promontorio, tra le quali la spugna calcarea Paraleucilla magna (Fig. 23G), il pesce berice Beryx splendens e soprattutto l'alga verde C. cylindracea (Fig. 23H), che con la sua espansione ha fortemente contribuito al cambiamento delle comunità bentoniche della zona (Orsi- Bertolino et al., 2014b;Montefalcone et al., 2015;Betti et al., 2017b;Gatti et al., 2017;Longobardi et al., 2017;Cattaneo-Vietti, 2018;Bianchi et al., 2019;Morri et al., 2019). Quest'ultima specie è stata anche oggetto di un progetto di Citizen Science promosso da Reef Check Italia Onlus, che ha coinvolto numerosi subacquei ed è stato focalizzato proprio all'interno dell' AMP di Portofino (Cerrano et al., 2017); scopo del progetto, oltre alla segnalazione dell'alga aliena, è stato anche quello di censire e stimare l'abbondanza di specie protette o di rilevanza ecologica. ...
... https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234587.g003 generating less interest [72]. However, compared to the global occurrence records (number of occurrences per group instead of richness), mammals (Z mammals = 15.9; ...
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Citizen science (CS) currently refers to the participation of non-scientist volunteers in any discipline of conventional scientific research. Over the last two decades, nature-based CS has flourished due to innovative technology, novel devices, and widespread digital platforms used to collect and classify species occurrence data. For scientists, CS offers a low-cost approach of collecting species occurrence information at large spatial scales that otherwise would be prohibitively expensive. We examined the trends and gaps linked to the use of CS as a source of data for species distribution models (SDMs), in order to propose guidelines and highlight solutions. We conducted a quantitative literature review of 207 peer-reviewed articles to measure how the representation of different taxa, regions, and data types have changed in SDM publications since the 2010s. Our review shows that the number of papers using CS for SDMs has increased at approximately double the rate of the overall number of SDM papers. However, disparities in taxonomic and geographic coverage remain in studies using CS. Western Europe and North America were the regions with the most coverage (73%). Papers on birds (49%) and mammals (19.3%) outnumbered other taxa. Among invertebrates, flying insects including Lepidoptera, Odonata and Hymenoptera received the most attention. Discrepancies between research interest and availability of data were as especially important for amphibians, reptiles and fishes. Compared to studies on animal taxa, papers on plants using CS data remain rare. Although the aims and scope of papers are diverse, species conservation remained the central theme of SDM using CS data. We present examples of the use of CS and highlight recommendations to motivate further research, such as combining multiple data sources and promoting local and traditional knowledge. We hope our findings will strengthen citizen-researchers partnerships to better inform SDMs, especially for less-studied taxa and regions. Researchers stand to benefit from the large quantity of data available from CS sources to improve global predictions of species distributions. PLOS ONE PLOS ONE | https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.
... Acrothamnion preissi was found in very small amounts, but it might be more common than we were able to detect; this filamentous species is a common epiphyte on the rizomes of Posidonia oceanica . Caulerpa cylindracea spread aggressively in the Ligurian Sea in the last 20 years and in 2015 was reported to be still increasing its range and habitat occupancy (Montefalcone et al. 2015;Cerrano et al. 2017). Its presence on Gallinara has been known since 2005 (Tunesi et al. 2006) and Bianchi et al. (2018) reported an increase in abundance of the species in the last decade. ...
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Gallinara Island, a small island located 1.5 km off the shore of Liguria (Italy, north-western Mediterranean Sea) was included in a list of proposed Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the early 90s. Since then, its benthic assemblages have been studied in detail and the main macrophytic communities have been mapped. A detailed assessment of its benthic macroalgal flora, however, has never been made. Gallinara was visited in the course of 5 consecutive years and its macroalgal flora was studied based on collections made by snorkelling and SCUBA diving. Overall, 141 macroalgal taxa were collected and identified (23 Chlorophyta, 94 Rhodophyta, 24 Ochrophyta); 91 of them represent new records for the island. One of the most notable new records is the non-indigenous red alga Womersleyella setacea , previously unreported from the island and widely distributed, particularly on the south-eastern shore. Observations made in the course of the surveys confirm the rarefaction of some large-sized brown algae (particularly Sargassum vulgare ) but indicate also that others previously reported as rare ( Cystoseira compressa , Dictyopteris polypodioides ) are still common on the island.
... Similar to this stakeholder driven initiative, other monitoring programs carried out by a consortium of stakeholders have been useful for management and generating scientific questions related to the health of animal populations and their ecosystems (Cohn 2008;Cerrano et al., 2017). For example, initiatives leading to scientific advancements in the marine realm include monitoring catch rates in recreational fisheries (see Granek et al., 2008), monitoring coral reefs and their assemblages (Hodgson 1999;Stuart-Smith et al., 2017;Vieira et al., 2020), the spread of marine invasive species (Delaney et al., 2008), and the benefits of marine protected areas (Strain et al., 2019). ...
Article
Recreational fishing is a growing sector of tourism, and in theory, can be done in a sustainable manner such as through catch-and-release where fish are released rather than harvested. In some cases, stakeholders have taken the initiative to develop conservation strategies and management guidelines, as well as establishing monitoring programs of the resources they use. In this work, we provide a case study of a cooperative monitoring program in the Alphonse Group, Republic of the Seychelles, Africa, between a fishing company (Alphonse Fishing Company) and a local non-governmental organization (Island Conservation Society). These efforts have resulted in a code of conduct for the catch-and-release of target species, as well as long-term spatially explicit monitoring of catches, including fish size and catch location for five popular species through catch logs. During three seasons, the five key fish species monitored were giant trevally (Caranx ignobilis, n = 684), moustache triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens, n = 141), Indo-Pacific permit (Trachinotus blochii, n = 99), milkfish (Chanos chanos, n = 55), and yellowmargin triggerfish (Pseudobalistes flavimarginatus, n = 46). We found monthly catch variability across all species and that catches across seasons increased for C. ignobilis (203.8%), T. blochii (45.5%), and B. viridescens (25%), and decreased for C. chanos (-65.6%) and P. flavimarginatus (-10%). Although there are considerations with implementing and maintaining such initiatives, we reviewed the benefits, including how these efforts can serve as the foundation for more thorough scientific research, co-production, and evidence-based management for the most sought-after species, C. ignobilis. We highlight how these cooperative initiatives may lead to formal co-management structures in recreational fishing, and also help to build capacity in government agencies for advancing economic prosperity while establishing sound long-term management and conservation strategies.
... These characteristics suggest that the scuba diving community around the Cape Peninsula, and beyond, have enormous potential to contribute to conservation measures, monitoring activities and working towards achieving the aims of the MPA. Similar results in cold-water ecosystems have been noted by Hermoso et al. (2021) in Chile, as well as Lucrezi et al. (2018) and Cerrano et al. (2017) in Italy. ...
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In South Africa, recreational scuba diving is one of the most popular coastal activities, which is largely carried out within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). MPAs act as the basis for marine conservation in the country, operating as the primary tool for the management of the country's marine resources. Effective management of MPAs depends on the uptake of voluntary guidelines, including Codes of Conduct by recreational users, such as the scuba diving community. With a focus on the MPA of Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), this paper aims to determine the value that Cape divers attach to the marine environment in which they dive, their understanding of the role of the TMNP MPA, and their knowledge and attitudes regarding its management. A semi-structured questionnaire with responses from around 30% of the local diving community showed that while users attached a high value the MPA in which they dive, they presented a lack of knowledge around the regulations and conditions involved with diving within the MPA. This is associated with poor dissemination of user information and general awareness. In-depth interviews with dive operators and management personnel of the MPA indicated a disconnect between the different levels of management, operators and users. Based on this research, we propose alternative and additional management strategies for recreational scuba diving that would contribute to the success of the TMNP MPA including inter alia increased collaboration with the dive community for citizen science activities, improved stakeholder engagement and better access to information on management regulations and expectations.
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Technical Report
L'Italia vanta una lunga tradizione in materia di immersioni scientifiche e da diversi anni si discute della necessità di una specifica regolamentazione di questa disciplina che soffre, ancora oggi, della mancanza di una armonizzazione a livello sia nazionale che europeo (Ponti, 2012). Nonostante la pubblicazione delle "Buone prassi per lo svolgimento in sicurezza delle attività subacquee di ISPRA e delle agenzie ambientali", validate nel 2013 dalla Commissione Consultiva Permanente del Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali, e l'adozione da parte di molti Istituti e Università di regolamenti per le immersioni scientifiche sviluppati a partire da quelle buone prassi, l'assenza di un quadro di riferimento chiaro, riconosciuto e riconoscibile dalle autorità competenti, fa sì che l'immersione scientifica spesso non venga individuata come una attività professionale indipendente e differente, per finalità e procedure di esecuzione, rispetto alla subacquea commerciale o addirittura a quella ricreativa. In questo contributo vogliamo fornire una visione sintetica delle diverse scuole che in Italia offrono un approccio all'immersione scientifica a studenti universitari ed a professionisti e, inoltre, fornire indicazioni utili per armonizzare le diverse offerte formative con linee guida comuni e condivise. L'Associazione Italiana Operatori Scientifici Subacquei (AIOSS), costituita il 5 febbraio 2010, nasce come associazione di categoria per i lavoratori che svolgono, a vario titolo, attività subacquea per fini scientifici, ambientali, documentaristici e informativi, nell'ambito della loro professione. L'AIOSS, riconosciuta dall'European Scientific Diving Panel (ESDP, oggi parte integrante del European Network of Marine Stations, MARS), rilascia i certificati di European Scientific Diver (ESD) ed Advanced European Scientific Diver (AESD) ai propri soci regolarmente iscritti ed in possesso dei requisiti minimi previsti dagli standard ESDP, consentendo in questo modo il riconoscimento della figura professionale almeno tra le istituzioni europee afferenti al Panel e molte altre organizzazioni extraeuropee, compresa la American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS). Al fine di ottenere una qualificata formazione, ed eventualmente raggiungere i requisiti richiesti per il rilascio della certificazione europea, gli studenti possono frequentare i corsi di immersione scientifica che diverse Università offrono come scelta facoltativa nei loro master in biologia marina, geologia ed archeologia; si tratta di corsi primariamente rivolti agli studenti dei relativi Atenei (ad esempio, Marche). Tuttavia, molte altre opportunità di formazione extra o post universitaria sono offerte ai candidati subacquei scientifici. Vogliamo qui di seguito elencarne ed illustrane alcune tra quelle più longeve o a carattere anche internazionale. La più antica organizzazione italiana dedicata a questa attività è la "International School for Scientific Diving" (ISSD) che, dal 1986, organizza annualmente il suo Corso di addestramento per "Ricercatore Scientifico Subacqueo" nel quale, attraverso un approccio multidisciplinare, vengono insegnate le tecniche fondamentali per svolgere indagini subacquee ed i principali metodi di campionamento (vedi Box 1). Una volta acquisite le nozioni di base durante il corso, la formazione viene approfondita attraverso il coinvolgimento degli allievi in diverse attività di monitoraggio e ricerca che la scuola organizza in Italia ed all' estero; ne è un esempio la "Crociera Scientifica" alle Maldive, giunta nel 2020 alla sua 23 a edizione, che la ISSD organizza in collaborazione con Albatros Top Boat e con alcuni membri dell'
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Aim Gorgonian forests are among the most complex of subtidal habitats in the Mediterranean Sea, supporting high biodiversity and providing diverse ecosystem services. Despite their iconic status, the geographical distribution and condition of gorgonian species is poorly known. Using multiple online data sources, our primary aims were to compile, map and analyse observations of gorgonian forests in Italian coastal waters to assess the biological complexity of gorgonian forests, evaluate impacts and vulnerable species, and identify areas of special interest inside and outside of marine protected areas (MPAs) to help prioritize conservation strategies and actions. Location Italy. Mediterranean Sea. Methods Using a multi‐source data integration approach, we collected and integrated data from scientific publications, the World Wide Web including social media platforms, citizen science projects and SCUBA diver questionnaires into a unified spatial framework. This method provided up‐to‐date information on the geographical distribution, abundance, and health of major habitat‐forming gorgonian species in Italian coastal waters. Results Higher abundance and complexity of gorgonian species occurred outside MPAs. Areas of Special Interest (n = 167) were identified (80 inside and 87 outside MPAs). Three locations supported all seven focal species: Capo Caccia MPA, Portofino MPA and Catania (unprotected). The purple gorgonian (Paramuricea clavata), the most abundant and geographically widespread species with highest forest complexity, was affected by multiple stressors including thermal stress, disease and fishing. Main conclusions The multi‐source approach was a rapid and cost‐effective tool to gather, analyse and map disparate data on gorgonian forests spanning 27 years of underwater observations both inside and outside of MPAs. The unique perspective given by this approach demonstrates the suboptimal protection of several habitat‐forming gorgonian species. The approach has great potential for wider application and offers a more inclusive participatory model for crowdsourcing and repurposing under‐utilized observations while also increasing ocean literacy.
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The current development of citizen science is an opportunity for marine biodiversity surveys to use recreational SCUBA diver data. In France, the DORIS project is extensively used for marine species identification, while many initiatives offer volunteer divers the means to record their observations. Thanks to the scientific synergy generated by the flagship project of the artificial reefs (ARs) of Prado Bay, located off the coast of Marseille (France), a multi-annual biodiversity survey was performed by a team of recreational divers certified by the French Federation for Submarine Sports and Education (FFESSM). The analysis of their observations with other citizen science data showed a good taxonomic coverage for fishes and mollusks. These observations also allowed (1) to follow AR colonization over the study period, with the increasing number of taxa and the growing occurrence of large fishes, and (2) to characterize taxa distribution between the different AR types, revealing the inefficiency of one type of AR which failed to provide the results expected from its design. This example demonstrates that the transition from species identification to ecologically relevant observation is perfectly feasible using volunteer naturalist SCUBA divers, on condition that both the protocols and the data are validated by professional scientists.
Article
Makumbirofa, S.D. and Saayman, A., 2022. The influence of environmental value orientations on the overall scuba diving experience within a marine protected area. Journal of Coastal Research, 38(1), 168181. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208. This paper reports on the findings of a discrete choice experiment that aims to value the different attributes of the scuba diving experience in the Portofino Marine Protected Area (MPA), taking into account the various environmental value orientations of the divers. The attributes were divided into five different qualitieswater visibility, diver crowding, species diversity, species number, and the willingness to paywhereas the general awareness of consequences scale measured value orientations. Using a self-administered choice questionnaire, divers were asked to state their choice from different sets of attributes. A sample of 556 completed questionnaires were collected, with each respondent answering two random choice cards representing a choice between two different sets of attributes. A multinomial logit model was used to estimate scuba divers' willingness to pay for the various environmental attributes. The findings show that the most valued attribute for scuba divers in the Portofino MPA is underwater visibility followed by a less crowded dive site. The divers are predominantly egoistic in their value orientation, indicating that pro-environmental behaviour and intentions stem from self-interest. Regulations and education programmes that emphasise direct benefits to divers' diving experience would therefore encourage pro-environmental behaviour.
Article
We identified areas with high individual densities of the pen shell, Pinna nobilis, in two areas along the Croatian Adriatic coast. The surveys carried out in 2018 and 2019 showed population densities of approximately 9 to 13 individuals/100 m². However, in 2019 a mass mortality event (MME) causing 36% to 100% mortality of this bivalve species was observed in the surveyed Croatian bays. The parasite Haplosporidium pinnae was identified by histological and molecular methods in all affected sampled individuals, while Mycobacterium sp. and Gram negative bacilli were detected in some affected and live bivalves. This finding constitutes the first record of these pathogens affecting P. nobilis in the middle Adriatic, confirming the continuous spread of the disease. Previously, the Adriatic water body was considered to be a natural shelter against the MME caused by pathogens in pen shell populations because of its distinct ecological features. The Adriatic Sea is a semi-closed water body with the largest continental shelf in the Mediterranean Sea, and due to its geomorphology and bathymetry, it is a sea with distinct characteristics. Monitoring plans and further studies in the Adriatic bays are now a priority for mitigating the high risk of extinction and working toward the conservation of this protected species.
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Over the last decade, significant advances in citizen science have occurred, allowing projects to extend in scope from the ocean floor to the Milky Way and cover almost everything in between. These projects have provided cost-effective means to collect extensive data sets covering vast spatio-temporal scales that can be used in scientific research, to develop conservation policy and to promote environmental awareness. This review explores the current status of marine citizen science by examining 120 marine citizen science projects. Trends in geographic locations, focal taxa, participant demographics, tasks undertaken and data directionality (i.e. storage and publication) are highlighted, and the challenges and benefits of citizen science to marine research and conservation are reviewed. Marine citizen science projects act primarily at national levels (53.3%) and mainly focus on coastal ocean environments (49.2%) with chordates as the most popular focus taxa (40%). Some form of methodological training for participants is provided by 64.2% of projects, and the most popular tasks undertaken are field surveys (35.8%) and reporting of opportunistic sightings (34.2%). Data quality and participant motivation are among the most common challenges facing projects, but identified strengths include enhanced marine policy, increased scientific knowledge and environmental stewardship. In conclusion, marine citizen science lies at a crossroads of unresolved challenges, demonstrated successes and unrealized potential. However, should the challenges be addressed, the unique capacity of citizen science to broaden the scope of investigations may be the key to the future of marine research and conservation in times of global change and financial hardship.
Chapter
Marine ecosystems, in particular marine animal forests, are facing huge losses, being drastically transformed by different threats that just keep increasing its negative effects. Actual and future research strategies underpin programs with more collaborative and transdisciplinary perspectives, able to create and develop solutions to complex environmental issues that must be inclusive with society in order to be sustainable, not only at economic level but also in space and time. In this chapter, citizen science is presented as a complementary strategy to strengthen research on marine animal forests that show multiple benefits including bridging the gap between science and society. Citizen science is a growing field, becoming also a new paradigm for doing research in conservation. Now is time to realize that the world challenges must be solved through multidisciplinary approaches that include cooperation and engagement with society, in which citizen science can be a powerful tool to achieve conservation goals. In addition, practitioners and developers must not forget that training, capacity building and continuous assessment and support is also needed to reach objectives and maintain stakeholder’s engagement and impact results.
Article
• Characterizing the composition of divers visiting different diving areas could help to design marine citizen science (MCS) projects that support biodiversity monitoring and marine conservation. • Recreational scuba divers mostly prefer warm and clear waters with coral reefs, and based on the Duffus and Dearden’s wildlife tourism framework we hypothesized that a more popular diving area is visited mostly by generalist divers, whereas in a less popular diving area a higher proportion of specialist divers would be found. • Recreational scuba divers were surveyed in diving centres at two diving areas, Rapa Nui (more popular, with warm and clear coral‐reef waters) and the Chilean mainland (less popular, with productive and temperate–cold waters), to determine their diving profile, visiting profile, marine species knowledge, and interest and participation in MCS. • Support for our hypothesis (generalist divers on Rapa Nui and specialist divers on the mainland) was weak, but recreational divers on Rapa Nui were mostly foreign visitors who come for single visits, whereas divers from the mainland were predominantly Chileans who return repeatedly to the diving area. In both diving areas the divers expressed a strong interest to be trained and to participate in MCS, but divers from Rapa Nui were interested in brief pre‐dive inductions, whereas divers from the Chilean mainland preferred intensive training courses. • Based on these findings we recommend specific MCS strategies for divers in both types of areas, e.g. simple protocols in more popular diving areas, with short pre‐dive briefings for divers, and medium or long‐term programmes in areas where most divers are local with high return rates. In these latter conditions more extensive training will be useful, which allows divers to gain more experience and assume higher responsibilities within an MCS project.
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Coralligenous assemblages are among the most species-rich and vulnerable habitats of the Mediterranean Sea. Nevertheless, data on connectivity patterns on species inhabiting these habitats, crucial to define management and protection priorities, are largely lacking. Moreover, unreliable species-level taxonomy can confound ecological studies and mislead management strategies. In the northwestern Mediterranean two Parazoanthus axinellae morphotypes differing in size, color and preferred substrate are found in sympatry. In this study, we used COI and ITS sequence polymorphism to assess (1) the genetic divergence between the two morphotypes, (2) their connectivity patterns and (3) their phylogenetic position within the Parazoanthidae. Specimens of P. axinellae were sampled in 11 locations along the northwestern Mediterranean; in 6 locations, samples of the two morphotypes were collected in sympatry. Small genetic diversity and structure were found within morphotypes, while marked and consistent differentiation was detected between them. Moreover, the less widespread morphotype appeared to be closer to Pacific species as P. juanfernandezii and P. elongatus. Our findings confirmed the limited knowledge on Parazoanthus species complex, and how this gap can have important implication for the conservation strategies of this widespread and valuable genus in the Mediterranean Sea.
Article
Non-tropical marine protected areas (MPAs) are likely to experience growing demand from scuba diving tourism, given the pressures on their tropical counterparts. The vulnerability of non-tropical MPAs to the impacts of diving tourism calls for monitoring and sustainable management of diving activities to ensure conservation. This study contributes to an assessment of scuba diving tourism in non-tropical MPAs. Scuba divers' contact behaviour towards substrates and wildlife was evaluated at a temperate MPA in northern Italy and a subtropical MPA in southern Mozambique. A total of 380 scuba divers were observed underwater. Contact behaviour was measured against key characteristics with a post-dive questionnaire survey. Contact rates were 0.13 min −1 for Italy and 0.59 min −1 for Mozambique. Most contacts were deliberate, with turf or soft sediment, and had no visible effect. The results from the survey revealed that diving experience and attitudes are related to contact behaviour and that divers may underestimate the potential effects of certain contact types. The findings were used to develop a management framework to promote proper underwater conduct by scuba divers and maintain diving tourism as a sustainable activity in non-tropical MPAs.
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Against the backdrop of a dramatic increase in citizen science activity worldwide, we convened a combined symposium and focus group at the 2014 International Marine Conservation Congress to consider the challenges and opportunities for mobilizing citizen science in the marine and coastal environment. Highlighting the diversity of existing models and approaches to citizen science, participants focused on six different conservation-related outcomes that citizen science projects can potentially support: policy, education, community capacity building, site management, species management, and research. We provide two example case studies of projects and summarize the key themes and recommendations associated with each of those outcomes. The result is a series of “toolkits” that can help to guide new and existing citizen science projects that aim to support management and conservation of ocean resources, as well as providing insights and recommendations to stimulate further research on and assessment of marine and coastal citizen science programs. Citizen science is an effective approach to conservation and it is time for this underutilized resource to become a more prominent approach for marine and coastal conservation.
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The effect of recreational SCUBA diving on coral reefs is likely secondary to many of the commonly cited stressors that threaten the long-term survival of coral reefs, such as rising temperatures. However, recreational SCUBA diving has had documented effects on various benthic organisms. Most research on the effect of SCUBA divers has focused on broken and abraded benthic organisms or the rate at which divers contact the benthos. We tested for differences in the structural complexity and benthic assemblage between pairs of heavily and lightly trafficked dive sites in Bonaire, a popular Carribbean diving destination. There was roughly 10 % less structural complexity in areas of heavy traffic. This is alarming given that the structural complexity of shallow reefs in Bonaire is substantially lower than in the 1970s. Different functional groups of benthic organisms were affected differentially by diving traffic. For instance, massive corals such as Orbicella annularis were 31 % less abundant at heavy than light diver traffic areas, while gorgonians and sponges had similar abundances at heavy and light diver traffic areas. Our results match those of previous studies on the resistance and resilience of tropical benthic reef organisms to physical disturbances that suggest that stony corals are more prone to physical damage than gorgonians and sponges. We provide a number of possible management strategies that could reduce the effects of recreational SCUBA divers on Bonaire and elsewhere, including education/intervention by dive guides and concentration of diving traffic away from areas of stony coral abundance.
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Tourism is of growing economical importance to many nations, in particular for developing countries. Although tourism is an important economic vehicle for the host country, its continued growth has led to on-going concerns about its environmental sustainability. Coastal and marine tourism can directly affect the environment through direct and indirect tourist activities. For these reasons tourism sector needs practical actions of sustainability. Several studies have shown how education minimizes the impact on and is proactive for, preserving the natural resources. This paper evaluates the effectiveness of a citizen science program to improve the environmental education of the volunteers, by means of questionnaires provided to participants to a volunteer-based Red Sea coral reef monitoring program (STEproject). Fifteen multiple-choice questions evaluated the level of knowledge on the basic coral reef biology and ecology and the awareness on the impact of human behaviour on the environment. Volunteers filled in questionnaires twice, once at the beginning, before being involved in the project and again at the end of their stay, after several days participation in the program. We found that the participation in STEproject significantly increased both the knowledge of coral reef biology and ecology and the awareness of human behavioural impacts on the environment, but was more effective on the former. We also detected that tourists with a higher education level have a higher initial level of environmental education than less educated people and that the project was more effective on divers than snorkelers. This study has emphasized that citizen science projects have an important and effective educational value and has suggested that tourism and diving stakeholders should increase their commitment and efforts to these programs.
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Most studies focused on a diverse assemblage of animals, followed by flora and other topics (e.g., contamination or beach dynamics). Seabirds, marine mammals, turtles, and fishes were the most commonly studied animals, but several studies also dealt with marine invertebrates. Many of the studied taxa were commercially important, emblematic, or endangered species. Surveys of invasive species took advantage of the extensive spatial scale that can be covered by large numbers of volunteers. as would be expected, the research activities of citizen scientists were concentrated in easily accessible coastal habitats, including sandy beaches, estuaries, coral reefs, and seagrass beds. Hot spots of marine citizen science projects (CSPs) were found not only in North america and Europe, but also in the Indo-West Pacific region. Contributions made by citizen scientists were equally based on incidental observations as on standardized surveys. Some of the research projects had been active for more than a decade, but most were midterm programmes, last-ing a few years or less. Volunteer participants came from a wide range of demographic backgrounds. usually, the participants were adults of both sexes, but a few studies considered either only men or only women (mainly in small fishing communities). Whereas several studies were based on school-children as volunteers, no study worked specifically with senior citizens. The educational level of participants, often not explicitly mentioned in the publications, was also diverse. Some projects selected participants based on their experiences, skills, or profession, but in the majority of the stud-ies, there was either no selection or no information was provided, suggesting that any interested citi-zen could participate. The preparation of participants ranged from brief written or oral instructions to extensive (weeks) training sessions with professional experts. In general, training effort increased with the complexity of the tasks conducted by volunteers, a crucial element being the adjustment MaRTIN THIEl ET al. 258 of simple methodologies to the capabilities of participants. Studies for which volunteers needed to identify many different species and estimate their abundances were considered the most complex tasks, and subsequent analysis of such studies by professional scientists must consider inherent bias or shortcomings. about half of the examined studies included some type of quality control to ensure that the data collected by citizen scientists met the standards of rigorous scientific studies. Several authors emphasized that data quality increased with the duration of project participation. Efforts therefore should be made to retain experienced volunteers over time, which is facilitated when volunteers perceive that their efforts lead to something of practical use, such as publications, conservation initiatives, management decisions, or policy actions. Participants seemed to value personal satisfaction and public recognition, but learning about the ocean was also important. The coordinators of marine CSPs often collaborated with organizations such as conservation groups, birdwatchers, dive associations, or fishermen's cooperatives to recruit volunteers, but media cam-paigns, personal communication, social media, and functional websites were also important. Some studies were based on small numbers of participants (e.g., artisanal fishermen); others involved thou-sands of volunteers (e.g., coral or litter surveys). Volunteer-generated data contributed information about population dynamics, health, or distribution of marine organisms and supported long-term monitoring programmes of marine protected areas, harmful algal blooms, or marine litter, among others. In general, the contribution of citizen scientists greatly enhances research capacity, provid-ing an increased workforce over extensive spatial and intensive temporal scales at comparatively moderate costs. Citizen science is able to make significant contributions to marine science, where professional scientific activities are limited by the available human resources. Considering the vast-ness of the oceans and the diversity of habitats, communities, and species, proper understanding of this realm requires intensive research activities over time and space. This recognition should lead to increased consideration of citizen science as a powerful tool for the generation and spread of scien-tific knowledge. 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