Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


COCONET Report Summary

Project ID: 287844
Funded under: FP7-KBBE
Country: Italy

Final Report Summary - COCONET (Towards COast to COast NETworks of marine protected areas ( from the shore to the high and deep sea), coupled with sea-based wind energy potential.)

Executive Summary:
CoCoNet focused on the Mediterranean and the Black Seas and its objectives were the production of: 1- Guidelines for the institution of networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs); 2 - Smart Wind Chart evaluating the feasibility of Offshore Wind Farms (OWFs).
Both objectives call for the identification of spatially explicit marine units where the management of human activities (either in terms of protection and in clean energy production) is based on the features of natural systems, as both the ecosystem approach and marine spatial planning require. Desk-based and field studies (carried out in two pilot areas) identified these natural units as Cells of Ecosystem Functioning (CEFs): portions of the water column that are more connected with each other than with other portions. This novel concept is based on connectivity and will prove useful for any planning of the use of marine space. The data gathered during the project are stored into a multi-layered Geodatabase, an essential platform to achieve full awareness of the natural and socio-economic features of the marine environment.
The guidelines. MPAs mostly protect particularly relevant benthic habitats and the ecological processes that occur within their volumes. The water column, however, is the largest meta-habitat of the planet; it connects benthic habitats and comprises a suite of pelagic habitats that are not homogeneous, either in time or in space. MPA networks fulfil the strategic conservation objective of assuring, through the preservation of large-scale ecosystem functioning, the persistence of a good state for biodiversity, not only in MPAs. This contributes to consider both benthic and pelagic habitats in a holistic way, in tightly connected ecological spaces where ecosystems function in a coherent fashion. The steps for MPA networks are:
• Collect information, from physics to biogeochemistry, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, and socio-economy, and analyse it to identify the best solution priority areas to design networks of MPAs with the use of software (Marxan) that supports decisions in spatial planning.
• Identify natural conservation units (CEFs), and their variability in time and space, with an evaluation of connectivity based on physical oceanography, beta diversity, propagule pressure, and genetic assessment of populations.
• Use the networks of MPAs as conservation, monitoring and management units to attain Good Environmental Status, as the MSFD prescribes.
• Expand these visions also to non-EU countries, to warrant a consistent use of the marine space: MPA networks management is effective only if it comprises the whole cell.
The Smart Wind Chart. The development of Offshore Wind Farms, a strategy aimed at clean energy production, is complementary to a policy of marine conservation. The key steps are:
• Collect and organize off shore wind data and climate. This has been done with the wind part of the SWC.
• Assess the compatibility of OWF against environmental issues, using the CEF approach employed for the networks of MPAs. The environmental issues (from the presence of Natura 2000 habitats to the MPAs and their networks) were superimposed to wind data, matching the possibility of building OWF against the necessity of protecting the environment.
• Consider marine uses and potential conflicts. In the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, tourism is a very important asset and the visual impact of OWFs has been considered, to prevent opposition of coastal communities.
• Consider policies in the different states where OWFs will be placed.
A solid theoretical basis is now available, guiding a more holistic way to provide solutions leading to Blue Growth, to increase the economic capital while preserving the natural capital. The attainment of GES through networks of MPAs, and the production of clean energy through OWFs will be instrumental to the attainment of sustainable growth with an increase of blue jobs to enhance the knowledge of marine systems.

Project Context and Objectives:
The protection of the natural capital in marine systems is the core of sustainable development, as the Blue Growth initiative prescribes. The production of energy through fossil fuels is a major threat to environmental integrity and clean energy production is conducive to the preservation of the natural capital. To satisfy these strategic aims, CoCoNet produced two items:
1. A Manual containing a set of guidelines for the institution of Networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
2. A Smart Wind Chart of the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, assessing the feasibility of Offshore Wind Farms (OWF) in both basins.
Networks of MPAs
The protection of the marine environment is currently achieved through three main instruments:
1. The Sites of Community Importance (SCI), according to the Habitats Directive, protect only nine widespread and important benthic marine habitats, such as Posidonia meadows in the Mediterranean Sea.
2. MPAs protect particular and unique expressions of marine life, usually of great aesthetic value, such as rocky cliffs covered with colourful benthic populations (the SCI defined with the Habitats Directive do not necessarily coincide with MPAs).
3. Closures to fisheries restrict direct human impacts on target species either in space (nursery or spawning areas) or in time (reproductive periods) or both.
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), defines Good Environmental Status (GES) on the basis of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, and revolutionizes marine conservation and management, requiring the attainment of GES in all EU waters. The conceptual revolution of GES calls for a different strategy than previous ones, requiring management actions that cover all EU waters, and not only special portions of the marine environment, as those protected by MPAs, SCI or areas restricted to fisheries.
The first descriptor of GES requires that biodiversity is maintained, fitting perfectly with the aims of both MPAs and SCI: if biodiversity is maintained, as the MSFD prescribes in all EU waters, there would be no need of special protection (i.e. the above mentioned instruments to protect the environment) of special biodiversity expressions, such as the populations of commercial species, or the nine marine habitat types covered by the Habitats Directive. Most of the remaining descriptors deal with possible stressors of anthropogenic origin (Non Indigenous Species, Overfishing, Eutrophication, Sea Floor Destruction, Alteration of Hydrographical Conditions, Contamination, Marine Litter, and Energy Introduction) and require that they do not adversely affect the ecosystem.
This new context fits perfectly with the objective of CoCoNet: it widens the focus of protection from MPAs to networks of MPAs, eventually to cover the whole marine space, as the MSFD prescribes: GES must be reached in all EU waters by 2020.
In this context, the integration of MPAs into networks is not intended to simply sum the MPAs into a common framework: the objectives of MPA networks do not coincide with those of MPAs. Indeed, MPA networks do have the potential to fulfil the requirements of GES and to be an effective instrument to reach the expected goals, plan human activities with maritime spatial planning, and control the efficacy of management and protection by using MPAs as benchmarks to evaluate the state of biodiversity in particularly relevant hot spots.
The definition of GES calls for the upgrade of current observation systems, based mostly on physics, chemistry, and biogeochemistry: MPAs and their networks can be considered as observation sites where to monitor biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, so as to control the efficacy of measures aimed at reaching GES.

These views stem from the often-invoked ecosystem approach and are also coherent with holistic visions of the complexity of the marine realm, making the integrative coastal zone management possible, leading to marine spatial planning based on solid ecological knowledge. To cope with this request, the scientific community practicing marine science is increasingly invited to shift from reductionistic to holistic approaches.
The Smart Wind Chart
Offshore Wind Farms have been installed neither in the Mediterranean nor in the Black Sea. This is due to unstable wind regimes and to resistance of coastal communities to large infrastructures near the coast. Since in most cases the continental shelf is narrow, the installations would be too near to the coast, being perceived as a disturbance to maritime landscapes.
The necessity of clean energy production, however, is gaining momentum. Lots of Wind Farms are already present on land, and it is now acceptable to place them offshore, if properly placed so as not to disturb touristic activities.
The inclusion of OWF in a project focusing also on MPA networks gives the opportunity to evaluate the opportunities given by wind energy and the limitations to such enterprises due to the necessity of environmental protection. The Smart Wind Chart, in this framework, provides both the evaluation of wind energy (positive opportunities) and the limitations due to environmental features (the negative aspects). Matching the positive aspects against the negative ones provides a “smart” approach to the production of clean energy in sea-based infrastructures.

The objectives

• The guidelines to create MPA networks in the Mediterranean and Black Seas
The first core objective of CoCoNet was the definition of guidelines to establish networks of MPAs in both the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, with a holistic approach to marine conservation.
MPAs are not ecologically isolated from the rest of marine systems. The persistence of valuable expressions of biodiversity patterns (as those protected in MPAs) is based on the avoidance/regulation of direct threats (as enforced in MPAs) but ultimately depends on the functioning of the ecosystems at all significant scales, so requiring wise management also outside the directly protected space.
It is tenuous to defend a restricted marine space (such as those of MPAs and SCI) if the well being of the biodiversity inhabiting it depends both on local features and on larger scale processes that take place outside the range of focused protection initiatives. Hence, the networks of MPAs must be designed to maintain ecosystem functioning throughout their extension, increasing the efficiency of MPAs.
Networks of MPAs must be spatially explicit; hence the heart of the problem consists in identifying natural units of management and conservation. This objective was pursued with work at pilot sites, and the synthesis of current knowledge, with the elaboration of novel concepts that are good candidates as conservation and management units.
The evaluation of connectivity has been used to identify portions of the marine environment within which connections are higher than in neighbouring portions. This happens in gyres or eddies, upwelling and downwelling currents, fronts, or other processes that determine high ecological connections throughout the biological component.
Connectivity assessments were based on physical oceanography, beta diversity, propagule transport, and population genetics, dividing large ecoregions identified from large-scale processes and biogeographic patterns into ecologically coherent units.
The objective, thus, is to provide instruments to divide every basin into hierarchically organized functional units, nested into biogeographic regions and ecoregions, based on the identification of increasingly fine scale processes and patterns. This procedure of unit identification is valid not only for the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, but for the entire marine space.

To fulfil this objective the water column must be considered as a habitat, and not as a mere medium. Both MPAs and the Sites of Community Importance, in fact, mostly protect benthic communities. The volumes closed to fisheries consider only the fish inhabiting the marine space. The often-invoked ecosystem approach to fisheries highlights the lack of current approaches in considering fish as embedded in the ecosystems. MPAs, furthermore, are mostly coastal, so another objective is to include also the high and the deep sea into a common space, a volume rather than an area, where to realize the objectives of MPAs, SCI and closures of fisheries activities into a single holistic strategy.
This synthesis of formerly disparate protection measures is the objective of the MSFD and of the eleven descriptors of GES: all member states must implement a strategy to reach GES by 2020, and the networks of MPAs are proper management units to fulfil this objective.
The MSFD defines what condition the EU waters must reach by 2020: Good Environmental Status. The MSFD, however, does not define how GES is to be reached: every EU State is setting up a strategy to reach GES.
CoCoNet identifies GES as the main objective of the management of Networks of MPAs, and recommends effective actions towards the fulfilment of GES prescriptions. EU member states are responsible for the enforcement of the MSFD in own waters and the risk that measures will not be coherent with each other is concrete. It will be tenuous to plan activities that are not based on sound ecological principles, with co-ordinated actions. Since ecological boundaries do not recognize political barriers, it is important that such aspects are taken care of with the involvement of both the EU and non EU States that insist on a shared ecological space.
The creation of a strong scientific community with a shared vision, with which coherently advise local governments, is another objective of the project, that will increase the awareness of the need of ecological approaches to the management of marine systems.
Socio-economic expectations must be consistent with the features of the environment or, in the medium-long term, the ecosystems will fail to provide their goods and services, nullifying temporary progresses.

• The smart wind chart
The second core objective of CoCoNet was the exploration of the possibility of installing OWFs in the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, with the realization of a Smart Wind Chart (SWC).
The SWC identifies the areas in the Mediterranean and the Black Seas where two strategic requirements for the installation of OWFs are met:
1 – the availability of sufficient wind power to guarantee profitable energy production.
2 – the compatibility of OWF installation with the preservation of the natural capital and of its attractiveness/profitability for touristic and other socio-economic enterprises.
This requires matching the knowledge of the physics of the atmosphere (wind conditions) and of climatic trends including future scenarios, with marine conservation issues covering bird migration routes, cetacean activities, the impact of the installation of artificial structures in the marine biota, especially considering the features of bottom communities and the possible role of OWF in enhancing connectivity across hard bottom communities. Furthermore, the impact of OWF on social expectations and local economies based on the attractiveness of areas with high touristic value must be also considered.
A Smart Wind Chart, then, synthesizes both opportunities (wind availability) and constraints (biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, socio-economic potentials), fully embracing the vision of Blue Growth: the growth of the economic capital, to be sustainable, must not erode the natural capital. The achievement of GES, and its persistence, is the measure of sustainability and the objective of MPA networks is just to secure good biodiversity conditions by enhancing the functioning of ecosystems. The reduction in the use of fossil fuels and consequent clean energy production, furthermore, are coherent with the objectives of Blue Growth.
Project Results:
The results stemming from the two objectives of CoCoNet are presented here in two separate sections.
Section 1: Guidelines for effective Networks of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea

The structure of the Manual

A network of MPAs comprises a series of MPAs that are highly connected with each other by propagule fluxes (connectivity) and considers also the space where connectivity takes place. A network of MPAs needs to cover large geographical areas in order to protect ecosystems against catastrophes and increasing environmental variability as a result of human impacts.
This manual identifies four steps that must be followed to design a Network of MPAs:

• Step 1: Collect all information on the environment and the human activities that will make up the network, so as to build a geo-referenced database (in our case the Geodatabase) organized in layers that can be assembled to build different scenarios.
• Step 2: Define spatially explicit management and conservation units. These have been identified as Cells of Ecosystem Functioning, based on physical, biological and ecological features.
• Step 3: Identify networks and priority areas and their objectives by analysing the information of the database, spatially organized in the conservation units, with dedicated software (Marxan).
• Step 4: Design a management plan of networks of MPAs, based on their objectives and the strategies to reach them.

These simple steps hide a very high complexity, especially the first one, since the information is often fragmented, or out-dated, or simply missing.
The Geodatabase is the repository of the information (either already available or newly generated), the basis of informed planning.
The implications of each step are explored in detail, discipline by discipline, and then general principles are extracted from the analyses.
Then the manifold scientific aspects related to the building of networks of Marine Protected Areas are considered in separation from each other. The text in bold is the required action, in form of recommendation. The text in italics provides additional explanation.
Specific issues that deserve attention are treated in Boxes.
The disciplines involved designing and implementing networks of MPAs range from physics to jurisdiction. Each discipline and sub-discipline is treated analytically in separate sections.
The final part of the results summarizes the main recommendations and identifies the gaps that must be filled in order to achieve such objectives.

Step 1: Collect all information

The infrastructure: the Geodatabase
The CoCoNet database (the Geodatabase) is a repository where to collect and organize in geo-referenced “layers” all available information at basin scale about the systems that will be managed: socioeconomics, threats, geology, habitat and biotope distribution, oceanographic features, biodiversity, existence of protection, bathymetry etc. The information stemmed from already published data, supplemented with newly acquired data during the work at pilot sites. All analyses have been made by extracting the relevant information from the Geodatabase.
• Promote open access to data, especially those deriving from EU projects, through institutional databases sustained under rules and protocols endorsed by EU (e.g. Emodnet: The data ensuing from EU projects are still much fragmented and are not stored in a single repository where data are available in a standard format with a stated access protocol. The INSPIRE protocol has been adopted for the construction of the Geodatabase.

The data fed into the Geodatabase
Habitats as a proxy for species diversity
Habitats are synthetic expressions of biodiversity and represent the space where species find suitable conditions for their survival. The species list of European waters has been compiled as the European Register of Marine Species ( but the distribution and ecology of the greatest majority of marine species are poorly known, monographs are out-dated and are not being updated. Hence, as a proxy for biodiversity, we assembled and organized the current knowledge on Mediterranean and Black Sea habitats. Our approach to habitat classification combines multi-scale geological and biological data, organized into three levels (Geomorphological, Substrate and Biological), divided into several hierarchical sublevels. The Habitat layer is the sum of these levels leading to maps with several possibilities of level combination. Biogenic habitats (e.g. coralligenous formations and maërl), seagrasses (e.g. Posidonia oceanica), canopies (e.g. Cystoseira spp., Phyllophora crispa), barrens, deep sea habitats, rocky subtidal, sublittoral sediments and mosaics of all the above received particular attention, their distribution due to their high vulnerability and importance. CoCoNet combined existent GIS information and collected additional data about habitats occurrence across the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, homogenizing information following a properly designed standard architecture. This effort set the scene to improve spatial prioritization in the Mediterranean and the Black Seas starting from biogenic habitats (e.g. coralligenous formations and maërl), seagrasses (e.g. Posidonia oceanica), canopies (e.g. Cystoseira spp., Phyllophora crispa) and barrens that are considered of critical importance for the two basins. This activity allowed decreasing the percentage of area featured by a substantial lack of basic habitat information up to about the 40% of the two basins. The information is still very uneven but, after the CoCoNet project, it is clearly evident that there are stretches of coast such as Morocco and Tunisia with a surprising data availability and willingness to data sharing. Despite the efforts, the deep sea still largely lacks GIS information.
• Fully represent Mediterranean and the Black Sea habitats in EU Directives. The nine marine habitats in the Habitats Directive do not represent the full diversity of marine habitats and make it difficult to enforce protection through the Natura 2000 system that, at present, covers mostly Posidonia meadows.
• Upgrade the list of marine habitats. CoCoNet developed a hierarchical approach to habitat definition and compiled a full list of Mediterranean and Black Sea Habitats to provide a conceptual tool for the planning of habitat mapping, leading to protection and conservation.
• Improve the knowledge about the distribution of marine habitats to reach the quality attained for terrestrial systems (i.e. Corine land cover) and assemble an all-species inventory for each habitat (master list). This will enable the linking of species lists to habitat types and the assessment of biodiversity expression by comparison with the master list (what species have been found in the past in that habitat) of the actual list of species recorded during a sampling campaign.
• Extend the habitat concept also to the water column. The exclusively benthic perspective of the Habitats Directive is not coherent with the principles of ecosystem functioning. The holistic approach to environmental management, integrating the sea bottom with the water column is highly advisable. Open waters, in fact, are not homogeneous and pelagic habitats are to be identified and framed not only in space but also in time. Crucial phenomena (e.g. plankton blooms) take place in pulses and are the main drivers of ecosystem functioning.
• Base the institution of MPAs on fine-scale knowledge of habitat distribution. This requires mapping of both the sea bottom and the water column, and the relationships between them. The mapping must be not only structural (what is where) but also functional (what is happening at specific places: e.g. phyto- and zooplankton blooms, spawning, nursery and feeding volumes for fish).
• Evaluate ecosystem goods and services linked to habitats and ecosystems. In marine systems, we still exploit natural populations (with fisheries) whereas this is not possible on land anymore, where we obtain resources almost exclusively from agriculture. These natural capitals must be properly evaluated and managed. Furthermore, natural systems provide services that range from Carbon sequestration to O2 production, climate mitigation, cultural inspiration, tourist attraction, etc. The value of the natural capital is extremely large and allows for our survival.
• Incorporate dynamic aspects (connectivity, trophic interactions, spread of non indigenous species (NIS), and climate change) into spatial prioritization tools. Natural systems evolve, i.e. change. Ecology is a historical discipline (Natural History) and conservation cannot expect to just conserve the status quo. It is of paramount importance, however, to distinguish between natural change and human-induced change.

The structure of ecosystems, here expressed as habitats, is subjected to a vast array of threats. The integrity of biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems are threatened by many impacts. The main threats are: introduction of energy, alien species, overfishing, pollution and their impacts on the functioning of the living component of marine ecosystems, from the microbial loop to the four main pathways that derive from it, from the prevalence of microbes (Harmful algal blooms), to the crustacean-fish pathway, to the gelatinous filter feeders pathway, to the gelatinous carnivores pathway. Marine litter is an emerging problem of global relevance, together with deep sea mining.
• Improve knowledge of the distribution and intensity of threats (e.g. fishery, bioinvasions, marine litter) to reduce uncertainties on their effects. The definition of GES comprises 10 descriptors (in addition to the first one: biodiversity) that cover the array of stressors on both biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
• Base large-scale approaches on fine-scale spatial data and develop shared methodologies and strategies for the management of potential impacts and consequent changes. Large-scale pictures are often biased by the extrapolation of either a few small-scale studies or low-resolution large-scale assessments. The risk is to represent threats inadequately. The fine-scale approach, with an intensive coverage of observation and monitoring strategies, is the only way to reliably assess the state of the environment.
• Link threat mapping with specific actions identified on the base of successful cases of recovery to make better conservation/management decisions. Once threats are identified, it is important to implement measures aimed at their reduction, leading to environmental restoration. These actions must be taken into account in association with the information about stressor distribution, since it may be that remedies that were effective at one location might also be effective at other places. The share of this information is thus crucial.
• Prioritise and monitor areas highly exposed to present/future human pressures, including the consideration of critically dynamic changes (e.g. hot spots of thermal anomalies, invasions by NIS, Box 4). The high exposure to threats should be followed by mitigation and restoration actions, implemented through proper management of ecologically coherent marine spaces (e.g. MPA networks).
• Develop novel tools and strategies to move beyond the traditional single-threat approach to assess the response of ecosystems to multiple stressors (present and future), identifying key threats to different components of biodiversity and allowing site prioritization for different uses. The MSFD requires, with the definition of GES, that neither biodiversity nor ecosystem functioning are altered by human action. Before, human action was requested to remain under presumed thresholds, while considering threats in separation from each other. When acting in synergy, however, stressors can have effects that are not the simple sum of the effects of each stressor.
• Evaluate early warning indicators to identify approaching changes in marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, in parallel with the evaluation of biodiversity monitoring methods and ecological thresholds. The compound effects of regional and global stressors erode the resilience (the ability of a system to withstand to and to recover from perturbations) of marine systems may cause transitions towards undesired states. The knowledge of “natural history” provides precious insight in the way ecosystems function. Expert opinions can interpret environmental data and reveal signs that inform us about the possible onset of events leading to regime shifts.
• Use MPAs as “sensors” of NIS, with continuous monitoring, especially in MPAs with high NIS load or near invasion hubs; conduct risk assessment of secondary spread; analyse cost-effective options for long term control of NIS populations. The number of recorded introductions into Mediterranean Sea is far higher than in any other sea. The greatest increase was recorded in the 1990s and the 2000s, a period in which the most severe thermal anomalies occurred, as well as the expansion of shipping, mariculture and size of the Suez Canal. The present number of multicellular non-indigenous species (NIS) stands at 726, of these, 450 are considered ’Erythraean’ NIS introduced into the sea through the Suez Canal: the number of NIS is substantially greater in the eastern than in the western Mediterranean. This is only a partial inventory, as our ignorance of the marine biota leads to massive underreporting and understatement of bioinvasions. Even though all species inventories have not been carried out at any marine location, it is highly advisable that the biodiversity of MPAs and of their networks is subjected to continuous assessment through focused programmes involving biodiversity specialists. This will allow the detection of NIS as soon as they arrive and, even more importantly, will identify inconspicuous NIS that are not immediately perceived by casual observation. Inconspicuous species, in fact, can have great impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
• Consider changes to protection status (e.g. allowing for eradication measures) if NIS populations adversely affect native natural diversity and risk secondary spread. The eradication of NIS requires destruction of living beings, something that is prohibited in MPAs. There might thus be a conflict between generalized protection and management of the establishment of NIS populations.
• Enforce the precautionary principle until science-validated results are available. This requires management a focus on prevention of new incursions through the basin-wide management of invasion vectors and pathways and, where practicable, on beachhead and hub sites to minimize secondary spread.
• Inform stakeholders of the scope and status of threats (e.g. bioinvasions) in MPAs. Discuss management options and commitment of resources for threat control, and possible changes to protection status.

The information collected and stored in databases must be continuously updated through observation systems that should retrieve all relevant information to protect and manage the environment. Observations systems currently cover mainly physics, chemistry and biogeochemistry. In order to face the requirements of GES evaluation, observation systems must be upgraded so as to cover also Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning. Networks of MPAs and Marine Stations will have a prominent role in this upgrade.

Step 2: define spatially explicit management and conservation units
CoCoNet, based on connectivity studies, proposed a novel concept to define marine space in an ecologically sound fashion: The Cells of Ecosystem Functioning. There are portions of the water column that are more connected with each other than with other portions. Their homogeneity contributes to the connection of benthic habitats and, altogether, these tightly connected spaces can be considered as Cells of ecosystem functioning, both at benthic and pelagic scales. Large-scale circulation patterns, such as the Gibraltar current in the Mediterranean Sea, are coupled with regional scale patterns, such as the cascading triggered by the cold engines of the Gulf of Lions and the Northern Adriatic (sometimes replaced by the North Aegean cold engine). At a smaller scale, the sea bottom topography and the coastline define sub-regional dynamics that do have coherent features: marine canyons are characterised by upwelling currents that trigger phytoplankton production, nourishing the coastal systems (coupled with terrestrial runoffs), whereas coastlines can enhance the formation of gyres and eddies that define specific functions due to concentration phenomena. Vertical phenomena are reduced in the Black Sea, due to anoxic conditions below the surface waters, and the CEF are mostly driven by horizontal circulation (eddies). The definition of CEFs, and of their interconnections, is based on the work of CoCoNet and needs further validation, due to lack of integrative approaches linking the current regimes and the functioning of ecosystems at various temporal and spatial scales.

The study of connectivity produced further information that was uploaded in the Geodatabase and led to develop the concept of CEFs and was based on a hierarchical rationale for connectivity:
1- Currents may act as conveyors, enhancing biogeochemical cycles (e.g. nutrient transport), and they might transport (disperse) biological material (propagules). They represent the basic mechanism for potential connectivity, which is then translated to realized dispersal by processes occurring at two levels: through propagules' behaviour and their interaction within the food webs and through nutrient transport.
2- Physical oceanography, however, is subjected to large changes that are often not predictable by current models. For instance, the Eastern Mediterranean Transient changed cascading phenomena in the eastern basin, with repercussions on the functioning of ecosystems. Gyres can be more or less active, and can also change their direction.
3 - Currents are the main framework that allows for the transfer of biodiversity from one place to another and define the potential CEFs. Species travel as “propagules”, transported or swimming in the currents. The overlap in species composition at different sites in the same habitat type is a measure of realized connectivity. Genetics further supports the measurement of connectivity by comparing separate populations. Biology (biodiversity) and ecology (ecosystem functioning) define the realized CEFs.
4- The bio-ecological response is a mediator of the variability of the physical domain. The Adriatic Sea, for instance, is characterized by the presence of a northward current along the east coast and a southward current along the west coast. The conformation of the coast determines the formation of three main gyres that might well be CEFs. The analysis of the bio-ecological component, however, showed that the southern and the central gyres are probably forming a single CEF, connected by the currents along the coast. Similar situations are probably taking place also in the Black Sea, where a circular current along the coast is coupled with a series of gyres of different size.

General recommendations for Connectivity
• Assess connectivity between MPAs and across the networks with an integrated approach encompassing oceanographic characteristics, propagule exchange across populations, the distribution of beta diversity, and the genetics of selected species. Currents represent the physical connections that occur in the moving water. Not all propagules (the bodies with which species propagate themselves, ranging from larvae, to adults, to fragments) travel in water as passive and uniform bodies, each species having peculiar features in the way it can travel from one place to another. Beta diversity (the similarity in composition of the species assemblages at given places where the same habitat type occurs) is a measure of the shared features in biodiversity expression: the higher the number of shared species, the higher the connectivity. Genetic analyses of the populations of the same species at different locations give a measure the gene flow across areas: the higher the genetic similarity, the higher the connectivity. The concordance of the outcomes of these measures confers robustness to connectivity estimates.
• Promote a methodological framework to characterize seascape connectivity at the community level. The application of the integrated methodology depicted above allows the evaluation of connectivity not only at the level of single species but also at the level of communities. The outcome of the analyses restricted to small numbers of species can be idiosyncratic, whereas analyses at community level are more reliable.
• Assess the dynamics of ecosystems to model perspectives in face of climate change and coastal human developments. Species move, and usually follow the change of climatic conditions thus extending or restricting their distributional ranges. This is a key concept for the spread of non indigenous species (NIS). Climate change, in fact, coupled with the widening of physical connections (e.g. the widening of the Suez Canal), is conducive to the spread of tropical species, while representing a source of distress for cold-water species. The dynamics of ecosystem features, coupled with connectivity models, allows for the depiction of scenarios of future conditions.
• Assess the variation linked to biodiversity turnover. The composition of species assemblages is subject to natural fluctuations and variations, linked to quite natural seasonal and inter-annual changes. However, the establishment of NIS, and the distress of indigenous species that are not adapted to global warming, leads to a biodiversity turnover that is probably the result of human-induced connectivity through transport of NIS via shipping (ballast waters and fouling of ships’ hulls), aquaculture, and waterways that connect geographically separated basins (e.g. the Mediterranean and the Red Sea). These changes in species composition are conducive to changes in ecosystem functioning. The monitoring of biodiversity in MPA networks allows to detect these changes and to assess their impacts on ecosystems.

The four ways to measure connectivity required the comparison and integration of results obtained by using different approaches that will be dealt with below:

Recommendations from oceanography
• The dynamics of the transport of passive particles through the movement of water (currents) is the starting point of connectivity evaluation (the null hypothesis that should lead to a homogeneous distribution of species according to current patterns). The knowledge of current patterns is the main driver of connectivity: a detailed and dynamic assessment of mesoscale currents is a prerequisite for any network design. Species reproduce in specific seasons, and currents are often subjected to seasonal changes. Matches and mismatches of physical and biological phenomena within a seasonal framework can explain the observed patterns of biodiversity distribution and the processes determining them.
• Consider life trait-based variables in simulations with passive particles: averages of trait-based simulations from/to specific habitats do not correspond to the simulation of average water particles. If currents were solely responsible for connectivity, all the species in a given circulation pattern would disperse in an identical way, resulting in identical distributions. This is not what we observe, even when habitat distribution is conducive to the presence of some species (i.e. the same habitat type, at different locations, instead of having the same set of species, can host different species assemblages) so species respond in different ways to the distribution potential of current regimes. The realized distribution of species across vast marine spaces, through current patterns, depends on the timing of reproductive processes, coupled with propagule features and pre- and post-settlement biotic interactions.
• Specifically address coast/offshore/deep sea exchange processes. These are often disregarded due to the complexity of coastal dynamics, where turbulence plays a major role. General current patterns (e.g. the Gibraltar Current, the Intermediate Levantine Current, the cascading phenomena due to the influence of the cold engines) are well known and modelled. These circulations are mostly typical of offshore areas. The irregularities of the coasts (e.g. promontories, capes, inlets, straits, etc.) and of the sea bottom (e.g. canyons, sea mounts, trenches, etc.) determine local situations in which the general circulation patterns might be much altered. These alterations occur at the scale of organisms and are of extreme ecological importance. Canyons, for instance, connect coastal systems with the deep sea and cause intensive production rates. Capes and promontories, moreover, often determine eddies and gyres, connecting coastal with offshore systems. These small scale and mesoscale phenomena occur at ecologically meaningful scales, they are highly variable in time and need to be properly described, understood and modelled, leading to couple physical and bio-ecological processes. All this is addressed when the concept of Cells of Ecosystem Functioning is adopted.
• Consider extreme events (storms, sudden temperature changes, etc.) since they may change connectivity if they either match or mismatch propagule availability. Irregular and extreme phenomena can connect areas that are usually separated by “normal” current regimes. If the timing of propagule production matches with these events, species can disperse in apparent discordance with prevailing water movement. Storms can lead to high fragmentation rates, leading to dispersal of asexual propagules that can travel for very long distances, especially if settled on natural (e.g. drifting algae) or artificial (e.g. floating debris) rafts.

Recommendations from dispersal studies
• Consider the pathways, vectors and impacts of propagule pressure of a vast array of species as fundamental to the management of ecosystems, so as to cover most of the life history patterns of the biodiversity expressed in the managed and preserved area. Propagules are all the forms that allow the propagation of species: larvae, adults, fragments, embryos, eggs, resting stages. Propagule pressure considers the existence of sets of species living in a given area and that produce propagules that might lead to the colonization of another area, in the presence of conditions that are conducive to dispersal (e.g. canals, unidirectional flows, changes in environmental conditions that favour possible invaders). A good knowledge of species composition in different areas, coupled with a good knowledge of the dispersal potential of each species, is a prerequisite to the understanding of biodiversity distribution.
• Design MPA networks to maintain and encourage indigenous propagule pressure within the network and control/monitor non-indigenous propagule pressure. Indigenous propagule pressure promotes dispersal through the network. Usually, a high gene flow across vast areas leads to healthy populations, whereas isolation can lead to genetic bottlenecks that might be the prelude of local extinction. The exchange in propagules across each network, therefore, must be assessed and encouraged. Following this logic, it may be that the presence of OWFs might enhance connectivity, the basal structures acting as stepping-stones across separated sites. Propagule pressure by NIS is, instead, conducive to alterations in biodiversity composition that might alter ecosystem functioning in negative ways (also by using OWFs). It is then advisable to monitor the corridors and crossroads of NIS introduction, such as harbours, canals, aquaculture farms, etc.
• Protect and manage species throughout their life cycles. Fish occupy different spaces during their life histories: spawning grounds, nursery areas, and feeding grounds. Many species are both benthic and pelagic, according to their life cycle traits. The knowledge of life cycles (the various stages in which species occur) and life histories (the timing of reproduction and the quantitative assessment of reproductive processes, in terms of number of eggs, embryos, larvae, juveniles and adults produced by each female) allows managing and protecting species in an integrative fashion, leading to efficient actions. It is not correct, in fact, to consider species as “adult only” and to disregard the other life cycle stages. Larval and juvenile mortality is not at all constant and determines the viability of adult populations. The habitat of a species, therefore, comprises the various habitats in which it lives during its whole life cycle: protecting one without protecting the others might lead to mismanagement.
• Consider asexual propagules. They are important in clonal species (algae, sponges, cnidarians, bryozoans, ascidians) that, on hard substrates, are the main habitat formers. Connectivity studies usually consider larvae to be the main propagules. This is mostly the case for individual organisms (i.e. those that are not able to produce colonies by clonal reproduction), whereas clonal species (most sessile animals and plants) propagate not only through larvae but also as fragments that break off the animal colonies or the algal thalli. Many species do produce specialized asexual propagules. This form of propagation is largely underestimated and must be included into connectivity studies also considering that some important non indigenous species (e.g. many invasive algae) spread in this way.

Recommendations from beta-diversity studies
• Beta diversity is the best measure to evaluate Marine Biodiversity, the first descriptor of GES. Alpha diversity accounts for the species pool at a given locality (local diversity), whereas Gamma diversity focuses on the species pool of a large region (regional diversity). Beta diversity, in this framework, tells us how many distinct species assemblages inhabit the same habitat type, measuring the level of differentiation of biodiversity expression across the region. Beta diversity is low if, at several locations placed at different distances from each other, the species composition within the same habitat type is the same, or very similar. This supports the hypothesis that habitats of the same type are highly connected across locations, and that propagule exchange leads to similar species composition across a given space. Beta diversity increases, suggesting a lower flux of propagules across different localities when the set of shared species, within the same habitat, decreases.
• Refine boundaries of biogeographic zones and ecoregions to better reflect CEFs in terms of water column features, besides benthos. Current measures of diversity in terms of species distribution lead to the identification of homogeneous ecoregions that are inhabited by species assemblages which have structures that differ from those of neighbouring ecoregions. This definition of ecoregions is based mostly on patterns. The identification of CEFs will allow defining ecoregions also from the point of view of ecosystem processes, leading to sounder units of management and conservation.
• Extend beta-diversity analyses to multiple habitats and assemblages. The analyses conducted in the Pilot Projects were focused on a common benthic habitat, because MPAs are mostly defined on the features of benthos. The shift from areas to volumes and from habitats to ecosystems, however, calls for more thorough appreciation of beta diversity, extending investigations to the whole set of habitats that are comprised in a given ecosystem.

Recommendations from genetics
• Use genetic diversity as a proxy of fragility (i.e. vulnerability) of target sites for conservation, identified from connectivity assessments across populations in order to check whether subpopulations from each MPA act as real metapopulations in the network. The identification of metapopulations (i.e. assemblages of populations, each inhabiting different localities) is extremely important to identify the units of management and conservation of target species, whose genetic make-up should be elucidated with the greatest care. If connections are not sufficient and gene flows across populations are low, the genetic fragility of isolated populations can be the prelude to local extinction.
• Focus on target species with significant ecological roles, i.e. choose habitat formers to assess connectivity and to explain habitat heterogeneity (the protection of habitat formers is crucial to protect the whole habitat). Genetic studies are often focused on commercial species (i.e. fish) or on charismatic species (i.e. marine reptiles and mammals) only. These species are of course important, but the functioning of ecosystems and the structure of habitats depend on a much greater array of species and the representatives of each functional units must be investigated from a genetic point of view, so as to have a more reliable picture of the state of the populations that make up communities, form habitats, and ensure the viability of ecosystem functions.
• Choose species that encompass different levels of vagility (i.e. the possibility to reach other places with own propagules) since their propagules at a given place have different possibilities to colonize other locations. Gene flows depend on the possibility that individuals of a population can reproduce with individuals of other populations. Vagility is not identical for all species. The populations of low-vagility species should be more isolated from each other than those of high-vagility species. The choice of species for genetic analyses, tot represent the overall gene flow (and hence the connectivity) across different locations, must comprise species with very different features, in order to explore the complexity of connectivity phenomena.

Step 3: Identify networks and priority areas and their objectives
Recommendations on how to build networks of MPAs:
• Map the habitats according to the CoCoNet protocol (Boxes 1, 2) and include also pelagic habitats defined with the protocol employed for connectivity (Box 7). Identify the key areas where oceanographic features have driving effects. These can be gyres that disperse or concentrate nutrients and/or propagules, downwellings that connect the coast with the deep sea, upwellings that connect the deep sea with the coast.
• Identify the Cells of Ecosystem Functioning (CEFs) (Box 6), defined by physical processes that allow for a biodiversity expression sustained by and sustaining specific ecosystem functions that are consistent within a geographical area. CEFs are not isolated from each other, but connectivity within CEFs is higher than connectivity between CEFs (including also the sea bottom and the coast). The CEFs are true biogeographic functioning units and they unify the sea bottom with the water column.
• Consider conservation units as volumes, and not surfaces only (i.e. areas), because they include the water column, the most widespread environment of the planet. This brings the high seas and the deep sea into the focus of conservation through networks of MPAs. The Habitats Directive covers only benthic habitats, whereas other Directives consider also the water column, with a mismatch between monitoring and conservation.
• Embed networks of MPAs in the CEFs and combine climatic-oceanographic processes with biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, including connectivity, producing a multi-layered, holistic conceptual space that will be instrumental for future management and protection of networks of MPAs and of the marine spaces in general. The mapping of CEFs is strongly advised, so as to partition the marine systems into functional units.
• Identify priority areas using adequate tools (e.g. MARXAN for a refined selection of biodiversity hot spots. Marxan analyses combine conservation priorities with the need of finding suitable areas for human uses. The best scenario focusing on the conservation of the Mediterranean and the Black Seas includes already existing MPAs (see plus additional areas critical to reach the 10% conservation targets, as requested by the CBD. This scenario largely incorporates wide areas of the North Africa and the deep seas, largely missing in previous efforts. However, even if the deep-sea and eastern Mediterranean basins are better represented in this solution, in some areas are still scarcely represented (i.e. eastern Black Seas) largely driven by limited data availability. This scenario provides indications in terms of where and which size should have the new sites to include in future plans. The best scenario areas originate from the selection of the Planning Units featured by the highest selection frequency with the Marxan software ( These Planning Units are of fundamental importance to meet protection targets. They are not replaceable with other Planning Units. Here, urgent protection measures are required. The areas originate from the selection of the Planning Units featured by a very low selection frequency. At least on the base of the ecological information we have at this stage, the Planning Units selected for building this scenario are less important to meet protection targets but can be suitable for their location for the installation of OWFs or other human uses (see the Guidelines on Marine Wind Energy in the Mediterranean and Black Seas in the context of suitable Blue Growth). This information may decrease conflicts and sets the base for a marine spatial planning process.
• Use the conclusions reached by CoCoNet to inform a process of Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) across the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, considering activities that are expected to increase in the future (e.g. aquaculture, maritime traffic, seabed mining). This will provide a solid scientific basis for planning the distribution of human activities in the seas.
• The conservation priorities identified by Marxan allow detecting lack of protection in key areas in terms of biodiversity expression and ecosystem functioning, suggesting increases in extension of already existing MPAs, or the institution of new MPAs. Increase the geographical coverage of protection, establishing new arrays of MPAs (and then Networks of MPAs) in the southern and eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea, and also in the whole Black Sea (most MPAs are concentrated in the north-central Mediterranean Sea). It is futile to protect limited portions of the marine environment, if the rest is disregarded. The connections realized by currents are paramount in marine systems and protection measures must be managed over vast geographic scales.

Recommendations about the Objectives of MPA Networks
• The objectives of MPA Networks cannot be inferred as the reunion of the objectives of single MPAs (the nodes of the Network). MPAs are usually aimed at protecting unique expressions of biodiversity, usually identified as charismatic species and/or habitats. The Networks must protect, first and foremost, the processes that guarantee the existence of these special areas, promoting ecosystem functioning at large scale.
• Good Environmental Status is the main objective of MPA Networks. This is a strategic issue. It is useless to envisage other general objectives. If GES will be reached in all EU waters by 2020, as prescribed by the MSFD, there will be no need of further protection, since the descriptors of GES coincide with the result of effective management of the natural capital, from every point of view.
• Clearly state objectives and carefully assess what is to be protected. Ensure representativeness and replication. Assessment is crucial to test the efficacy of management and adjust actions. Without a set of stated objectives, assessment is impossible. Representativeness requires that the protected portions within the network represent the diversity in biodiversity expressions, first of all in terms of habitats. Replication requires that the same habitat type is protected at several locations, so as to test if changes are due to management (when they occur throughout the replicates) or are due to contingencies (when they occur at some sites but not at others).
• Use the networks of MPAs as the evaluation sites of GES and the test sites to fulfil the objectives of GES by 2020, as defined by the 11 descriptors of the EU MSFD. MPAs protect habitats and species on a small scale, with limited impacts on ecosystem functioning at regional scale. MPA networks can have larger impact than single MPAs, and fit perfectly with the visions of the MSFD and its definition of GES. MPA networks, if designed so as to comprise CEFs, are the instrument to reach GES and the MPAs are the ideal locations to test for management efficacy.

Step 4: Design a management plan of networks of MPAs
Recommendations about MPA Network ecological management
• Use the resources and the strategies employed for the attainment of GES to manage the networks of MPAs. Each network will be designed according to the features of the CEF in which it is included. There is no one size fits all tactics to reach the strategic goal of GES and each management plan will have to be tailored on solid knowledge of the managed environment.
• MPA networks should implement strategies, inclusive of monitoring and spatial plans (i.e. zoning), aimed at achieving GES, accounting for cumulative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, with a ‘learning by doing’ approach.
• Implement a common core management of MPAs. This should include, at least, a representative no-take zone, a buffer zone, and economic support to guarantee enforcement. The EU must certify these well-managed MPAs to be integrated into future networks.
• Establish mandatory long-term observation systems of MPA networks and of their effectiveness, measured with the attainment of GES. Some GES Descriptors are direct measures involved in MPA management, namely: biodiversity is maintained; the population of commercial fish and shellfish species is healthy; elements of food webs ensure long-term abundance and reproduction; maintain the sea floor integrity that insures functioning of the ecosystem. Although MPA networks can do little to improve some descriptors (e.g. permanent alteration of hydrographical conditions, marine litter, etc.), they are linked to environmental management at large.

Recommendations about MPA Network Socio-Economy and legislation
• Develop new models of socio-ecological interactions to set achievable management targets for marine ecosystems and support their resilience by local actions. The reduced size of MPAs involves a limited number of localized stakeholders. The size of networks of MPAs involves a much greater number of stakeholders and requires a different approach. The management of a network of MPAs cannot be the simple sum of the management of each MPA in the network. Each MPA will maintain its peculiarities, upon which each management is designed, but a minimum common management should be advisable. Furthermore, the managers of all the MPAs in the network will have to overcome local peculiarities and design management options that encompass the management of the whole space comprised in the network.
• Develop regulatory tools to promote management, protection and enforcement of transboundary sites and solve potential conflicts. With the sole exception of the Pelagos Sanctuary, MPAs are placed in territorial waters. Due to the high fragmentation of the maritime space due to boundaries among different territorial waters, MPA networks will easily comprise marine space that pertains to different authorities, not to mention international waters. This will require special agreements among states, so as to manage and preserve a shared natural capital.
• Ensure consistency in legal rules. This will require standards and institutional structures regarding networks of MPAs, with co-ordinated and integrated policies with all parties, EU Member States as well as non-EU Member States. The protection of limited portions of the environment, in national waters alone, is useful but clearly insufficient.
• Simplify the definition of MPA: a geographically defined area (including the water column) where prescribed measures are implemented to achieve GES. The present jungle of legislation tools to protect marine spaces should be simplified and integrated, to reach consistency in the adopted measures and avoid conflict across different management actors.
• Acknowledge that “MPA network” can mean different things to different socio-economic sectors, or for different purposes. We have identified seven main types of network that should be employed in a holistic manner for the formulation of site management plans:
1. Conservation-based: generally designed to protect features showing the full range of their variation, by representation, replication and adequacy of features, across a range of sites
2. Connectivity-based: to ensure ecological coherence by providing protection to sites between which genetic exchanges are known to occur
3. Socio-economic-based: to protect and manage marine resources in a sustainable manner, whilst optimising coastal uses and avoiding conflicts
4. Geographic: to achieve conservation and protected area coverage targets within a defined geographical area
5. Collaborative: to promote interaction among members to effectively plan, manage, implement or monitor area-based management of marine resources and associated uses.
6. Cultural: to protect sites and areas where significant historical and cultural features and seascapes are present, by preserving and promoting traditional management practices and preventing harmful activities.
7. Transnational: so-management of natural resources beyond existing political boundaries.
• Consider the different levels, types and potential combinations of existing legislation, which can be utilized to establish networks of MPAs. Rules should not be formulated ex novo, with the risk of conflicting regulations. The harmonization of measures is crucial.
• Make available and maintain detailed, up-to-date maps of maritime zones and boundaries in the Mediterranean and Black Seas in order to plan trans-boundary MPAs. The availability of updated maps of protected or simply managed marine spaces is conducive to the harmonization of management and conservation measures.
• Establish Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in EU countries and encourage other non-EU states to do so as well. This will minimize or eliminate the High Seas in the Mediterranean. Outside the EEZs, in fact, the seas are a “no man’s land” and regulations are weak, especially for deep-sea mining and fisheries.
• Review and update the Annexes of the Habitats Directive in respect of marine habitats and species, especially regarding the conservation of water column features, in order to support implementation of the MSFD and attain GES. The current mismatch between the Habitats Directive and the MSFD in terms of stated importance of the expressions of biodiversity, coupled with the concept of ecosystem functioning, calls for the harmonization of EU legislation.
• Strengthen trans-boundary and (sub-)regional coordination of implementation of the MSFD. In particular, ensure that the interpretations of the GES descriptors among coastal states are compatible, and that monitoring programmes are aligned. CEFs should also be taken into account in this regard.
• Strengthen (through secondments, partnerships, twinning and dedicated long-term funding) the secretariats of the regional seas agreements (Barcelona Convention for the Mediterranean, and Bucharest Convention for the Black Sea) to collaborate with the EU in delivering the MSFD and Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) objectives in non-EU coastal states.

Recommendations about Socio-Economic and Cultural Aspects
• Involve relevant stakeholders in identifying and designating MPAs, and building up a network of sites through collaborative processes at local, regional and international levels.
• Evaluate ecosystem services and economic benefits in planning MPAs.
• Incentivise stakeholder engagement through the selection and application of site-specific economic instruments.
• Evaluate ecosystem services and value gain in conservation plan and according to variability in conservation strategies. The dynamic nature of ecological systems requires continuous adaptation to novel situations or to new understanding of the managed environments, leading to changes in conservation strategies.
• Decide MPA governance models, financing and management during the designation process, not afterwards.

Recommendations about MPA Network Management Building
• Acquire good knowledge of the system to be protected before enforcing bureaucratic rules that may be very difficult to modify after MPA institution, leading to perennial mismanagement. Even if this recommendation seems banal, measures are often enforced without adequate knowledge of what is going to be managed (biodiversity and ecosystem functioning) through the issued regulations.
• Convince stakeholders about the value of science-based management. Rules must be based on solid scientific evidence, leading to carefully planned actions that must be emended in the light of new evidence.
• Use the positive examples deriving from good management to convince stakeholders that networks of MPAs are conducive to also generating economic advantages. Success stories are more convincing than promises about the future.
• Assess and prioritize the selection of sites for designation as MPAs according to a range of factors derived from previous experience.
• Convince decision makers that natural rules prevail over human rules. We must adapt to natural conditions and not vice-versa. The economic costs for not respecting natural rules will be greater than the benefits obtained by not respecting them.
• Develop views integrating monetary and non-monetary benefits associated to ecosystem conservation through MPA networks, using both economic instruments and decision-making techniques accounting for multiple valuation perspectives. Actions that ignore natural rules often lead to erosion of the natural capital and, over the medium-long term, to greater economic losses than the economic gains obtained from badly designed actions. Fixing the damage to the natural capital is often left to the states, whereas the profits arising from nature destruction go to private subjects. The costs of nature destruction must be internalized in cost-benefit analyses.

The knowledge acquired on Mediterranean and Black Sea ecosystems is great, but its fragmentation is hindering holistic approaches. The management of the seas, including their protection, must be ecosystem-based and integrative, with holistic views that are still missing in the scientific community.
• Promote training curricula in holistic sciences. The training of scientists is reductionistic. The holistic view is not simply the sum of the reductionistic approaches. Curricula in integrative marine sciences are missing. There are big enterprises in reductionistic sciences (e.g. physics or molecular biology) but the study of complex natural phenomena, such as those that pertain to the marine environment, are still fractioned. Practical solutions to specific problems are often offered, with a lack of overview and theory. This usually leads to short-term solutions that are followed by medium- to long-term problems. The scientists that study the various compartments of the marine space rarely communicate.
• Co-ordinate research actions. National and international research is still fragmented. The bits of information are rarely transformed into knowledge. The CoCoNet Geodatabase achieved this result that, however, must be strategic and not linked to contingent programmes.
• Map all benthic habitats, as the Corine Landcover system did with terrestrial ones. This is will require field studies, so as to identify both geological and bio-ecological aspects. CoCoNet produced a protocol to classify habitats. Benthic habitats have been mapped with precision for Posidonia meadows and biocontructions: this is to be extended to all marine habitats. Mappings are to be repeated so as to evidence seasonal and long-term changes.
• Map pelagic habitats. The definition of CEFs requires this mapping that, however, is not as precise as that of benthos. Seasonal and annual changes in current regimes can lead to variations in the spatial distribution of such mappings which do not pertain to patterns only but that comprise also ecological processes. The protocol used in CoCoNet to identify CEFs (based on physical oceanography, propagule dynamics, beta diversity distribution, and genetics of key species) is to be further improved with measures of production.
• Merge benthic and pelagic habitats into maps that link patterns and processes, so as to identify the CEFs within ecoregions. This mapping will be crucial to implement sound marine spatial planning, based on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
• Revive taxonomy. Expertise on biodiversity is vanishing from the EU scientific community. Phenotypes are as important as genotypes since ecosystems function due to their action. The EU is losing an important component of biodiversity expertise.
• Promote projects on the fauna and flora of EU waters. Updated monographs of the EU biodiversity are lacking. The European Register of Marine Species lists the species, but the knowledge regarding their morphology, genetics, ecology, biology, phenology, etc. has not been assembled. It is futile to infer about biodiversity and ecosystem functioning if we do not know the components of the system and how they are related with each other. This is an absolute priority that is invoked from many tribunes but that is invariably left behind.
• Set up harmonized long-term observation systems. These must be carried out at all MPAs and also in other zones, according to national monitoring plans of the various States. This monitoring is already envisaged by the MSFD in the light of GES, but there is an apparent lack of consistency in the way the various states are planning it. Furthermore, it has to be encouraged also in non-EU countries when their jurisdiction falls within shared CEFs.
• Coordinate the long-term series at marine stations with assessments at wide geographic scales that can use information of past knowledge as benchmark to evaluate recent conditions.
• Organize task forces to study episodic events of ecological relevance (e.g. swarms of gelatinous organisms, harmful algal blooms, mass mortalities, etc) that are of short duration. Monitoring networks detect these events but when they occur extra efforts are necessary.
• Upgrade current observation systems so as to fulfil the scopes of the MSFD. Huge resources have been invested to set up observation systems based on remote sensing of key variables that, however, do not cover the eleven descriptors of GES. Key variables are still considered with low-tech approaches, whereas high tech approaches are dedicated to background variables that are extremely important but that do not help much in defining GES.
General Recommendations for MPA networks.

• Identify CEFs in both space and time (important ecological processes can take place at different paces according to the season and with interannual variability) with the procedure adopted in CoCoNet (oceanography, beta diversity, propagule pressure, gene flows).
• Nest networks of MPAs into the CEFs.
• Realize detailed inventories of the natural capital, with all-species assessments at least in MPAs.
• Harmonize within each CEF the strategies adopted by the various countries to reach GES, as prescribed by the MSFD. This harmonization will become the management strategy and the objective of the Networks of MPAs. This must be planned according to the features of every CEF and must be based on the best knowledge available, to be refined once patterns and processes will be sufficiently known in every conservation and management unit (i.e. CEF).
• Assess biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in each CEF, using the standard protocols implemented for the evaluation of Good Environmental Status according to the MSFD, with long-term monitoring aimed at identifying regime shifts, trends, seasonal variability, etc.
• Use MPAs as the nodes of the networks, representing the benchmark of environmental integrity. The assessment of their status is a sensor for the conditions of the rest of biodiversity.
• Identify previously unknown hot spots of biodiversity (through habitat mapping and exploration, with the elucidation of ecosystem processes) that deserve the status of MPAs, both in the deep and in the high seas. Cold water corals, for instance, are good candidates for deep-sea MPAs, whereas cold engines, up- or down-welling areas are good candidates for high seas MPAs.
• Consider all restrictions to human activities as instruments of protection, including fishing closures, the institution of Sites of Community Importance, Sanctuaries, Oases and other form of environmental protection through management that are not explicitly called MPAs. These initiatives must be coordinated and linked to socio-economic cost- benefit analyses.
Digital map of the network of marine protected areas
The final aim of CoCoNet was the production of a map to define networks of MPAs whose implementation requires the consideration of a number of factors requiring careful attention (see D9.7). Here we identify areas potentially connected by oceanographic processes, deserving protection for their ecological features. Then, local institutional processes will have to take place to finalize the process.
Introducing connectivity and oceanography into Marxan analysis
To obtain the final output we included the following layers:
1 - the information about major circulation patterns derived from the analysis of existing literature.
2- 22 regions highly connected at short time scale. This subdivision has been obtained by a new regionalization method based on a connectivity approach and is based on an ensemble of Lagrangian particle numerical simulations using ocean model outputs at 1/12u resolution.
3- the areas destined to conservation according to the Marxan analysis. This scenario has been obtained including habitats, human pressures and management costs assessed in terms of human impacts (available in The optimal spacing among marine reserves ultimately depends upon both the community and the habitat of interest, the specific geographical domain considered, and the relative position of candidate sites within the ocean circulation system.
Our analysis identifies several areas that might be identified as cells of ecosystem functioning in which networks of MPAs can be nested due to the matching of different descriptors (currents, connectivity measured with genetics, Marxan analyses of protection schemes based on both ecology and human pressures).

Section 2: The Smart Wind Chart for OWF development in the Mediterranean and the Black Seas


The necessity to increase the share of the offshore renewable energy resource in the energy-mix strategies is a top priority in the EU. To date, offshore wind energy combines a number of attractive aspects, from technological maturity to economic viability, that may further enhance its dominance, provided that offshore wind energy projects are developed with deference to the marine environment. The objective of this section is to provide the science-based knowledge derived during the course of the CoCoNet project. It is anticipated that it will support the future development of offshore wind farms (OWFs) in the Mediterranean and Black Seas and improve the planning phase, mainly through the utilization of the Smart Wind Chart.

The OWF development requires at first the reliable and accurate description of the offshore wind climate and resource evaluation, i.e. two issues that are crucial in wind energy assessment studies. In this connection, some important aspects, confronted in the context of the CoCoNet project, were related with wind variability and the inherent uncertainties of wind speed data sources, and consequently, wind power density estimates in the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins. The identification and the assessment of these uncertainties was the main driving reason for considering four different wind data sources (wind measurements from oceanographic buoys, satellite products, and results from two numerical weather prediction models) in order to be analysed in-depth. The quantification of the uncertainties and their reduction for specific locations in the Mediterranean Sea (where buoy wind measurements were available) was based on the application of regression/calibration schemes. From the analysis’ results, it was suggested that these uncertainties may be significant at particular locations and therefore their evaluation should not be overlooked; calibration schemes should be also applied at site-specific studies. Furthermore, an extended analysis of the potential impacts of climate change on wind energy production, based on global climate change scenarios, was presented for the Mediterranean and Black Seas, since wind energy economics may be affected by future wind conditions and therefore should be also considered. The obtained results for the period 2021–2050, suggest that a more than 5% increase of the available wind power is anticipated for the Aegean Sea and the southwest Black Sea and a decrease more than 5% over the maritime areas of North Africa and Middle East. For the period 2061–2090, an increase of wind power is expected over a large part of the Aegean Sea as well as over the western edge of Alboran Sea (nearby Gibraltar Strait), while a decrease exceeding 5% over a large part of the central and easternmost Mediterranean Sea is also anticipated.

The next major issue, was one of the two core objectives of the project, and refers to the identification and comparative pre-evaluation of favourable areas for potential OWF development in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, i.e. two basins that are characterized by many particularities where no OWF has been constructed yet. This is a complex and multifaceted procedure, encompassing a variety of different parameters and considerations (technical, environmental and socio-economic/legislative), which are often not aligned. In order to reveal the candidate areas that deserve further in-depth assessment for OWF development, the consideration and evaluation of the most important technical parameters (wind speed, bottom depth, etc.) is achieved firstly, through the implementation of a factor rating table that assigns ranks to particular parameter ranges; then, a simple and flexible linearly weighted methodology was applied in order to identify and evaluate potential locations for OWF development in the Mediterranean and Black Seas with respect to the relative importance of each technical parameter considered. The obtained results are integrated, along with the environmentally sensitive areas, in a Geographic Information System (GIS) platform. This final tool is called the Smart Wind Chart. A common feature of the considered technical parameters is that they define to a great extent the wind energy economics. On the other hand, the environmental considerations illustrate not only the present ecological status of the examined basins but also the future one by predicting potential (positive and negative) effects on the surrounding (biotic and abiotic) elements. The environmentally restricted and sensitive areas for both basins were explicitly considered in the Smart Wind Chart.

As far as we are aware of, the Smart Wind Chart is the first systematic attempt to provide a primal integrated picture of the offshore wind energy status and perspectives at the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins’ level. The proposed evaluation methodology can be adapted to any particular area or region of interest with appropriate modifications.

Design and implementation of the Smart Wind Chart


One of the most important problems for the development of OWFs is the optimal planning in order to identify eligible areas appropriate for the exploitation of offshore wind energy. The determination of OWF site suitability is a multilateral and complex procedure that comprises technological, socio-economic and environmental considerations that include inter alia the following:

i) The geotechnical/engineering framework that refers to the feasibility, development and installation phases of an offshore wind project. The technical terms define and characterize spatially OWF developments, like energy efficiency of offshore wind, bottom suitability (e.g. depth, slope, morphology, sediments), distance from shoreline and inland infrastructures (harbours, airports, railways, highways), existence of underwater connecting grids and shore-based stations, etc.
ii) The socio-economic/legislative framework that identifies the diverse effects that an offshore wind project may have on the social and economic conditions of the neighbouring coastal communities. Issues related with this extended framework are, inter alia, European and national legislation, coastal and marine activities, marine spatial planning (MSP) and marine space uses, marine cultural heritage, tourism, shipping lanes, etc.
iii) The environmental framework that focuses on the mitigation of negative and the enhancement of positive consequences of OWFs on the biotic and abiotic elements of the area. The environmental terms include the sensitive marine habitats and protected areas, the potential effects and impacts on seabirds, fish and marine mammals, the disturbance of the seabed mainly during the construction and decommission phases, the underwater noise during the operation phase and the potential effects on coastal geomorphology and the hydrodynamic status of the area.

These frameworks refer to different, yet highly interrelated, aspects of OWF design, development and operation and relate various groups of stakeholders with different requirements and priorities; therefore, ideally, they should be jointly considered. A rational way to effectively deal with the preliminary identification and comparative pre-evaluation of favourable sites for OWF development in rather extended regions, such as the Mediterranean and Black Seas, is based on GIS technology and consists in the development and implementation of the Smart Wind Chart (SWC). SWC itself is a marine planning tool rather than a decision-making platform and the favourable locations, resulted from this procedure, should be regarded as candidates deserving further in-depth assessment in the context of local detailed studies.

The comparative pre-evaluation of potential locations is based on quantifiable multi-parameter eligibility criteria, and is implemented by using GIS tools taking into account environmental considerations and restrictions. Specifically, for wide spatial scales like the Mediterranean or the Black Sea, the information included in the evaluation refers to the most important quantifiable gross technical parameters/factors namely, the mean annual wind speed, the bottom depth, the distance from shore, the proximity to ports, the electrical grid infrastructure and the type of bottom sediments. This information is combined with spatial information regarding the most important environmental restrictions. For the evaluation of the candidate locations, a linearly weighted methodology was used providing the following important advantages: i) it can be easily adopted in various situations; ii) the considered weights can be redistributed to the various factors; iii) parameters/factors can be easily added or removed, according to new constraints and requirements of the end-users, technological progress, etc. Let us note, though, that the locations evaluated through this approach should not be considered as direct suggestions for future OWF development; they rather comprise a set of potential areas, which are favourable candidates deserving further in-depth assessment in the context of detailed studies at the local scale.

The implementation of the methodology and the derivation of the SWC is performed at two major steps:

i) Preparatory actions for the assessment of the most important quantifiable factors (technical parameters), the parameter rating table and the identification of no-go and restricted areas, i.e. areas that are either definitely excluded from further consideration or are under important restrictions;
ii) Processing phase, including the implementation of the aforementioned features and the final ranking for each location.

During the preparatory actions, the above mentioned technical parameters are categorized and rankings from 1 to 5 are provided for each category with the highest number corresponding to the most feasible site for OWF development. Then, each parameter is assigned with a weight corresponding to its relative value to the final ranking scheme. The decisive parameters along with their relative weights are the following: wind speed 0.35, bottom depth 0.25, distance to shore 0.15, distance to power grid 0.15, type of sediments 0.05 and distance to ports 0.05. It seems that in the relevant literature, there is no uniform established methodology for assigning weights to the above mentioned parameters, notwithstanding that the rationale seems to be analogous (i.e. it depends on the relative importance that each criterion has on the feasibility of an OWF development). Let us also note that detailed local socio-economic and environmental considerations may alter the above mentioned weighting scheme. The second step in the preparatory actions is the identification of the “no-go/restricted” areas. In this step, the exclusion/restriction of an area is primarily based on environmental restrictions, namely National protected sites/MPAs and Natura 2000 sites, areas characterized by meadows of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica, fields of the alga Phyllophora, biogenic habitats such as coralligenous and maerl, and deep sea coral formations.

In the processing phase, the mean annual wind speed (at 10 m above sea level) is evaluated for all grid points and the corresponding bottom depth is extracted. If the combination of wind speed and bottom depth satisfies the minimum adopted specifications, then the area is characterized as "potentially go" area. These areas are subsequently graded according to all examined technical parameters and relative weights, so that the final rankings of the locations are derived. Summing up, the final results of the SWC refer to the identification of “no-go” and “restricted” areas for OWF development and the evaluation of the suitability of “go areas”.

All the corresponding spatial information is depicted in the form of separate GIS layers. At the end of the analysis, the most suitable sites worth further assessing for OWF development are identified.

Technical parameters and rankings

The most important technical parameters (factors) that were used for the evaluation of potential locations are described below along with the corresponding categorizations and ranks. From these parameters, wind speed, water depth and distance from shore are of particular interest, especially for the Mediterranean Sea, for various reasons explained thereafter.

Wind speed: In the relevant literature, there is not a uniform way to rank the wind resource availability (as well as the other technical parameters). For the final decision, the local particularities of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea have been taken into consideration. The rather low limit of 4.1–4.9 m/s, at 10 m above sea level, corresponds to mean annual wind speeds of the order of 5.1–6.0 m/s, at 100 m height above sea level. The reason for including this rather low limit is due to the fact that the model wind data set used in the analysis underestimate (sometimes significantly) the wind speed with respect to buoy measurements and satellite data. Moreover, all the examined data sources are characterized by larger or smaller location-dependent deviations compared to the reference data source. In order to be on the “safe” side and avoid accidentally exclusion of areas that may be proved favourable for OWF development, we have eventually decided to include the particular wind speed limits assigning a rank of 1 in this case. The ranks of 2, 3, 4 and 5 were respectively assigned for mean annual wind speeds at 10 m above sea level, lying in the following ranges: 4.9–5.7 m/s, 5.7–6.3 m/s, 6.3–6.9 m/s and greater than 6.9m/s. The relative weight of the wind parameter in the final area evaluation scheme was 0.35.

The results of the Eta-Skiron model that was used for the Mediterranean Sea, reveal that the most favourable areas as regards wind resource availability are the Gulf of Lions and the Aegean Sea (mean annual wind speed reaches values up to 7.5 m/s at 10 m height above sea level), as well as all the major straits of the basin. The mean annual wind power density at 10 m height above sea level reaches values up to 560 W/m2 encountered offshore the Gulf of Lions, and up to 480 W/m2 at some locations in the central and southern Aegean Sea. For the Black Sea, the results of the SeaWind II model reveal that the most favourable areas are located along the Ukrainian coasts of the Black Sea and in the Sea of Azov (about 7 m/s). The mean annual wind power density at 10 m height above sea level reaches values up to 400 W/m2 encountered offshore the western coasts of Sea of Azov, while in the western coasts of Black Sea, it reaches values around 330 W/m2.

Water depth: Three critical water depth ranges have been considered, namely 10–40 m (“shallow waters”, rank 5), 40–70 m (“intermediate” waters”, rank 1), and 70–200 m (“deep waters”, rank 3). Shallow and intermediate water depths refer to monopile, gravity-based, tripod, jacket, and tripile supporting structure, while depths between 70–200 m refer to floating wind turbines technologies, including tension leg platform. Up to date, the installed foundations correspond to fixed structures because of their established commercial steadiness. However, the future trend is to move to deeper waters, and consequently, more distant to the shore, and to larger turbine sizes. This shift seems to be boosted by the floating substructures with a possible 7% market share based on worldwide project announcements up to 2020. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) also highlights the necessity for the offshore wind industry to move to deeper waters: “Deep offshore designs are necessary to unlock the promising offshore market potential in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and deep North Sea waters”, since “There are currently no offshore wind farms in the Mediterranean, because the water is deep, and current commercial substructures are limited to 40 m to 50 m maximum depths. This restricts the potential to exploit offshore wind development in the Mediterranean”. Moreover, in deeper water depths, the available offshore wind resource is higher and steadier, visual impacts and environmental stress (e.g. from pile driving) are mitigated, while the high population density, mainly in the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, and the intense maritime activities may limit the available places with shallow waters. Thus, water depths greater than 70 m (and up to 200 m) are ranked with a medium score (rank 3) in order to illustrate and foresee this trend. On the other hand, a rank of 5 was evidently assigned to water depths between 10–40 m and a rank of 1 was assigned to 40–70 m water depths zone, since the latter zone is not well adapted to both fixed offshore foundations and floating foundations for wind turbines. Fixed foundations are, in general, not suitable for depths greater than 40 m and the dynamic behaviour of floating foundations in waters with a depth smaller than 70 m remains a complicated technical issue, which can be solved only using heavier foundations and anchoring systems, leading thus to higher costs and less reliable solutions. Let us though note that despite the fast advancement of the floating wind turbine technology, it has not reached yet TRL (technology readiness level) 9. The relative weight of the bottom depth parameter in the final area evaluation scheme was 0.25.

The areas with the most appropriate water depths in the Mediterranean Sea as regards OWF development are located in the northern and western coasts of the Adriatic Sea, the coasts of Thrace in northern Greece, the Gulf of Gabes in Tunisia, and along the coasts of Libya and Egypt. For the Black Sea, the most favourable places are the western coasts of the basin (coastal zone of Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine) and the Sea of Azov.

Distance from shore: Distance from shore is related with underwater electrical grid connections, installation and maintenance activities and the visual impact of offshore turbines. Distance from shore is the most intriguing parameter to deal with, at least for the Mediterranean Sea. A short distance from shore minimizes all the costs related with the technical infrastructure, installation and maintenance activities (i.e. capital and operating expenditures); on the other hand, a short distance from shore maximizes visual noise. Moreover, there are specific constraints in certain areas of the Mediterranean Sea where distance from shore may be affected by external parameters (e.g. issues related with national territorial waters). Therefore, an attempt was made to assign weights by following a compromise procedure: the ideal distance from shore (as regards an equilibrium between economic and visual disturbance reasons) is 10–20 km (rank 5); the second best choice is 5–10 km (rank 4), since there is a not-severe visual disturbance and the costs are low. For example, this is a typical distance for some scheduled OWFs in Greece. The distance 20–100 km (rank 3) raises the costs and eliminates visual disturbance, while 0–5 km (rank 2) and >100 km (rank 1) are two range distances that should be recommended to be avoided (the former due the severe visual disturbance and reduced capacity factors -because of lower winds-, and the latter due to the higher cost). The relative weight of the distance from shore parameter in the final evaluation scheme was 0.15.

Electrical grid infrastructure: The existing electrical grid infrastructure along an inland coastal zone of 150 km and the offshore cabling has been considered. The ranks were assigned according to the voltage capacity of the nearest source connection as follows: greater than 400 kV (rank 5), 225–400 kV (rank 4), 36–225 kV (rank 3), less than 36 kV (rank 2) and distribution grid 2 (rank 1). The relative weight of the electrical grid infrastructure parameter in the final evaluation scheme was 0.15.

Type of bottom sediments: The type of bottom sediments is mainly related with the costs of the underwater constructions of the wind turbines. In this respect, three different general types of sediment have been considered, namely sand, mud and rock. From the engineering point of view, sand is the first best choice (rank 5), next is mud (rank 3) and the last one is rock (rank 1). The relative weight of the sediments’ type parameter in the final evaluation scheme was 0.05.

The areas with the most favourable type of bottom sediments for OWF development are located across the northern and western coasts of Adriatic Sea, the Gulf of Gabes (Tunisia), the coasts of Libya and Egypt, the coasts of Thrace in northern Greece, the islands of the north-eastern Aegean Sea and in the sea area between Sicily and Africa. For the Black Sea, the most favourable areas are located across and offshore the western coasts of the basin.

Proximity to ports: The proximity to ports refers to the distance from suitable harbour and its (maximum) water depth. Evidently, as distances from ports get lower, the accessibility to the offshore wind project area is faster and more economical while, in the long run, revenue is higher due to the steadier energy production. The first part of the analysis for this parameter was the selection of the suitable ports. The main criterion is the size of the harbour, i.e. large or very large, and an additional criterion is the water depth. The ports included in the analysis (large or very large) are those whose controlling depth of the principal or deepest channel or the greatest depth alongside the wharf/pier is over 10 m. The distance ranges that were considered are 0–100 km (rank 5), 100–200 km (rank 4), 200–300 km (rank 3), 300–500 km (rank 2), and above 500 km (rank 1). The relative weight of the proximity to ports parameter in the final evaluation scheme was 0.05.

Environmental considerations

The environmental considerations deal inter alia with the assessment of the ecological status of the candidate area in order to predict long-term potential positive and negative effects that an OWF may have on the surrounding biotic and abiotic elements. Among the environmental restrictions, the most common are the following: MPAs, Ramsar and Natura 2000 sites, cetacean sanctuaries, areas considered as migratory bird routes, areas characterized by meadows of Posidonia, fields of Phyllophora, and other priority habitats (e.g. coralligenous, maerl and deep-water white coral formations). The identification of ecologically important areas can be based ideally on in situ surveys or can be estimated from habitat models. The environmental requirements formulated within the EU Directives provide additional guidelines for the protection and conservation of the marine environment. National protected areas/MPAs and Natura 2000 sites may belong to either “restricted” or “no-go areas”; they can be definitively characterized as no-go areas only after detailed in situ assessment. A relevant EU guidance provides a step by step procedure for wind farm developments affecting Natura 2000 sites. An appropriate assessment should be made if an OWF site is part of the Natura 2000 network, while compensatory measures are necessary in order to protect the overall coherence of Natura 2000 sites if there are negative impacts with no alternatives.

Regarding the seagrass Posidonia oceanica, it is widely distributed in the Mediterranean coastal waters and is used as a tool for the evaluation of ecological status and the assessment of the water quality. Moreover, the presence of seagrass influence the water flow, such as wave and current attenuation and alternation of nearshore sedimentary patterns. Therefore, Posidonia oceanica is considered among the aquatic ecosystems requiring monitoring and enhancement based on the objectives of the relevant EU Directives. In this respect, any human activity that may threaten the conservation of Posidonia (and consequently, the marine ecosystem) shall be limited, while the installation of offshore wind parks shall also be prohibited in these areas. On the other hand, Phyllophora beds supply benthic primary production and water oxygenation in the circalittoral zone, and provide breeding and feeding grounds, and nursery for diverse invertebrate and fish species. Thus, similar restrictions hold also for this case. Regarding the impacts and threats of OWF installations in birds and seabird habitats, they are site- and species-dependent. Although the main information for protection of birds is provided by the Birds and Habitats Directives, more focused aspects on these issues can be found in the guidance document of the European Union. In this respect, the appropriate sitting of an OWF is of crucial importance. This implies the necessity for rational and appropriate assessments of the wider area in order to meet the principles of the above Directive and result in a reasonable decision. To this end, “integrated and sustainable form of spatial planning” is demanded.

Summing up, although there is a large debate in progress as regards the feasibility of developing OWFs in environmentally important areas (recent evidences indicated that OWFs that are properly designed and deployed are generally not a threat to marine biodiversity), a rational solution in order to minimize potential environmentally related conflicts is to avoid sites with sensitive marine and seabird habitats, and migratory bird routes. In this connection, MSP and coastal zone management are prerequisites for efficient OWF project implementation from a sustainable perspective. In any case though, mutual understanding, transparency and confidence attitude between the involved key players is necessary for efficient offshore wind energy development in the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

In the finally adopted context of the SWC, biogenic habitats (coralligenous and maerl), deep sea coral, Phyllophora fields and Posidonia/sea grass meadows are considered as no-go sites, while National protected areas/MPAs and Natura 2000 sites are, in principle, considered as restricted areas for OWF development.

After the analysis that was performed it is concluded that a rather limited part of candidate OWF locations for both basins is excluded due to environmental restrictions. Note also that the definitive exclusion of these areas should be justified only after in situ assessments and monitoring studies.


A multitude of different features is reflected in the SWC and thus the reading and interpretation of the results should be made with care. As mentioned above, the first main feature of the SWC refers to the designation of areas that are either no-go or restricted due to environmental restrictions. The second main feature of the SWC refers to the designation of areas that are favourable for OWF development, after excluding the no-go and the restricted areas. The “degree of favourability” of these areas is depicted through an overall score obtained from the above described methodology and is categorized as follows:

1) very bad (overall score 1.70–2.00);
2) bad (overall score 2.01–2.50);
3) fair (overall score 2.51–3.00);
4) good (overall score 3.01–3.50);
5) very good (overall score 3.51–4.00), and;
6) excellent (overall score 4.01–4.50).

Let us note that:

i) all the evaluated areas, even the “very bad” ones, are, in principle, candidates for further assessment as regards OWF development;
ii) a location characterized as “excellent” or “very good” in the Mediterranean or the Black Sea is such in a relative way, i.e. with respect to the other examined locations of the entire basin; for example, a location in the North Sea with the same technical characteristics could be characterized as “fair” or “good” compared to other locations in the wider area;
iii) for the areas with the highest possibility for offshore wind energy projects, further in-depth analysis is necessary with combined use of site-specific detailed input data;
iv) areas that were not rated in this analysis correspond to the current technological limitations and may be considered as favourable sites for OWF projects in the future as the offshore wind industry is developing.

Based on the results of the SWC, some favourable areas for OWF development are revealed. Regarding the Mediterranean Sea, extended areas characterized as “very good” are located in the Gulf of Gabes and the northern part of the Gulf of Tunis (Tunisia), the Gulf of Lions (France), the Aegean Sea (Greece), the eastern part of the Gulf of Sirte (Libya), the area close to the Arabs Gulf in Egypt and in the coastal and offshore area of Otranto city (Italy) in the Adriatic Sea. Extended favourable areas characterized as “good” are also encountered in the same areas as above, as well as in the central Adriatic Sea, and the southwestern part of Sicily. Overall, the most extended areas in the Mediterranean that are, in general, favourable for OWF development are the North African coasts (from Tunisia up to Egypt) and the Adriatic Sea. The spots that are characterized as “excellent” in the Mediterranean Sea are all located in the Aegean Sea (Karpathos Isl., Mykonos Isl. and the straits between Ikaria and Samos Isl.).

Regarding the Black Sea, the favourable areas are much more uniformly distributed. Specifically, the entire western part of the basin hosts very favourable locations for OWF development. The most promising locations are extending across the Romanian and Ukrainian coasts and at the entrance of the Sea of Azov. The southwestern part of Crimea and the area extending across the Turkish and Bulgarian coasts are characterized as “good”. The entire eastern part of the Black Sea seems to be not promising for OWF development. The Sea of Azov was not included in the final analysis due to the lack of bottom sediment data.

The detailed, high-resolution analysis of the SWC can be found in the WebGIS environment of the CoCoNet project (see

Recommendations for the establishment of OWFs in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea

The actual development of OWFs in the countries of the Mediterranean and Black Seas is a multi-step procedure. The necessary steps for establishing OWFs are well-known to the offshore wind industry. A major part of this process is the permitting/licensing procedure that varies from country to country. Taking into consideration that there is no previous experience in the offshore wind energy sector with actual implementations, and that the OWF establishment process is clearly site specific, some generic, conceptual steps that can be followed are the following:

1. Consultation of the SWC results: SWC is a unique tool of its kind for the Mediterranean and Black Seas and can be used to identify the most suitable sites worth being further assessed for OWF development, taking into account environmental considerations.

2. Design and implementation of detailed local studies: These studies include monitoring of met-ocean parameters, environmental surveys (benthic and pelagic species, sea mammals, sensitive marine habitats and birds), coastal and seabed surveys (sedimentation, waves, currents, geophysical and geotechnical variables), and socio-economic studies (regarding the potential effects to the local infrastructure and community living near the area of development). Especially, for the Mediterranean Sea, where appropriate water depths are rather close to the shore, visual noise assessments should be necessarily included along with surveys on the resident/tourist attitudes, age/income distribution, etc. This step is very extended and demanding in terms of time and financing, but is also of most importance for an efficient and sustainable OWF establishment, especially in areas that host a variety of different marine uses and/or are environmentally sensitive.

3. Integration of the acquired local/regional information into a single framework: GIS technology has been used in the CoCoNet project for the development of the SWC for the Mediterranean and Black Seas. At smaller spatial scales, where fine information can be acquired or is more easily accessible, a detailed local/regional SWC will be an indispensable tool for the efficient identification and evaluation of alternative OWF sittings taking into consideration a variety of different points of view and relevant interests.

4. Building synergies with other marine space users: Due to the particular characteristics of the Mediterranean Sea (e.g. intense use of the coastal and marine space), this approach may be proved a valuable asset in the OWF establishment procedure. In principle, it is a good practice to bring together local community, OWF developers and other key actors throughout the entire OWF siting and design procedure.

Based on the refinement of the aforementioned conceptual steps, some technical, environmental, socio-economic and institutional recommendations are provided for OWF development in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. The following subjects are interrelated and their careful consideration is rendered necessary for the successful design, implementation and viability of offshore wind energy in the two basins. For clarity purposes, the recommendations are divided into the following key-subjects:

1) Offshore wind data and climate: This is one of the most decisive parameters in the planning phase of an OWF. The assessment of offshore wind data/climate and offshore wind energy has been thoroughly made during the project. Therefore, the relevant recommendations reflect science-based knowledge, emerging directly from the CoCoNet project, and are tailored for the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
2) Environmental issues: The relevant recommendations are partly based on the knowledge and information obtained directly from the project, and partly on the existing experience from the Northern European countries and scientific literature surveys.
3) Marine uses and potential conflicts: These recommendations are an immediate derivative of the geomorphological structure of the coastal zone, the existing marine space uses and the different attitudes of the residents of the coastal areas of the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
4) Policy considerations: National legislations and policies are generally different for the Mediterranean and Black Sea countries as regards OWF development. Therefore, some generic recommendations relevant with policy considerations are provided to shed light on the homogenization, harmonization and simplification of national legislations and licensing/permitting procedures.

Offshore wind data and climate
• Use high-resolution wind data at appropriate heights above sea level, especially in the near-shore areas, for regional wind energy assessment studies. Measured wind data from meteorological masts are irreplaceable and necessary in the planning phase of an OWF but they are costly.
• Quantify the uncertainties of the less reliable data sources (e.g. data from numerical models) and implement rational calibration methods to improve their (long-term) reliability.
• Provide mean annual, interannual and decadal variability measures of wind data due to their importance with respect to the economic viability of an OWF.
• Under the examined climate change scenarios, the Aegean Sea and the southwestern part of the Black Sea are favourable candidate areas for exploitation of offshore wind energy.
• Encourage data dissemination between the private sector and academia. The access to measured wind data from meteorological masts is difficult for the research community.

Environmental issues
• Screen and map the existing habitats, MPAs, and the distributions of important species, as well as the surrounding water volumes and the sea bottom areas, so as to avoid impacts on biodiversity. Monitoring campaigns are necessary before and during construction, operation and decommissioning of OWFs.
• Standardize the monitoring programmes to assess marine biota shifts. Create baseline inventories and identify thresholds so as to understand and predict future changes in marine biodiversity due to OWF installations. Biota shifts will surely happen, since the bases of OWFs are hard substrates, placed over soft substrates. This will lead to changes in the biota; probably resulting in increase of fish presence and in the establishment of hard bottom communities.
• Advocate the utilization of pilot sites before OWF development in order to study and assess actual environmental impacts in the surrounding environment. The installation of few primary components of an OWF might allow the prediction of the impacts as if the whole structure was deployed, allowing for optimisation and adjustment. The bases of OWFs can become stepping-stones across MPAs, since protected areas are usually characterised by hard substrates that are divided by large stretches of soft bottoms. In this way, the study of the potential environmental effects in the far- and near-field environment is greatly facilitated.
• Simulate the potential impacts on the local geophysical/oceanographic characteristics (waves, circulation, sediments, coastal morphology, etc.) as part of environmental impact assessment studies.
• Continue the monitoring of the area, where the OWF has been established, in order to enrich knowledge as regards long-term environmental effects and the acting of OWFs as stepping-stones across MPAs.

Marine uses and potential conflicts
• Promote floating structures as a rational solution for the offshore wind exploitation in the Mediterranean and Black Seas due to the highly touristic character of coasts; the presence of massive installations near the coast has a negative impact on the perception of the marine landscape. This shift may contribute also to the mitigation of potential environmental effects.
• Implement basin-wide Marine Spatial Planning and Coastal Zone Management for the sustainable development of OWFs, and minimize conflicts regarding the use of marine and coastal space. The management of marine and maritime space must be accomplished in an integrative fashion in order to have a complete picture of all the existing, planned and foreseen human activities, and associated threats to environmental integrity.
• Utilize, at the local scale, integrated approaches as the one implemented in the SWC in order to obtain a complete as possible quantified overview of the technical, environmental, and socio-economic characteristics of the candidate area and easily identify alternative siting solutions and potential conflicts.
• Foster synergies between OWFs and aquaculture, MPAs, fisheries. These activities might become part of the compensations offered to the local communities. The bases of OWFs can be used to farm filtering bivalves or provide three-dimensional space for commercial fish, by acting as artificial reefs, with the aim of enhancing fisheries’ productivity and recreational SCUBA diving.
• Perform detailed socio-economic valuation surveys during the design phase of OWFs, with consultation processes for any OWF application, focusing on stakeholders.
• Increase the likelihood of social acceptance for OWF development in a candidate area and raise environmental awareness of the local community through informational campaigns. The pros and cons must be made explicit (it is counterproductive to hide cons) while the advantages for the local communities must be realistically stated, along with some proposed compensation measures.

Policy considerations
• Apply joint actions and procedures when developing infrastructures relevant to offshore wind energy projects (grid network, ports, etc.) at the regional level.
• In the pre-evaluation stage, synthesize the most determinant technological, socio-economic (if available) and environmental aspects into a single holistic framework in the context of OWF development at wide spatial scales (an example of this approach is the SWC). In the decision-making stage, consider a more detailed analysis and finer spatial data at the local/regional level.
• Rationalize and simplify licensing and permitting procedures, enhancing and centralizing permitting bodies’ capacity, governance support, financial stability, application of effective financing tools (e.g. feed-in tariffs).
• Revise national policies and environmental, socio-economic, technical and legislative considerations of the EU Mediterranean and Black Sea countries, harmonizing and integrating national, regional and transnational policies. The problem of conflicting regulations and legislations hinders the development of activities that occur in overlapping political spaces.

Information gaps

The development of the SWC revealed some information/knowledge gaps as regards offshore wind energy exploitation in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. The following list includes the substantial gaps in offshore wind energy sector that are mainly related with deficiency of diverse data at basin-scale wind energy assessment studies.

1. There is a notable lack of wind data at various heights above sea level. Normally, the estimation of wind energy characteristics should be made at the turbine hub heights while the wind profile should be accurately estimated by utilizing measured wind data obtained by meteorological masts or Lidar measurements. Data from these instruments are also required for the quantification of the data uncertainties of the less reliable data sources (e.g. buoy measurements, data from numerical atmospheric models and satellite data), and the more accurate estimation of the wind resource availability.
2. Long-term simulation results obtained from numerical atmospheric models of spatial resolutions of the order of some hundreds of meters are lacking. The detailed evaluation of the model results, especially in the nearshore/coastal areas, is necessary in order to assess the accuracy, performance and homogeneity of the simulations. In addition, spatial calibration schemes would contribute and facilitate the calibration of the less reliable data source for extended areas.
3. More detailed spatial information on the environmentally sensitive marine areas at depths 0–200 m is required. The more accurate identification of important habitats, such as meadows of Posidonia oceanica, fields of Phyllophora, corraligenous and deep-water white coral formations, at the critical bottom depths for OWF development is necessary information for the efficient OWF planning in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. The current lack of mapped bird migration routes over the two basins is an additional information gap for the sector.
4. The lack of a basin-scale marine spatial plan proved to be one of the most important hindrances in the identification of potential sites for OWF development. In the Mediterranean countries, coarse preliminary spatial plans exist for few EU member states at national level and a very detailed plan, tailored for OWF development, is available for the Gulf of Lions (France). Some of these attempts however, are outdated or incomplete. Moreover, relevant quantifiable information on the socio-economic status of the examined basins was not available.

The identification of gaps may raise opportunities both for progress in the research field and offshore wind industry, and for fruitful co-operations between seemingly conflicting key actors (e.g. fishermen and offshore wind developers) that may facilitate prospective OWF development in the examined areas from the angle of view of environmental sustainability.

Potential Impact:
The impact of the project is two-fold. There has been an internal impact, throughout the consortium. This was achieved by an impressive series of workshops and summer schools that have touched most of the countries involved in the project.
A specific WP was dedicated to this activity. The cultural impact involved people from three continents (Africa, Asia, Europe) with many occasions to meet and interact, not only with the involvement of people within the Consortium but also with the participation of a wider range of scientists and stakeholders. The relationships became reinforced during the General Assemblies, but the focused Workshops and Summer Schools were even more effective, due to the possibility of strict interaction among the partners.

The summer schools focused on:

1. Introduction to meta-analysis in ecology, Perpignan, France, June 25th to July 1st, 2012
2. GIS and Marxan training, Constanta, Romania, September 9-14th, 2013
3. Good Environmental Status, Rabat, Morocco, September 8-13th 2014.

The workshops focused on:

1. Habitat Classification Schemes in Deep and Shallow Water Areas Lecce 15 May 2012 Wednesday 16 May 2012
2. RULES for data sharing and GEODATABASE Architecture Lecce 17 May 2012 To Friday 18 May 2012
3. Workshop on Synthesis on knowledge on genetic connectivity in Mediterranean and Black Sea Barcelona 11 -13 June 2012
4. Existing EU protocols and standards for data and metadata sharing, rules for dataflow between partners and design of COCONET Data Model, virtual workshop 23 July 2012 To Monday 30 July 2012
5. Review and analysis of legislation relevant to the establishment and
management of MPAs and OWFs 27 February 2013 - 08:00 To Monday 04 March 2013 - 17:00
6. Species distribution, beta diversity and connectivity. livorno October 16-18th 2012
7. Socio-economic impacts of networks of MPAs, virtual, 17-24 September 2012
8. Best practices for the management of MPAs network monitoring and management effectiveness, virtual, 5-16 November 2012
9. Multi scale basin-wide circulations, virtual, 22 November-4 December 2012
10. Legislative implications of an integrated MPA / wind farm network in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, virtual, February 27-March 4 2013
11. Case Study on Quick-Response models and Strategies in Case of Accidents Impacting on MPAs, virtual, April 17-24 2013
12. Review and analysis of legislation relevant to the establishment and management of MPAs and OWFs, Perpignan January 15-16 2014
13. Sensitivity of MPAs to threats, Athens, 29th – 31st January 2014
14. Underwater noise and its impacts on marine and coastal biodiversity London February 25-27th 2014
15. Description of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs). Màlaga April 7-11 2014
16. Biotic impacts of OWF Norfolk, April 28-29th 2014
17. Offshore Wind Farm development in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, Anavyssos June 9-10th 2014
18. Oil spill modelling and emergency strategies, virtual, September 2014
19. Synthetic Workshop, Paris February 5-6th 2015
20. Second synthetic workshop Anavyssos May 25-26th 2015
21. Third synthetic workshop on connectivity Marseille June 2-4th 2015
22. Workshop “Classification scheme for habitat mapping (Biological layer) – Mediterranean and Black Sea”; CNR ISMAR Bologna, Italy. October 26-28th 2015

The quest for a “holistic” approach to the problem of clean energy production and of nature conservation forced people from a vast array of disciplines, ranging from engineering to economics to environmental sciences in all their facets, to share own knowledge and to assimilate that of others, in order to create bridges across disciplines, with mutual understanding.
The workshops on specific topics were followed by synthetic workshops in which the aspects of specific fields were confronted with each other. This happened also during the General Assemblies, and with the contacts we had with the Scientific Advisory Board.

CoCoNet yielded around 200 scientific publications that are having a strong impact on the scientific community at large, and more will come in the future.
CoCoNet worked in strict collaboration with other EU projects such as Vectors of Change, Perseus, and Devotes, with common initiatives and papers.
This bottom up approach (bringing the scientific community to the consciousness that holistic approaches are crucial for the development of science) was paralleled by a top-down approach.
Enrique Macpherson, WP Leader in CoCoNet, for instance, co-authored a publication of the European Marine Board and the European Science Foundation (Olsen EM, Johnson D, Weaver P, Go.i R, Ribeiro MC, Rabaut M, Macpherson E, Pelletier D, Fonseca L, Katsanevakis S, Zaharia T (2013). Achieving Ecologically Coherent MPA Networks in Europe: Science Needs and Priorities. Marine Board Position Paper 18. Larkin, KE and McDonough N (Eds.). European Marine Board, Ostend, Belgium) that covers a portion of the aims of CoCoNet. These publications are widely used by policy makers and guide their decisions, especially in the European Parliament. This triggers a cascading effect on national governments and local authorities, through the Directives of the EU.
The involvement of the Coordinator in the European Academies Scientific Advisory Council (EASAC) was also an occasion to foster the results of CoCoNet in a document (Marine sustainability in an age of changing oceans and seas: that was solicited by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission. CoCoNet is explicitly cited repeatedly in the report, and concepts stemming from the project (especially the Cells of Ecosystem Functioning) are fully embraced as conceptual tools to manage and protect marine environments at large. The report also uses illustrations that stem from the Project.
Again, this will be a platform to influence decisions at all levels, and many of the recommendations that have been elaborated by CoCoNet have been inserted in it.
Another involvement of the Coordinator in the activities of EASAC regarded the preparation of a document for the Berlin G7 meeting, in 2015 (G/ Science Academies’ Statement 2015: Future of the Ocean: Impact of Human Activities on Marine Systems). These documents are the platform of discussion during the G7 meetings, and a whole sentence (in a two-page document) is dedicated to networks of MPAs, including the high seas (Conserve and restore natural fish populations and the ecosystems on which they depend and establish networks of marine protected areas, including the high seas). Another document has been prepared for the G7 meeting in Japan, on Marine Ecosystem Degradation. The Coordinator of CoCoNet has been invited to contribute to this document (as lead author) as a recognition of the role played by the project in this topic.
The Coordinator of CoCoNet has also be invited by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to participate to the 10 x 20 Initiative, organized in Italy by the United Nations: Marine Protected Areas: An Urgent Imperative A Dialogue Between Scientists and Policymakers Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Rome (7–9 March 2016). Also in this case the vision of CoCoNet has found great enhancement. The participants were the Ambassadors to the United Nations of the Island States of the Pacific, aiming at protecting their territorial waters from overexploitation and ecosystem degradation.
The project, thus, has contributed to define the views of policy makers that work at EU level, at the level of the G7 and in the United Nations.
All partners have worked locally, in their countries, to disseminate the results and vision of the project, both in the definition of coherent policies for clean energy production with the use of Off Shore Wind Farms, and of policies that go beyond the protection of the marine environment in larger areas than the currently recognized Marine Protected Areas.

The definition of Good Environmental Status by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive was embraced by CoCoNet as a flagship target for networks of Marine Protected Areas. These are the natural instruments to reach GES by 2020 and to monitor the efficacy of the measures. GES, being based on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, cannot be measured with the current observing systems, based on state of the art instruments that, however, do not measure neither biodiversity nor ecosystem functioning.
This concept was included in the Rome Declaration that was issued at the end of Euroceans 2014, a forum of scientists and policy makers that took place in Rome in 2014. The sentence: actions are needed to address the rapidly-growing opportunities and challenges in advanced ocean measurement technology and effective management of increasing volumes and diversity of information, including physical, chemical and biological data from marine observing systems that are fit for purpose and capable of informing assessments of Good Environmental Status in the Rome Declaration opens a gateway (the assessment of GES by marine observing systems) to embrace the vision of CoCoNet, based on the assessment and protection of marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
The importance of convincing decision makers, however, is worthless if those who choose them, the people, are not convinced about the importance of our efforts in designing a better future for our environment, and especially the seas.
The project dedicated lots of efforts in this direction, with the building of a web page ( that contains all our results and visions. We organized press releases and contributed directly to national and international tribunes with interviews and statements. We took part in several international events, such as GreenWeek 2015, International Black Sea Day, and the Meeting of Contract Parties to the Barcelona Convention (CoP18) to dissemiate the concept of the CoCoNet.
The language of scientists is often cumbersome and difficult to understand by the lay people. We chose, then, to use art to convey our messages.
This poster is made out of the 2014 calendar. It has been printed in thousands of copies and distributed throughout the area of the Consortium. It has been used to illustrate conferences and distributed at meetings.
In this picture the illustrated material is used to explain the ecological implications of the Encyclical Laudato Sì to a group of Franciscan monks who asked clarifications about concepts that are contained in the Papal document and that are not covered by the cultural background of religious people.
The concepts of CoCoNet, thus, are being disseminated also in religious ceremonies.
The artwork of Alberto Gennnari and the graphics of Fabio Tresca were also used to produce the 2016 CoCoNet Calendar, in collaboration with the EU Project Devotes. The 12 plates illustrate the 11 descriptors of Good Environmental Status of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive of the European Union and what the future observing systems will have to cover, by using also the networks of Marine Protected Areas. This material, together with other products, is being extensively used in a myriad of initiatives in all states. These drawings were used also to produce a poster and a brochure to explain the concept and achievements of the project. They have been widely distributed at various meetings and will be displayed at universities and research instututions for some time even after the project itself is finished.
CoCoNet also produced a movie, CoCoNet from Hot Spots to Nets, directed by the movie maker Roberto Rinaldi, with an original subject inspired by the work of the project. The movie, showing amazing seascapes in both the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, is also enriched with views of work onboard oceanographic vessels, statements by the Coordinator and the WP Leader of the Communication WP, Bayram Ozturk, and by animated graphs that show the physical features of both the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. The opportunity of building Offshore Wind Farms is also expressed, as a response to global warming. The movie has been presented to scientific meetings and, in part, also in programs in national TVs. It will be promoted at festivals and in further TV programs. A short version of this film as well as an animation film for kids and an infographic movie were produced to deliver the message of the CoCoNet.
Two books are going to be printed from our project, one on the economic side of marine protection, and one stemming from the manual that represents the final product of the project.
The GeoDataBase of CoCoNet is also a powerful instrument to disseminate the results of the project. It contains a great number of informations packaged in a geo-referenced fashion. It can be consulted online and many researchers are using it, also from outside the Consortium. This instrument will not be lost at the end of the project. The Geodatabase is built according to the Inspire protocol, so it is compatible with the EU standards and can be used by the European Union. Agreements with MEDPAN (the Mediterranean network of managers of MPAs) and with LIFEWATCH (a Large European Research Infrastructure) will guarantee that the Geodatabase will continue to be available to the public, in open access (with a protocol that protects the intellectual property of the data), also after the end of the project.
Overall, the top-down and the bottom-up strategy of CoCoNet in disseminating own results reached the highest level of decision making, and a very wide array of stakeholders, ranging from childrens in schools (also with the CoCoNet Kids page in the project web page), to normal citizens, to operators in the field of energy production, tourism, fisheries, etc. All the media have been utilized, from radio to television programs, newspapers, magazines and journals, books and the world wide web. The website of the CoCoNet will stay alive for at least another few years after the project is finished. It will be updated with the newly published scientific papers, thus it will serve as a source of information related to MPAs and OWFs in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
The final products of CoCoNet are the Guidelines and the Smart Wind Chart. These products are ready at the very end of the project, so the real dissemination will start now, when the products are finally ready. During the project we disseminated and impacted while covering intermediate steps in the process of reaching our final goals.
Even if funding will not be available anymore, the whole Consortium is committed to enhance the final products in all possible ways, to all kinds of stakeholders that we can enter in contact with.

List of Websites:
website -
Project Coordinator - Ferdinando Boero:


Annamaria Toncini, (Person in charge of financial and administrative aspects)
Tel.: +39 010 6475416
Fax: +39 010 6475400
Record Number: 189828 / Last updated on: 2016-10-07