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Restoring Seagrass Meadows in the Tuscan Archipelago

Seagrass meadows, such as Posidonia oceanica, play a vital role in the Mediterranean Sea. They are highly productive and widespread coastal ecosystems that provide essential ecosystem services. These meadows serve as important habitat and nursery areas for commercial species and contribute to regulating services like coastal protection and "blue" carbon storage. Seagrasses are susceptible to degraded environmental conditions, which can lead to their decline and the subsequent dominance of algal turfs. This shift has cascading impacts on productivity, deoxygenation, and the overall ecosystem services they provide.

Marine SABRES partners at the University of Pisa (UNIPI) are undertaking restoration activities the Tuscan Archipelago to address the threats facing Posidonia meadows due to increasing anthropogenic pressures, particularly tourism. With over two million visitors each year, tourism is one of the most significant economic activities in the region, but it also has measurable ecological impacts. In particular anchoring from diving boats, elevated nutrient discharge, and pollution are major threats.

In light of these challenges, the UNIPI team has chosen to focus our restoration efforts on the island of Giannutri. They have identified a bay with a seagrass meadow that has been exposed to severe impacts likely from anchoring, characterized by dead mats and sandy areas. Now the site is part of the Marine Protected Area and it is fully protected from direct human disturbance. Last week, the UNIPI team initiated the intervention by planting fragments of Posidonia on the seabed, following techniques that have been successful in other restoration projects. The intervention will be carried out over this and the next year, during which we will assess the status and growth of the transplanted plants and evaluate the overall outcome of the restoration.

The UNIPI team includes Prof. Lisandro Benedetti-Cecchi, Dr. Caterina Mintrone, Prof. Iacopo Bertocci, Mrs. Ana Escolano-Moltò, Mrs. Giulia Proserpio and Mrs. Luna Bollaro.



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