In May 2018, the EuroMarine-funded working group ANFORE met at the University of Salento in Lecce, Italy to identify the gaps in knowledge of Marine Animal Forests. Their ultimate goal was the creation of a European project to identify and numerically estimate the ecosystem services provided by the animal forests of the world. The involved scientists wanted to create a clear unifying picture of these animal forests to be disseminated through the general public and stakeholders, as well as to external working groups. During the meeting, the group highlighted as a key area of interest the high-density coral assemblages have been increasingly reported in deep coastal areas and continental shelves at 30–150 m depth in the Mediterranean Sea. In the context of the ongoing global change and increase of anthropogenic activities in coastal areas, these ecosystems are highly exposed to direct and indirect threats (e.g. temperature increase, ocean acidification, fishery), which can compromise their long-term viability. Yet despite this vulnerability, compared to tropical mesophotic ecosystems, temperate ones have received little research attention. As a result, our knowledge on their diversity, structure, ecology, conservation status, and relationship with shallower and deeper ecosystems is still extremely limited.
The foresight workshop ECoMeS seeks to address this knowledge gap by bringing together scientists working on the distribution, ecology, biology, physiology, connectivity, reproduction, life history traits, and conservation of corals in Mediterranean temperate mesophotic ecosystems. The workshop will consider how to apply methodologies developed for tropical mesophotic ecosystems (where research is more advanced) to these temperate ecosystems and will also collaborate with local scientific experts in order to promote future field activities in these poorly-understood areas.
The organisers of ECoMes have established three priority objectives for the foresight workshop:
- Provide an assessment of the state of the art on ecological pattern processes and vulnerability of Mediterranean corals in mesophotic ecosystems and identify similarities and differences with tropical ones.
- Identify the specific gaps in the knowledge together with research and conservation priorities.
- Spread the knowledge and increase the awareness of these mesophotic environments to the society.
In order to achieve these objectives, the workshop is expected to produce the following outputs:
- A synthesis paper on the ecology and conservation of corals in Mediterranean mesophotic ecosystems.
- The creation of a network (mailing list) of researchers on Mediterranean mesophotic ecosystems.
- The production of micro documentaries on Mediterranean mesophotic ecosystems to be spread through social networks (i.e., Twitter and Instagram ECoMeS profiles).
ECoMeS will serve as a platform from which to build a network of researchers and a base of knowledge on Mediterranean temperate mesophotic ecosystems that may inform future research and policy decisions to ensure these little-known and at-risk habitats receive the protection they require.