Unique National Map of Marine Habitats launched

Unique National Map of Marine Habitats launched

The launch of the Map of Marine Habitats marked the successful completion of the project “Charting of coastal and bottom marine habitats in the area of the Adriatic Sea under national jurisdiction” carried out by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development in the period from 2018 to 2023.

The total value of the project was EUR 11.9 million, and it was implemented through the Operational Programme Competitiveness and Cohesion with 85% of EU co-financing. The national share of the co-financing was provided by the Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund. The goal of the project was to increase knowledge and availability of data on biodiversity as a basis for effective protection of the Adriatic ecosystem, but also the sustainability of the use of natural resources.

The launched Map of Marine Habitats is a key tool for the sustainable use of marine resources and integral marine spatial planning, including fisheries and tourism.

It is the first such map in the Mediterranean, and covers as much as 51 percent of the Adriatic Sea under Croatian jurisdiction, which represents not only the completion of one of the most ambitious and complex marine habitat mapping initiatives, but also the beginning of a new era in the protection and preservation of the Adriatic Sea, one of the most valuable economic and natural resources of the Republic of Croatia. The plan is to map the remaining 49 percent by 2028.

The mapping service was carried out by a Croatian consortium that brought together more than 200 experts and scientists in the fields of oceanography, geology, ecology, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence. More than 20,000 working hours were spent on research.

Detailed mapping based on field recordings fully covers the bottom up to 40 m of depth and the bottom within protected areas, i.e. National Parks, Nature Parks and Natura 2000 sites, additionally recording and separating areas near national parks and nature parks and two areas in the epicontinental area, one of which is in the very center of the Jabuka basin. Using direct methods, more than 6,500 km2 were mapped. A number of innovative techniques were used to create the map, and neural networks were employed to create the model. The map of marine habitats is publicly available on Bioportal.

Aljoša Duplić, director of the Institute for Environmental and Nature Protection, states that the conducted research also led to worrying data about Posidonia meadows, which represent the lungs of the sea. Until now, it was estimated that they spread over 120 thousand hectares, but precise measurements have determined that they are, after all, much smaller, covering about 40 thousand hectares which is even three times less. And it is not only that that worries us, but also the fact that the lungs of our sea are under great pressure from nautical tourism and climate change, so it will be necessary to take urgent measures.

“Better regulation of anchoring, use of buoys exclusively on such habitat types, not dropping anchor, control of that. This is one of the most obvious measures that will be more strongly implemented in the future,” Duplić said.

A number of LIFE projects deal with the problem of the threat of Posidonia meadows in the Mediterranean, i.e. the disappearance of this precious habitat:

SEA FOREST LIFE – Posidonia meadows as carbon sinks of the Mediterranean

LIFECALLIOPE – Coastal dune hAbitats, subLittoraL sandbanks, marIne reefs: cOnservation, Protection, and thrEats mitigation

STRONG_ SEA LIFE – Survey and TReament ON Ghost Nets Sea LIFE