Doctoral Programme on Marine Ecosystem Health and Conservation
 PhD Subject Catalogue Fourth Edition - 2013
Recreational boating as a vectors of spread of marine non-indigenous species in the Mediterranean Sea: biological and socio-economic analysis
PhD Code: MARES_13_15:
  • Host institute 1: P12 - Pavia University
  • Host institute 2: P16 - Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR)
  • Host institute 3: P11 - Université Pierre et Marrie Curie (UPMC)
Research fields:
  • T3 - Biological Invasions
  • Occhipinti Anna -
  • Guarini Jean-Marc -
  • Christos Arvanitidis (
Contact Person and email: Marchini Agnese -

Subject description
Mediterranean is a biodiversity hotspot, but also the European  marine region with the highest number of non-indigenous species (NIS) (Galil et al. 2009, Katzanevakis et al. 2013). The presence of NIS and particularly IAS has been dramatically changing the Mediterranean sea landscape and the phenomenon is continuously increasing (Galil et al. 2009).
The main pathways of introduction in the Mediterranean basin are assumed to be: passage through Suez Canal, shipping and aquaculture, whereas fouling on ships is considered as a major vector for secondary spread at local/regional level. There are documented cases in the Mediterranean of NIS introductions, such as the cases of the alga Caulerpa taxifolia and the crustacean Caprella scaura,  where small crafts have been implicated in their spread (Minchin et al. 2006). 
There are about approximately 1,000 marinas in Mediterranean Europe accounting for 300,000 berths and 1,500,000 boats ( Every marina can represent a sink and source of NIS; every single craft is likely to carry organisms attached on the hull: this vector cannot be ignored in the management of non-indigenous species (Clarke Murray et al 2011). But no practical solution has been presented neither in Europe nor at Mediterranean level. Furthermore, legislation needs to incorporate the human dimension: the level of social awareness about the NIS problematic is supposed to be low in Mediterranean countries and nothing is known about the possible reactions of the civil society towards implementation of strict regulation of recreational boating (such as indications of frequent cleaning of the boat with total removal of the fouling community). These issues need to be addressed, in order to evaluate different legislation scenarios which are more likely to be accepted by end-users.
The proposed research will address recreational boating as a vector of secondary spread of NIS in the three sub-regions of the Mediterranean Sea: Eastern Mediterranean, Adriatic Sea and Western Mediterranean. Two different types of analysis will be carried out: (1) a research on the fouling communities of several Mediterranean marinas, to define their actual role of sink and source of NIS; (2) an investigation on the the perception and knowledge of boaters on the invasive species issue and their attitude towards possible strategies of limitation of NIS spread.
In each sub-region, biological samples (fouling community from artificial structures) will be collected in at least three highly attended marinas nearby known sites of NIS introduction and establishment (aquaculture facilities, big harbours). Furthermore, samples will be collected in at least three marinas distant from known sites of NIS introduction and establishment. In this second case, it is assumed that the "natural secondary spread" vector will be limited and presence of NIS will be highly likely to be referred to recreational crafts. The taxonomic identification will be focused on the main fouling organisms (e.g. serpulids, molluscs, barnacles, peracarids, bryozoans), and will allow to evaluate the alien/native ratio (as requested by the MSFD, 2008) and to estimate the actual role of marinas as sink and source of NIS in different Mediterranean sub-regions.
The interviews to marina managers, attendants and boat owners will be used to create socio-economic scenarios taking into account of perceptions and needs of the target groups, as well as economic aspects; the fuzzy logic approach will allow to deal with the linguistic uncertainty of responses.
This PhD research will be carried out in the framework of the marine invasion researches that are currently conducted at the University of Pavia (e.g. Occhipinti-Ambrogi & Savini 2003; Occhipinti-Ambrogi & Galil 2004; Minchin et al 2006; Occhipinti-Ambrogi 2007; Occhipinti-Ambrogi et al 2011; Olenin et al. 2010, 2013). During the first year of doctorate the candidate will be asked to perform: a review of policy about pleasure boating as vector of NIS introduction and spread, both at European and global level; a detailed definition of the sampling design in the Adriatic Sea and Western Mediterranean and the planning of the field surveys; a preparation of semi-structured interviews addressed to boaters and marina attendants; the execution of sampling surveys and interviews. The second year will be devoted to taxonomic analysis of collected samples; definition of sampling design and planning of field surveys in the Eastern Mediterranean, and executions of sampling surveys and interviews in that sub-region. The third year will be devoted to completion of taxonomic analysis, analysis of collected interviews and preparation of scientific articles on the project results. 
Office space and all technical support for performing sampling surveys and taxonomic analysis will be provided by the hosting institutions (Laboratory of Ecology at Pavia University for Adriatic Sea; University Pierre and Marie Curie- Observatoire Océanologique de Banyuls s/mer for Western Mediterranean; Hellenic Center for Marine Research for Eastern Mediterranean). Hosting institution will also provide personnel for linguistic support during the execution of interviews. University of Pavia and University Pierre and Marie Curie- Observatoire Océanologique de Banyuls s/mer will cooperate to support the socio-economic analysis. 
  • Clarke Murray C, Pakhomov EA, Therriault W, 2011. Recreational boating: a large unregulated vector transporting marine invasive species. Diversity and Distributions 17(6): 1161-1172.
  • EC (2011) Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020. COM/2011/244, European Commission, Brussels, 16 pp. 
  • Galil B, Gollash S, Minchin D, Olenin S, 2009. Alien marine biota of Europe. In: DAISIE, Handbook of Alien Species in Europe. Series in Invasion Ecology, Volume 3. Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 93-104.
  • Katsanevakis S, Genovesi P, Gaiji S, Nyegaard Hvid H, Roy H, Nunes AL, Sánchez Aguado F, Bogucarskis K, Debusscher B, Deriu I, Harrower C, Josefsson M, Lucy FE, Marchini A, Richards G, Trichkova T, Vanderhoeven S, Zenetos A, Cardoso AC, 2013. Implementing the European policies for alien species – networking, science, and partnership in a complex environment. Management of Biological Invasions 4(1): 3-6.
  • Minchin D, Floerl O, Savini D and Occhipinti-Ambrogi A, 2006. Small craft and the spread of exotic species. In: Davenport J and Davenport JD (eds) The Ecology of Transportation: Managing Mobility for the Environment.  Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 99-118.
  • MSFD, 2008. Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (Marine Strategy Framework Directive). L 164/19, Official Journal of the European Union, 22 pp.
  • Occhipinti-Ambrogi A, 2007. Global change and marine communities: alien species and climate change. Marine Pollution Bulletin 55: 342-352.
  • Occhipinti-Ambrogi A, Savini D, 2003. Biological invasions as a component of global change in stressed marine ecosystems. Marine Pollution Bulletin 46: 542-551.
  • Occhipinti-Ambrogi A, Galil B, 2004. A uniform terminology on bioinvasions: a chimera or an opertive tool? Marine Pollution Bulletin 49: 688-694.
  • Occhipinti-Ambrogi A, Marchini A, et al, 2011. Alien species along the Italian coasts: an overview. Biological Invasions 13: 215-237.
  • Olenin S, Alemany F, Cardoso AC, Gollasch S, Goulletquer P, Lehtiniemi M, McCollin T, Minchin D, Miossec L, Occhipinti-Ambrogi A, Ojaveer H, Rose-Jensen K, Stankiewicz M,  Wallentinus I, Aleksandrov B, 2010. Marine Strategy Framework Directive, taks group 2 report non-indigenous species. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. ISBN 978-92-79-15655-7.
  • Olenin S., Narščius A., Minchin D., David M., Galil B., Gollasch S., Marchini A., Occhipinti-Ambrogi A.,  Ojaveer H., Zaiko A. (2013). Making non-indigenous species information systems practical for management and useful for research: an aquatic perspective. Submitted to Biological conservation.

Expected outcomes
The proposed research aims to analyse the role of recreational boating as a vector of secondary spread of NIS in the Mediterranean Sea and propose scenarios to mitigate this phenomenon, by taking into account socio-economic aspects. The research will contribute to the implementation of European Directives in several ways:
A) identify invasive alien species (IAS) and their pathways, responding to Target 5 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy (EC, 2011).
B) update the knowledge on the alien fauna of marina environments with collection of biological samples and estimation of the alien/native ratio for the GES (good environmental status) assessment  (Marine Strategy Framework Directive).
C) identify socio-economic scenarios, that will result in recommendations useful for policy makers.
The research is expected to deliver: (i) at least one publication on peer-reviewed journal about the biological results (list of NIS observed in the study sites; role of recreational boating in the spread of NIS in Mediterranean marinas), which will be useful to update current scientific knowledge of marine NIS in the scopes of the MSFD. This will depend on the number and relevance of NIS identified in the study sites; (ii) at least one publication on peer-reviewed journal about the socio-economic analysis (possible scenarios of regulation of recreational boating to control the biological invasions phenomenon), which will provide support for the implementation of environmental policies addressing the marine invasions issue.
Finally, a relevant by-product of this research will be the increase of social awareness about the issue of invasive alien species which is also set as a target by the European Commission ( and MSFD.

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