July 2018 - 1st RECONNECT newsletter !

RECONNECT is an ICRE8 project on Regional cooperation for the transnational ecosystem sustainable development. RECONNECT project is one of the 37 Projects that were approved for funding in the 1st Call for Project Proposals of the Τransnational Cooperation Programme Interreg V-B "Balkan-Mediterranean 2014-2020". Regional cooperation for the transnational ecosystem sustainable development (RECONNECT) project aims to develop strategies for sustainable management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Natura 2000 sites. The study areas are characterised by similar habitats in different countries, which are threatened by common pressures. Creating a transnational cooperative network to confront under a common approach the environmental threats of ecosystems with a high natural and cultural interest, is the overall goal of this project. The establishment of common practices and a joint regional strategy are the main challenges of RECONNECT. 

1st RECONNECT newsletter is out !

What you can find inside :
* RECONNECT: a few words about the project (#1)
* The 1st Interim Meeting of project RECONNECT, in Larnaca (#2)
* The 12th Pan-Hellenic Symposium on Oceanography and Fisheries (#3)
* Progress of work on RECONNECT activities in Bulgaria (#4)
* Sampling in the Karpathos MPA area (#5)
* RECONNECT study area: CavoGkreko, Cyprus (#6)
* What comes next (#7)

The project  RECONNECT  (Regional cooperation for the transnational  
ecosystem sustainable development) is implemented under the framework  
of the EU-funded Interreg Balkan-Med Interregional Cooperation Program  
for the Balkan-Mediterranean Region 2014-2020, with the co-financing  
of the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) and the  
national resources of the participating countries.

The Lead Partner of RECONNECT is the Institute of Marine Biology,  
Biotechnology and Aquaculture (Hellenic Centre for Marine Research).

RECONNECT was one of the  20 projects approved to  receive funding in  
Priority Axis 2 (Environment) after being evaluated through a very  
competitive selection process. In total 384 applications were  
submitted in the 1st Call out of which 276 were evaluated in terms of  
quality assessment.

The overall objective of the project is to improve the capacity of  
local management authorities by promoting efficient management of  
natural resources through the regional approach. The specific  
objectives include the following:
1. Enrich the current management toolbox with instruments based on the  
genetic and functional biodiversity;
2. Identify and map the key marine habitats and evaluate the services  
they provide by socio-economic, cultural and legal approaches;
3. Engage citizens in environmental monitoring and conservation  
activities and involve stakeholders to boost potential for blue growth;
4. Develop a platform for the data storage and analysis of results  
based on cutting edge information technologies;
5. Establish a Decision Supporting System to enhance the MPAs  
management on a scientific basis.

The general aim of project RECONNECT is the development of shared  
practices for the sustainable management of the MPAs and Natura 2000  
sites, against the most significant pressures and threats these  
ecosystems face. For this reason, pilot actions will take place in 4  
selected study sites:
* Karpathos (Greece),
* Kavo Gkreko (Cyprus),
* Gradina-Zlatna Ribka (Bulgaria), and
* Ksamil Bay and islands - Stillo Cape - Togo Island (Albania).

For the first time, a common management strategy will be developed  
based on the combination of ecological, genetic and socio-economic  
aspects under the umbrella of a common Decision Support System where  
joint policies and practices will be implemented. During the project,  
an integrated management toolbox is going to be equipped with  
indicators on ecosystem quality and on socio-economic variables which  
will enforce the monitoring practices currently implemented. The  
incorporation of socio-economic variables into this model will provide  
valuable insights for policy makers based on the assessment of the  
ecosystem benefits for the society.

Authors: Georgia Piligotsi, MSc | Dr. Stella Tsani | Dr. Christina Pavloudi

The first interim meeting of project RECONNECT on the "Regional  
Cooperation for Transnational Sustainable Development of Ecosystems",  
was held in Cyprus (Larnaca) on 11th to 14th June 2018. The Department  
of Biological Sciences of the University of Cyprus and the Department  
of Fisheries and Marine Research of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural  
Development and Environment, of Cyprus hosted the event and  
contributed substantially to the drawing of a fruitful discussion.  
Representatives from 6 out of the 7 partners of the project  
participated in the meeting, including the following: the Hellenic  
Centre for Marine Research, the Management Agency of Dodecanese  
Protected Areas, the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research,  
the International Centre for Research on the Environment and the  
Economy and the 2 Cypriot partners mentioned before.

The interim meeting, addressed issues regarding the progress of the  
project’s work packages and their interrelated deliverables. These  
involved discussions on the  Project Coordination and Management, the  
Communication and Dissemination of Results, the Mapping and Evaluation  
of Marine Protected Areas, the Development of an enriching management  
toolbox with ecosystem connectivity based instruments and the  
Involvement of locals in citizen science actions for the monitoring of  
the Marine Protected Areas.

During the three-day event, the partners had the opportunity to  
clarify a number of details and to plan their future steps towards the  
successful implementation of the Communication Plan of the project  
(e.g. organization of information events, publication of newsletters,  
etc.). Some technical aspects regarding the methodologies which will  
be followed in the upcoming months were additionally discussed, and a  
general timeframe was set for all the individual deliverables of the  

Authors: Georgia Piligotsi, MSc | Yiota Lazarou, MSc | Dr. Maria  
Rousou | Dr. Eva Chatzinikolaou |
Dr. Christina Pavloudi


RECONNECT proje ct was orrally presented at the 12th pan-Hellenic  
Symposium of Oceanography and Fisheris held in Corfu on May 30 to June  
3, 2018. The pan-Hellenic Symposium of Oceanography and Fisheries was  
firstly launched in Athens, thirty four years ago by the enthusiasm of  
the Greek marine and aquatic scientists.

Over the last three decades, the Symposium established and flourished  
as the natural forum for all marine and aquatic disciplines.It became  
a tradition to a large audience since it has attracted researchers,  
academicians, students, entrepreneurs and the industry both from  
Greece and from the adjacent countries.

The 12th pan-Hellenic Symposium of Oceanography and Fisheries was  
organized in the land of Phaeacians, the island with a tradition in  
treatment and hospitality of the foreigners which comes since the  
beginning. The Symposium was co-organized in collaboration with the  
Ioanian University, and more specifically with the Department of  
Informatics, and with the Region of Ionian Islands.

The central theme was the Blue Growth for the macro-Region of the  
Adriatic – Ionian and the Eastern Mediterranean, which sparked the  
launch of an event with an intense developmental aspect, during which  
representatives from the Regional Administration, Stakeholders,  
scientists and the wider audience, discuss on the Regional priorities.

The 12th Symposium delivered big changes in its operational mode with the amb
ition to:
* bring the scientific community activities closer to the societal  
demands through our common actions with the Region of the Ionian  
* promote the integration of all the marine science disciplines with  
the participation of representative researchers, academicians and  
* place the Greek scientific community in service of the Eastern  
Mediterranean one by raising the expectations in quality of both the  
oral presentations and of the posters and by inviting world class  
scientists from all the marine science disciplines to give  
inspirational / keynote talks,
* give the scientists from the adjacent states the option to  
contribute to the Symposium with their own research ideas,
* provide to the young scientists the forum in order to present the  
results of their activity to a truly multinational audience and  
according to the international standards and also the chance to  
publish in a peer-reviewed international journal, the Mediterranean  
Marine Science.

More than 800 co-authors have delivered a total 255 abstracts  
(peer-reviewed). During the Symposium, 166 papers were orally  
presented and 74 as posters.

Author: Dr. Christos Arvanitidis
Progress of work on RECONNECT activities in Bulgaria

The activities in the Bulgarian project study area, the Natura 2000  
area ‘Gradina-Zlatna ribka  
(https://eunis.eea.europa.eu/sites/BG0000146) ’ are well underway and  
developing as planned. In early July the geophysical mapping of the  
substrates and bathymetry of the study area, carried out jointly with  
the Center for Underwater Archaeology-Sozopol, was completed.

The survey revealed a previously unseen diversity of bottom features  
in the area, including a mosaic of sandy and muddy bottoms and  
peculiarly-shaped rocky reefs, whose geology and development will be  
studied further. On the basis of these results our team is currently  
setting up a network of sampling points where the presence of various  
soft-bottom and hard-bottom biological communities will be observed  
and sampled by different means - grab sampling, drop camera  
observations and scuba divers methods. During this sampling campaign  
specimens of several important marine plant and animal species will be  
collected for genetic analysis, which would shed light on the  
connectivity of their populations in the study area and adjacent  
Natura 2000 areas.

In addition, the diet of several important commercial fish species  
will be studied through DNA barcoding. Fish stomach samples from three  
species will be analyzed by a lab of the Agrobioinstitute, Sofia. The  
data obtained will supplement previous fish diet studies by providing  
additional taxonomic resolution, and will ultimately be used to  
fine-tune Black Sea trophic models.
The project team has initiated contacts with local marine communities  
in an attempt to get them involved in the upcoming citizen science  
monitoring project of the study area. We have attended the annual  
‘Diving Festival 2018  
(https://www.facebook.com/events/212480169547192) ’ where local diving  
clubs and recreational divers were present.

Recent activities on monitoring and conservation of coastal marine  
habitats along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, as well as the work we  
are carrying out as part of the RECONNECT project in Sozopol were  
presented at the event.

A number of participants expressed their willingness to take part in  
the citizen science monitoring of species of interest in the study  
area planned in the next phase of the project.

Author: Dr. Dimitar Berov

Sampling in the Karpathos MPA area
The H ellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) has implemented the  
first sampling campaign at the Regional Marine Park of Northern  
Karpathos, Saria and Astakidonisia on 7-15th of July 2018, within the  
framework of RECONNECT Balkan Med project (https://reconnect.hcmr.gr/) .

The selected area is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) and a NATURA 2000  
area (GR4210003) managed under the Management Agency of Dodecanese  
Protected Areas (http://www.fdkarpathos.gr/) , which was established  
in 2002. The pilot sampling stations covered Tristomo Bay and Diafani  
Bay in Karpathos, Saria island, the narrow area between Saria and  
Karpathos (Diaplous), as well as the islets Astakida and Astakidopoulo.

The activities performed by the scientific team during this study  
included habitat mapping, evaluation of Posidonia meadows, collection  
of benthic macro-fauna samples from soft and hard substrates,  
collection of seawater and sediment samples for analysis of nutrients,  
pigments and organic content, as well as measurement of  
physico-chemical parameters. In addition, samples of Posidonia  
oceanica and Pinna nobilis, which are both marine species protected by  
national and international legislation, were collected for genetic  
The results of the present study are expected to reveal a significant  
amount of information regarding the status of the marine environment  
in the MPA area and to set the basis for the establishment a regular  
monitoring plan, which will facilitate the sustainable management of  
the area.

Author: Dr. Eva Chatzinikolaou

The Cy priot Partners of the RECONNECT project, Department of  
Fisheries and Marine Research (DFMR) and the Department of Biological  
Sciences of the University of Cyprus (DBS-UCY), have selected as study  
area the Cavo Gkreko, a Natura-2000-site and Marine Protected Area.

It is located in the south-eastern end of Cyprus, between the  
touristic resorts of Ayia Napa and Protaras and it covers 961.7 ha of  
marine area. The coastline is characterized by rocky cliffs and there  
are two small sandy beaches. The seafloor is quite heterogenic, and it  
includes submerged caves, reefs and soft-bottom sediments.

Some examples of flora species are Cymodocea nodosa found mainly in  
the shallower waters, Cystoseira forests and Posidonia oceanica which  
form dense meadows at the depth zone of 20-41 m and Maërl beds found  
in the deeper waters. Several marine fauna species are found in the  
area, including the endemic and protected mollusc Pinna nobilis,  
marine turtles (e.g. Caretta caretta) and the Mediterranean Monk Seal  
Monachus monachus. Furthermore, several alien species of Indo-Pacific  
origin (Lessepsian migrants) are found in the area, including some  
invasive ones such as  the Puffer Fish Lagocephalus scleleratus, the  
Lionfish Pterois miles and others, causing serious ecosystem and  
socio-economic problems including health risks related impacts.
A lot of divers visit Kavo Gkreko making it ideal to involve locals  
through their contribution to the systematic monitoring and assessment  
of the quality of the marine ecosystems.  In the following months the  
Cypriot Partners will perform ground-truthing assessments for P.  
oceanica presence. In three diving sites (“Ayioi Anargyroi”, “Cyclops  
Cave” and “The Caves”), mega-fauna species will be recorded,  
P.oceanica demography will be studied, sediment/water/benthic  
macrofauna samples will be collected near the meadows, and specimens  
of P.oceanica and a second key-species will be collected for genetic  
Finally permanent quadrats will be placed to be used for citizens’  
science training programmes. The processing of the data collected  
during the sampling surveys will enable researchers to draw useful  
conclusions on the optimum management measures for vulnerable marine  
ecosystems and will contribute to the creation of a decision  
management toolbox.

Authors: Ms. Yiota Lazarou | Ms. Melina Marcou |  Ms. Maria Rousou |  
Mr. Pavlos Diplaros | Mrs. Marina Argyrou |Dr. Spyros Sfenthourakis
During the following months, partners intent to:

1. Identify and map the key marine habitats and evaluate the services  
they provide by socio-economic and cultural approaches;
2. Enrich the current management toolbox with instruments based on the  
genetic and functional biodiversity;
3. Engage citizens in environmental monitoring and conservation  
activities and involve stakeholders to boost potential for blue growth  
and job creation;
4. Develop a platform for data storage and analysis of results based  
on cutting edge information technologies;
5. Establishment of a Decision Support System to enhance the MPAs and  
Natura sites management on a scientific basis.

The processing of the data collected during the habitat mapping will  
enable researchers to draw useful conclusions on the optimum  
management measures for vulnerable marine ecosystems and will  
contribute to the creation of a decision management toolbox. One of  
the most innovative aspects of the project, is the involvement of  
locals, not only for the assessment of the services offered by marine  
ecosystems (through the use of questionnaires), but also through their  
contribution to the systematic monitoring and assessment of the  
quality of the marine ecosystems. To this end, Project partners have  
planned to implement a series of workshops for key stakeholders (e.g.  
divers, swimmers) and to create an innovative mobile application  
through, which they will be able to communicate the information they  
collect to the relevant Managing Authorities of the Marine Protected  

The research will focus on keystone species such as Posidonia oceanica  
and Pinna nobilis, but also on other valuable marine species, since  
the aim of the project is to highlight the services that they offer  
and to contribute to their successful management and conservation with  
the help of the local community.

Authors: Ms. Georgia Piligotsi | Dr. Christina Pavloudi









** (http://www.twitter.com/ttps://twitter.com/reconnect_bmp)
** (https://www.facebook.com/BalkanMedReconnect/)
** (https://reconnect.hcmr.gr/)
** (https://www.linkedin.com/company/balkanmed-reconnect/)
RECONNECT project is implemented under the framework of the  
transnational Cooperation Programme Interreg V-B "Balkan-Mediterranean  
2014-2020" and is co-funded by the European Union (85%) and National  
Funds of the participating countries (15%)

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