At present, five of the 59 species of seagrasses assessed at global level are at a high threat of extinction. IUCN organised an IUCN Red Listing workshop on 1 June in Essaouira during the Mediterranean Seagrass Workshop organised by the Ecole supérieure de technologie Essaouira and the polydisciplinary faculty Safi Université Cadi Ayyad (Morocco) and supported by the Mediterranean Seagrass Association – Seagrass 2000.
The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria are the most widely accepted system for classifying the extinction risk at the species level. The assessment of native species at Mediterranean level has however not been conducted yet. In addition, given the importance of seagrass species for other communities and the continuous human pressures in Mediterranean coastal zones, it is imperative to determine the conservation status and trends of these species at regional level. The workshop organised by IUCN is a key step towards the preparation of an IUCN Red List of Seagrasses at Mediterranean level.
Information available for the assessment of all seagrass species in the Mediterranean was presented to begin the discussion among experts on the initial assignation under the categories and criteria of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Data on taxonomy, distribution, population trends, ecology, life history, past and existing threats, and conservation actions for each species were introduced, quantified and reviewed for accuracy. The workshop results together with the information compiled is an important first step to establishing an agreed regional baseline to monitor population fluctuations at a Mediterranean scale.
The Mediterranean segrasses symposium was an excellent opportunity for researchers to gather and discuss the latests findings and studies on the subject. In this regard, it also served as an opportunity to present the new IUCN book entitled Mediterranean Seagrass Meadows: Resilience and Contribution to Climate Change Mitigation which provides an insight into their potential for carbon sequestration at a time when carbon credit schemes are becoming increasingly important in combating climate change.
IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation is also a partner in theLife+ Posidonia project, funded by the the European Commission. Posidonia oceanica underwater meadows are a priority habitat listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive. Some 95% of these meadows are found in Natura 2000 network marine sites (SCIs) in Andalusia.
The LIFE Nature project’s main objective is to improve the conservation status of Posidonia oceanica meadows. This will be achieved by undertaking studies and applying protection measures. Research will identify the current state of the meadows in Andalusia (in regression, stable or in expansion). This will enable the design of baseline data and indicators to track conservation gains. Threats to the ecosystems (including pollution, boat anchoring, uncontrolled trawling or traditional local fishing and the expansion of exotic invasive species) will also be investigated and mechanisms assessed for mitigating negative impacts on the meadows, as well as those species that they support which are listed in annex II of the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive.