The Local Ecological Knowledge of Alien Species and Seabed In Italian-Maltese Areas
Project activities related to Work Package 3 (activity 3.1 "Initial assessment" and 3.2 "Monitoring") carried out by ISPRA, the National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research

Safeguarding biodiversity and protecting the seabed: a challenge that involves everyone

Man uses the sea and its resources with activities that interfere in a more or less relevant way on the state of the marine environment. Some fishing activities that use tools in contact with the seabed, as well as tourism activities and underwater activities conducted inexperienced or inexperienced, alter the structure and functioning of the seabed, compromising its integrity and, in some cases, favoring the success of highly competitive and invasive alien species at the expense of native ones.

Such changes often not only alter local biodiversity, but also affect the human activities themselves and, in general, the ability to produce ecosystem services, for example by reducing fishery resources or their commercial value and reducing the attractiveness or tourist enjoyment of marine environments, or preventing cultural and social enhancement.

The public decision-makers, the environmental Authorities and the scientific community are called to face this threat, with initiatives aimed at limiting the loss of biodiversity and preserving the integrity of the sea floor.

A complex challenge that can only be overcome if citizens and local communities are also called upon to contribute, adopting appropriate behavior to safeguard the marine environment and actively participating in the development of environmental knowledge and scientific research.

The HARMONY Project: protecting marine biodiversity in the Italian-Maltese area, with common intervention strategies and the involvement of local communities

The HARMONY Project pursues the objective of protecting marine biodiversity through the assessment of the integrity of the seabed and the presence of non-indigenous species (NIS) in the Italian-Maltese cross-border area, promoting the development of coordinated strategies and shared decision-making processes. In line with this approach, the HARMONY project has chosen to carry out study and monitoring activities on marine habitats and species, adopting participatory survey techniques that involve the active involvement of citizens in the process of collecting environmental data and information.

In particular, the object of study and monitoring activities of the Project are:

  • alien or non-indigenous species: organisms that are accidentally or intentionally transported by humans outside their natural area of ​​origin, sometimes causing serious threats to the environment, local biodiversity, the economy and human health.
  • the integrity of the sea floor: the seabed and the habitats associated with them welcome a large part of the biodiversity of the seas. Human activities can have a negative impact on these, altering them in their structure and functioning and, in some cases, favoring the success of alien species to the detriment of local species.

Local Ecological Knowledge: the study of the marine environment through the direct experience of those who live it

Recently, the scientific community has recognized the importance of actively involving citizens in the observation of natural phenomena visible to them to broaden their knowledge after having sensitized them on the problem under study.

This way of doing scientific research, known as Citizen Science, Science of Citizens, is based on the voluntary collection of observations by citizens, according to guidelines provided by researchers.

Within the HARMONY project the Local Ecological Knowledge will be applied (Local Ecological Knowlegde - LEK), a specific research methodology based on the collection of testimonies and observations on ecological phenomena, thus enhancing the knowledge of those who live in close contact with the environment.

The members of the local communities will therefore be the real "expert connoisseurs" of the research activities, who will be called to collaborate with the Project staff, after having received adequate information on the topics under study and on the contribution they can give. In this way they will contribute to producing an original scientific result that is officially recognized and that can be used in the future definition of tools and strategies for the mitigation of alien species and the protection of the seabed.


Why is the LEK used in Harmony? To collect useful data for the evaluation of alien species and the integrity of the seabed; these data will integrate and complete the information obtained from traditional monitoring.

Who is LEK realizing with? With citizens directly or indirectly involved in the use and / or management of marine resources, such as professional or sport fishing associations, diving centers, local tourism, Marine Protected Areas, competent Maritime Authorities.

How does the LEK work? The researchers will interview the sea operators on the integrity of the sea floor and on the presence of alien species in their area of ​​interest. Some information tools, such as posters and brochures, will facilitate interviews or information exchange between researchers and citizens involved.

Where is LEK applied? The survey activities will be carried out at the Natura 2000 sites identified in the HARMONY project, namely:

Project activities related to Work Package 3 (activity 3.1 "Initial assessment" and 3.2 "Monitoring") carried out by ISPRA, the National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research.