RESEARCH PROGRAMME ALAS
ALAS «Aliens in the Aegean - a Sea under siege»
ALAS is a three-year long research project being conducted in Greece by the Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystems Management Lab of the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of the Aegean. It is funded by the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation under the “First Call for H.F.R.I. Research Projects to support Faculty members and Researchers and the procurement of high-cost research equipment grant” and its’ aim is to fill knowledge gaps in the life cycle, distribution patterns and ecological impacts of invasive species in the Aegean Sea.
Alien species are taxa introduced to areas beyond their natural distribution by human activities, overcoming bio-geographical barriers. Biological invasions are a defining feature of the Anthropocene, as human activities are increasingly reshaping the spatial distribution of species. Accelerating movement of humans, animals and goods are driving an increasing rate of biological invasions, with many thousands of species having moved into new regions. The global rate of new introductions is increasing with no sign of saturation in the accumulation of alien species.
Alien Species in the Aegean
In Europe alone, ~15,000 alien species have been recorded in the terrestrial and aquatic environments, with an increasing trend in new introductions. In the Mediterranean Sea, ~1000 alien marine species have been introduced through the Suez Canal, shipping, aquaculture and other pathways, and their number keeps increasing. Of these species, 214 have been recorded in the Greek Seas.
Many alien species have become invasive with substantial impacts on biological diversity, human health and ecosystem services. Nevertheless, our knowledge of the effects of alien marine species on biodiversity and ecosystem services is mainly qualitative and largely based on weak evidence.
Invasive Alien Species
The lack of precise knowledge about the life history traits of alien species and their invasive strategies constitutes a big obstacle to understanding their functional roles in the prevailing ecosystems and their impacts. An additional constraint to quantifying and mapping the impact of alien marine species is the lack of coverage and resolution in the available data (such as spatial distribution of native and alien species, habitat mapping), especially in data-poor regions such as the eastern Mediterranean.
of the Programme
ALAS will fill many knowledge gaps on the impacts of marine invasive alien species and the spatial extent and variation of such impacts, and will contribute in improving our understanding of the mechanisms of impacts of invasive alien species on marine ecosystems. The project focuses on under-studied alien-native interactions, priority and vulnerable habitats (such as marine caves and shallow forests of canopy algae), and applies a multitude of approaches (such as field experiments, large-scale surveys, satellite imaging and remote sensing, species distribution modelling, and cumulative impacts assessments).
It aims to provide answers to important ecological questions on the mechanisms of alien species impacts that will assist marine managers in better decisions of actions for marine conservation and halting biodiversity loss in the region.
Maria Sini is a marine biologist (BSc) with an MSc on the management of living marine resources, and a PhD on marine ecology. Her research interests focus on the ecology of fish and benthic communities, the distribution patterns of marine biodiversity, the ecological status assessment of coastal marine ecosystems, the design and monitoring of marine protected areas through an ecosystem-based approach, and the development of scientific tools for underwater assessment and analysis. She is a SCUBA diving instructor (PADI open Water Diver Instructor, 2009), and a skilled scientific diver with a long experience in underwater fieldwork. She has contributed to the development of underwater non-destructive visual sampling methods and relevant mapping and analyses software. Today Maria works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of the Aegean.
Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=zOINM6gAAAAJ&hl=en
Vasilis Gerovasileiou is an oceanographer (BSc) with an MSc in coastal management from the Department of Marine Sciences of the University of the Aegean. He obtained his PhD in marine biology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. His research focuses on marine biodiversity and benthic ecology, with special emphasis on benthic invertebrates, dark habitats (marine caves and deep-sea habitats), and non-indigenous species. He has been also involved in the development of biodiversity databases, citizen science initiatives and methods for underwater biological research with SCUBA diving. He has participated in >45 national and international research projects (PI/WP leader in two and communications manager in a COST Action). He is an author of 65 publications in international peer-reviewed journals, 12 special editions and books and >140 contributions in scientific conferences. He is the coordinator of the World Register of marine Cave Species (WoRCS), the Greek Taxon Information System (GTIS) in LifeWatchGreece Research Infrastructure and an administrator of the Ellenic Network on Aquatic Invasive Species (ELNAIS). He serves as a scientific consultant for IUCN and UNEP/MAP-RAC/SPA and as national expert for the “Post-2020 Strategic Action Programme for the conservation of Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean Region”. He is a member of the editorial board of Mediterranean Marine Science journal and participates in the FAO Working Group on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems. Today he works as a research fellow in the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research in Crete and collaborates with the Department of Marine Sciences of the University of the Aegean.
Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=VVoE5PMAAAAJ&hl=el
Nikoletta Koukourouvli is an Environmental Cartographer with an MSc on Geography and Applied Geoinformatics, an MSc on Coastal Management and a PhD candidate of the University of the Aegean. She has participated in more than 20 national and international research projects, out of which 2 focus on te Marine Environment (MARISCA & PROTOMEDEA). She is a member of the Cartography Laboratory of the University of the Aegean since 2005 and mostly works on Database Management and Cartography.
Michail Ragkousis graduated from the Department of Marine Sciences, University of the Aegean and has a Master’s degree on Marine Biology from the University of Southern Denmark. He is part of the Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystems Management Lab and a doctoral student at the University of the Aegean. His research focuses on the distribution patterns of invasive species in the Hellenic marine ecosystems as well as their projected expansion in various climate change scenarios by means of in situ quantitative methods and modelling approaches.
Tsirintanis Konstantinos is an Oceanographer with a MSc in Coastal Management and a PhD candidate of the University of the Aegean. His research is focused on the impact assessment of biological invasions on the coastal ecosystems of the Aegean Sea. He is a certified free and autonomous diver, with experience in scientific diving, in ecological state assessment, in exological monitoring with non-destructive sampling techniques, in the application of underwater manipulative experiments, in underwater visual surveys of marine life, in underwater sampling, in the identification of marine organisms and in underwater photography.
Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=MjpEzOoAAAAJ
Markos Digenis is completing his postgraduate studies in Environmental Biology at the Department of Biology of the University of Crete and is a graduate of the Department of Chemistry of the University of Crete. He is an autonomous caver and his research focuses on the gradation of the benthic communities of hard substrate of the marine caves of Greece as well as on the spatial distribution patterns of indigenous and alien species in the cave environment.
Alexandros Tsatiris graduated from the Department of Oceanography & Marine Biosciences and is currently completing his master’s degree on Complete Coastal Zone Management, University of the Aegean. He is a certified scuba diver and his bachelor’s thesis concerned abundance and density estimation of Pinna nobilis with Distance Sampling.