About

Science graduates are required to have a plethora of skills to enter the job market ‘work-ready’. At the School of Marine Science we mould our students to be adept for all career aspirations such as environmental NGOs, Government and policy roles, and academic research i.e. PhD. We teach you to be future leaders and, therefore, requires professionals with the knowledge and understanding who are able to think critically and act decisively.
At the University of Gibraltar, you will learn from expert academic staff who are actively engaged in professional practice as well as hear from guest local and international speakers with a wealth of international experience along with first-hand knowledge of science practices that enriches the learning experience.
The School of Marine Science programme aligns with the highest UK quality standards and the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority audits all university programmes on an annual basis.
Our smaller class sizes (< 30) allow for a more personal approach to teaching and mentoring and provide students the framework to grow in confidence and ability. With proven results, we have alumni who have embarked on PhDs, work for NGOs and governmental departments.

Research-Based Teaching and Research-Led Learning

The primary goal of our programme is to launch competent, multidisciplinary graduates to embark as scientists, managers, consultants in a variety of roles within NGOs, governmental departments and academia. Research-based teaching is at the heart of our teaching ethos where focus is placed on students undertaking enquiry-based learning.
Research-led learning is the focus of our research projects where once students are taught how to successfully embark on a research project, they tackle ‘real-world’ problems; see research projects below.

Our people

All our staff are established scientists and practitioners, that have contributed to work for Gibraltar and UK Government, Australian Regional and National Governments, UK Research Council funded projects (e.g. NERC), partnerships with other Universities, consultancy and with a large variety of stakeholders.
Dr Awantha Dissanayake
Head of School (Marine Science)
Dr Darren Fa
Senior Lecturer
Dr Jaime Davies
Senior Lecturer
Dr Sarah Alvarez
Senior Lecturer
Dr Ashton Berry
Research Associate (Based in Australia)
Natalie Muirhead-Davies
Graduate Teaching & Research Associate (GRTA)
Samantha Slisarenko
Graduate Teaching & Research Associate (GRTA)
Keith Madiera
GIS Specialist (PhD Researcher)

Collaborators

See below for a list of previous collaborators:
  • Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany.
  • Cardiff University, Wales, UK.
  • Cefas – Centre for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science, UK.
  • Department of Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Heritage (DESCCH), Gibraltar.
  • Gibraltar Sub Aqua Association.
  • Marine & Environmental Research (MER) Lab, Cyprus.
  • MMRIC, Spain.
  • National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), UK.
  • Ramboll, Gibraltar.
  • Sovereign Base Area Authority (SBAA).
  • Universidad de Alicante, Spain.
  • University of Plymouth, UK.
  • University of Malta.

Independent Research Projects

Students are taught how to think critically and collate, synthesise information and plan research projects carefully, thereby, enabling training to become de facto scientists and project managers.
Find out more about research conducted from previous student projects.
  • "The Use of Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) to Assess the influence of habitat complexity and Anthropogenic Activity on the abundance and Behaviour in Coastal Fish (Labridae & Sparidae): Implications for Marine Management."

    Michael Simmons

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • "Microplastic survey of abundance and characterisation across the shores of Gibraltar: A marine management issue."

    Bethany Wilkinson

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • "PROJECT MIS: Investigating the presence of non-native species in Mid Harbour Small Boats Marina, assessing recreational vessels as vectors, and exploring stakeholder engagement in implications for marine management."

    Amy Swift

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • "Form follows function?: The influence of algal architecture on epifaunal assemblages in the invasive algae Rugulopteryx okamurae in Gibraltar."

    Lilli Marie Blume

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • Michael Simmons

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • Bethany Wilkinson

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • Amy Swift

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • Lilli Marie Blume

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • "The zooplankton community in the Bay of Gibraltar under tidal influences and recommendations for future monitoring studies."

    Julian Koplin

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • "Community structure and its role within ecosystem artificial reef The Ark."

    Lucinda Rosheuvel

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • "Methodological framework to assess the health status of gorgonian species."

    Lívia Lang

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • "The concept of Green Port as a driver of positive change for both local and international level and possible implementation in Gibraltar."

    Riccardo Fornasari

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • Julian Koplin

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • Lucinda Rosheuvel

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • Lívia Lang

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

  • Riccardo Fornasari

    MSc in Marine Science & Climate Change

Research Themes and Dissertations

Research Themes

List of dissertations

Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUVs)

The Use of Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) to Assess the influence of habitat complexity and Anthropogenic Activity on the abundance and Behaviour in Coastal Fish (Labridae & Sparidae): Implications for Marine Management

Michael Simmons

Abstract

Wrasse and bream are important grazers in coastal marine ecosystems across the globe. Currently, little research has been conducted on the abundance of wrasse and bream species in the Mediterranean and none exclusively in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW). The Western Mediterranean has experienced a recent bioinvasion of the alga Rugulopteryx okamurae, which is reported to have impacts on the benthic marine environment. Anecdotal evidence suggests that bream abundance has decreased while wrasse abundance has increased since the invasion. Behaviour has distinct links to the abundance and fitness of all animals, and understanding them is an important precursor to protect threatened or endangered species.

A lack of research has been conducted on the behavioural traits of fish species from the two families, particularly in terms of boldness. Boldness of species and individuals can be influenced by a range of variables, both natural and anthropogenic. Gibraltarians use their sea recreationally and commercially and perceive it to have a high social and economic value. Little research has investigated other anthropogenic impacts on the marine environment, comparing areas that have a high use by the public and those relatively pristine and human-free such as an MPA. In contrast, a reasonably large amount of literature has been written on the impact of anthropogenic noise on marine fishes. Anthropogenic pressures which vary between different locations around the Gibraltarian coast include swimming/bathing activity, SCUBA diving, fishing/angling, and commercial and recreational boat traffic. Gibraltar has a bathing season during the summer months, where some pressures such as swimming and SCUBA are elevated, and pressures such as fishing are smaller from summer fishing bans from beaches.

There has been an increasing trend in the use of Baited Remove Underwater Videos (BRUVs) worldwide to investigate abundances of marine animals, but they have not been utilised to quantify in situ behaviour of fishes. The present thesis employs BRUVs to investigate the impact of varying levels of anthropogenic activity and habitat complexity (algae; R. okamurae and bare sand) on the abundance and boldness of wrasse and bream species in BGTW. Boldness was measured at the species level and was tested with the presence of a novel cue (NC), in the form of a human disturbance, and corresponding fish responses recorded. Two beaches, the inner harbour, and the Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) were the four sites investigated in this study. The results from the present study show that there are three statistically significant groupings arising from similarities of population structure (i.e. species present and their relative abundances). There was no difference between the mean boldness of wrasse (Coris julis) and bream (Oblada melanura) within algae patches at any of the sites tested. There was, however, a significant difference observed in C. julis boldness scores in algae across the sites with wrasse less bold in Rosia Bay than the MCZ or Camp Bay. Wrasse were bolder inside the MCZ and at the beach with the highest level of anthropogenic pressure. The implications of measuring behaviour (boldness) are discussed.

The data collected in this study helps to inform relevant marine management techniques to be implemented into the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) in BGTW to monitor and maximise the success of the MCZ and populations of wrasse and bream. Learning the in situ behavioural traits such as boldness is important when determining appropriate steps in marine management. The present study is the first study to effectively quantify impacts on abundance and behaviour of two chosen fish families and niche resource utilisation. The novel methodology presented used here is transferable worldwide to investigate faunal assemblages in all coastal ecosystems. Although the target species observed in this are all least concern, the methodology can be transferred to species that are more vulnerable and susceptible to anthropogenic impacts. The methodology and outcomes of this study could be applied to test the effectiveness of MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) but ascertaining in situ behaviour and abundances measured and quantified through the use of BRUVs. The implications presented here can improve understanding and inform local governing bodies of effective marine management and conservation practices.

Read More about Michaels research here.

Keywords: Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV), Wrasse, Bream, Abundance, Boldness, behaviour, Anthropogenic Impacts, Habitat Complexity, Marine Management

 

 

 

Primary Supervisor:                  Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisor:             Dr Jaime Davies

In conjunction with:

Charlie Carreras

Gibraltar Fishing Club

 

Clive Crisp

HM Government of Gibraltar’s Department of Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Heritage (DESCCH)

Quantification of pelagic and benthic fish by use of BRUVs in Gibraltar

Ambroise Albert

 Abstract

Fish are an important component of marine habitats, generating several ecosystem services that benefit humans in addition to being an economic and food resource. Human activities and global warming have caused a major drop in their population on a global scale for many years, indicating that more protocol for monitoring population dynamics is required. Conservation and fisheries management require a thorough understanding of fish distributions in both space and time. Emerging technologies are providing new options for cost-effective ecological sampling. Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) are a recent technique to monitor fish biodiversity. This approach has greatly increased in recent years due to its ease to be implemented in various type of habitat. A review of the BRUV literature found that most adopted sampling designs vary greatly depending of the project type, indicating that the method needs to be standardized. The litterature included 112 publications from 17 countries with a majority of them published from Australia as most of BRUV research are conducted in this part of the world. The publications cover every form of research that may be achieved with BRUV with a clear preference for looking at fish abundance and diversity.

Gibraltar is an English territory regarded as a biodiversity hotspot due to its abundance of marine species, particularly fish. Two locations representative of the eastern and western sides of Gibraltar were investigated using BRUV in order to study fish populations.

Samplings were conducted during 3 day and 3 nights using two types of devices (pelagic and benthic) to fully assess fish biodiversity in those sites (24 samples). The aims were to quantify the fish biodiversity to acquire a better understanding of the fish assemblage occurring in Gibraltar. As part of the specific objective from the literature review and the observations from a pilot study, the best suitable field procedures to implement BRUV survey in coastal area was created and a fish list was performed based on the footage obtain from the recording that can use be for future monitoring survey.

In order to quantify fish biodiversity, the abundance, species richness and evenness was obtained for each fish identified on the recordings using BIIGLE. Day and night fish distribution patterns were investigated by multivariate and univariate analyses. A total of 24 species with a large dominance of bream (Sparidae) accounting for 80% of the fish identified. 23531 individuals have been identified during the survey divided with 12096 in Camp Bay and 11435 in Sandy Bay. For both sites, a higher species richness was observed during the day based on the diversity index. The ANOVA performed on species richness detected significant differences between diurnal and nocturnal assemblages and position in the water column of the species whereas the one performed on fish abundance detected significant differences in the water column of the species and between site. SIMPER analysis revealed that 3 species individually Saddled Bream (34,94 %) Golden Grey Mullet (33,09 %) and Rainbow Wrasse (8,7 %), contributed by more than 76,73 % to the dissimilarity between benthic diurnal and nocturnal assemblages in Camp Bay. Considering the type of BRUV as a variable, a difference was found only during the day for Sandy Bay and Camp Bay, having a dissimilarity average of 42,02 % and 46,51 %.

The analysis of similarities found significant differences in fish biodiversity between the type of sampling used and the periods of time.

This dissertation conclude that environmental factors are the most important drivers shaping the assemblage of fish in their habitat. BRUV is a monitoring tool that shows great evidence of fish biodiversity in Gibraltar’s coastal waters, and more research in this area is needed.

Key word: BRUV’s, underwater camera, biodiversity, baited, remote, video

 

Primary Supervisor:                  Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisor:             Dr Jaime Davis

Climate Change Adaptation

Nature-based solutions for increasing marine biodiversity in Gibraltar

Kenneth Ruiz

Abstract

 

The means by which a reversal of the trend in the anthropogenic decline of habitats and species, observed worldwide, might be implemented locally in Gibraltar, form the basis of this study. Taking into account geo-biological limitations of various nature-based solutions and avoiding the introduction of non-native species, two case studies are discussed.

 

The first case study would see the re-introduction of a seagrass habitat to Gibraltar, present until the relatively recent past. Such a re-introduction would have numerous additional benefits, including mitigation of climate change by Carbon sequestration. The second case study would enhance  man-made habitat type – artificial rocky shores – by increasing the habitat heterogeneity of such structures, in the intertidal zone. The associated benefits of the artificial rocky shores case study are fewer than those of the

seagrass study. Both are desk-top feasibility studies, from literature reviews of the relevant topics to detailed methods, site preferences and costs.

Literature reviews identified gaps in the current knowledge, and both case studies seek to address some of the gaps, by the design of methods  employed in their respective implementations. There are fewer opportunities  to innovate in the case study involving the much more thoroughly-studied topic of the reintroduction of seagrasses, than there are when attempting to  enhance the biodiversity on artificial rocky shores. The place of the case studies within the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is considered, and locating study areas close to each other is encouraged so that food webs may mingle and a synergistic relationship might develop, further enhancing biodiversity.

 

Primary Supervisor:               Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisor:          Dr Darren Fa

Deep sea habitats

Marine litter in submarine canyons: A case study of the SW Approaches

Ivan Hernandez

Abstract

 

 

Marine litter is not only an aesthetic concern, but it also poses serious environmental problems on the seabed. It has been found in every marine environment without exception and at all depths, even in the deepest parts of the ocean. Marine litter is also a concern in submarine canyons, known for being biodiversity hotspots. They are considered to be preferential conduits of sediments and organic matter, connecting the continental shelf with the abyssal plain. The oceanographic processes responsible for the transport of matter are also responsible for submarine canyons being considered depocentres for marine litter.

 

Research into marine litter in submarine canyons and the deep sea in general is still in its infancy. A literature review selecting studies with primary data of benthic marine litter at depths of over 50 m revealed important gaps in the knowledge, and a requirement for a standardised system to classify, enumerate and identify marine litter to make studies comparable. There is also a need to adopt a more rigorous approach to recording interactions of litter with biota on the benthos. A comprehensive case study was carried out using high resolution data provided by a 2017 survey of the SW Approaches using a drop frame camera. Video data were analysed using BIIGLE software and litter was

classified using the classification system provided by OSPAR standardised by the MSFD. Data analysis revealed a mean litter density of 7,268 items/km2 ±17378 in the SW Approaches. This is driven by high mean densities in the interfluve areas, with 5.1 times higher density on the interfluves (9446 items/km2± 17570) than inside the canyon areas (1835 items/km2 ±2551). ANOSIM analyses support these findings and show significant differences between groups inside and outside of the canyons when looking at depth and morphological settings. The differences between areas were driven by litter density variations, as the composition of litter was more homogenous between the canyons and in different parts of the canyons. Marine litter in the SW Approaches, especially the interfluves, is very much affected by fishing activities despite it lying in a designated MCZ. Over 97.3% of the litter is derelict fishing gear, the highest proportion of any canyon studied to date.

Read more about Ivan’s Research here.

 

Primary Supervisor:               Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisors:         Dr Jaime Davies, University of Plymouth,

Dr Veerle Huvenne (National Oceanography Centre, Southampton).

Digital imagery & environmental surveys

Methodological framework to assess the health status of gorgonian species - Lívia Lang

Lívia Lang

Abstract

Gorgonians are among the most important habitat-forming species of benthic communities in the Mediterranean Sea. Through their three-dimensionality they create underwater forests, so called coral gardens. These coral gardens enlarge structural complexity and biomass of a habitat and moreover enhance surrounding species diversity. Gorgonians are sessile colonial organisms that can be found in reef habitats all around the world. Due to being sessile organism with slow growth rates and general longevity, gorgonian gardens are representing a highly vulnerable marine ecosystem. Healthy gorgonian gardens are associated with an array of ecosystem goods and services, thus adding value to the ecosystems in which they are found. This study represents a first-ever quantitative health assessment of gorgonian species in Gibraltar. The main aim of this project was to assess the health status of gorgonian species, focusing on four representative species that inhabit the Mediterranean Sea: the white gorgonian – Eunicella singularis, the pink gorgonian – Eunicella verrucosa, the red gorgonian – Paramuricea clavata and the sea fan Leptogorgia lusitanica. Furthermore, it was aimed to present and evaluate a standardised monitoring protocol. Following a comprehensive critical and synthesis review of relevant literature, a non-destructive photo quadrat sampling method was conducted by scuba diving. The assessment was carried out on an artificial reef in Gibraltar. All four species were highly represented at the study area, with E. singularis as the most predominant one. In sum 158 individual colonies have been investigated. It was found that over 63% of the total amount of colonies were affected and 9% were dead, hence less than 28% were perceived healthy. E. verrucosa exhibited the highest percentage of injury with a value of 81%. All species were existent on similar depth levels. There were differences on species level, as well as minor differences according the distribution of species. Overall, gorgonians exhibited a high epibiotic cover. Predominantly two non-indigenous invasive algae species were overlaying on them: Rugulopteryx okamurae and Womersleyella setacea. Moreover, epibionts also consisted of hydrozoan, poriferan, bryozoan and even other encrusting anthozoan. Multivariate statistical results indicated that epibiosis, abundance of healthy and of affected/injured species are the main factors leading to differences across the research site. In general, findings of this study indicate an overall poor health condition of the species investigated at the artificial reef in Gibraltar. By assessing the current health status of gorgonian corals, this research hopes to improve the current knowledge about coralligeneous communities and the main abiotic and biotic factors causing the poor health status.

Read more about Livia’s research here.

 

Keywords: gorgonian, health status, epibiosis, artificial reef, non-indigenous invasive species, monitoring

 

Primary Supervisor:               Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisor:          Dr Jaime Davis, University of Plymouth

Advisor:                                   Dr Darren Fa

 

In conjunction with:

Mr Clive Crisp, DESCCH – Department of Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Heritage

Assessing the use of the underwater camera in Gibraltar as a marine monitoring tool, to improve conservation practices, increase awareness and monitor biodiversity

Maïté Kesteleyn

Abstract

Gibraltar is one of the 22 countries located around the Mediterranean Sea, which is commonly known for being a hotspot of biological diversity. Only a small amount of studies exist assessing the marine environment and its biodiversity by using a fixed underwater camera as a monitoring tool. Within the six weeks of observing the underwater camera of Gibraltar, it was operational for approximately 65 percent. Every day the underwater camera was active, three recordings took place, in the morning, midday and evening. Ten families, 20 genus and 32 species were positively identified form a total of 15493 individuals. Nevertheless, 301 individuals remained unidentified (1.1 %). Results showed the morning recordings obtained the highest biodiversity level (0.76), achieved through Simpson’s index compared to the midday (0.68) and evening (0.75) recordings. Throughout all the recordings, the Sparidae (breams) and Labridae (wrasses) families appeared most. Three identified species are retrieved on the red list, labelled vulnerable.

 

The contribution of citizens was asked for and received. The number of footage sent in, appeared to be four times as high. Simultaneously, the interaction and curiosity received from the participants increased. WhatsApp is proved to be the preferred social network platform to sent photos through (50 percent of the time), compared to Facebook and Email, each chosen 25 percent of the time as method to sent photos. To increase awareness involving the marine biodiversity within the British Gibraltar Territorial Waters, a biweekly post took place on two different social media platforms, Twitter and Facebook. The interaction (shares, likes, reactions) on these posts was decreasing on Twitter as opposed to increasing on Facebook.

These results are significant to adjust practices in place. The underwater camera, has its challenges. Therefore, the limitations together with suggestions for improvement and potential solutions are discussed. Compared to other methods, the fixed underwater camera has proven to be a promising marine monitoring tool.

Read more about Maïté’s research here.

 

Keywords: Underwater camera; Biodiversity; Marine monitoring tool; Management; Stakeholder; Citizen Science; Gibraltar; Fish; ProjectSEACOMM

 

Primary Supervisor:               Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisor:          Dr Darren Fa

 

In conjunction with:

Stephen Warr: Department of Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Heritage

Environmental monitoring

The zooplankton community in the Bay of Gibraltar under tidal influences and recommendations for future monitoring studies

Julian Koplin 

Abstract

 

The Strait of Gibraltar is known as the gate between the North East Atlantic and the
Mediterranean Sea with still expanding heavy marine traffic, utilising the port in the Bay of Gibraltar. This can lead to a heavily modified waterbody, with an increase of pollution and nutrient input. The water masses in the Bay of Gibraltar are modulated by strong winds, currents and tides, creating an inflow of Atlantic waters during the rising tide and an eastward stream of outflowing waters during the lowering tide.

Zooplankton is a key player in marine ecosystems, linking the energy transfer between primary production and higher trophic levels. Because zooplankton directly responds to variability in their environment, their dynamics are affected by anthropogenic pressures and hydroclimatic changes, which can be monitored by regularly sampling zooplankton in the water column. In the Mediterranean Sea zooplankton is well and widely studied, with temporal and spatial studies in numerous regions around the Sea. In the Bay of Gibraltar however, zooplankton has been essentially overlooked, which has implications for assessing and maintaining good environmental status in the waters of the Bay.

The aim of this study was to create the first baseline study of zooplankton distribution in the Bay of Gibraltar, while observing the tidal influences. Before, a critical literature review was conducted to identify gaps in knowledge and emerging trends in the study of zooplankton in the Mediterranean Sea region, which confirmed the presumption of a lack of zooplankton studies in the Gibraltar area and revealed among other things the ZooScan image analysis methodology and normalised biomass spectrum theory as emerging trends in the Mediterranean waters. With the collected and digitised zooplankton data a learning set for the Bay of Gibraltar was created using the web application EcoTaxa, the final precision and recall rate of the learning set proved high, which makes it suitable for usage in future monitoring studies (under the condition of using the same image analysis methodology). The zooplankton community in the Bay was taxonomically diverse, showing spatial patterns with differences in predominating taxa and highest total abundances in the head of the Bay. The influence of the tides and currents created differences in environmental and biological conditions, with the low tide indicating increased water temperature, dissolved oxygen and zooplankton abundance. The inflow of water during high tide decreased water temperature, dissolved oxygen and zooplankton abundance and the currents flush eggs and smaller species in and out of the Bay. The surface waters in the Bay of Gibraltar are therefore a heterogenous system with various prevailing environmental and anthropogenic influences that need to be measured to interpret the zooplankton dynamics. Total abundances ranged from 81.5 ind. m3 outside of the Bay during high tide, to 250.8 ind. m3 at the head of the Bay during low tide. Copepods generally dominated the zooplankton community, however, on the east side of the Rock of Gibraltar the copepod community was overtaken by Cladocera. Evadne and Penilia showed differences in their distribution between high and low tide sampling and their dominant appearance might mirror a regime shift in the Mediterranean that has been observed in other regions and can be related to an increase in water temperatures. Acartia and Paracalanus dominated the copepod community at all stations. While the abundance of Acartia was stable throughout the inflow and outflow of water masses, Paracalanus abundance grew with the lowering of the tide, possibly because of different migration behaviours. The proposed methodology for future zooplankton monitoring studies in the Bay of Gibraltar provides many benefits (such as saving time and simplifying the taxonomic identification). Some aspects however, need to be reconsidered; for a representative presentation of the zooplankton community it is recommended to sample more layers of the waterbody, using at least two nets with differences in their mesh size to sample smaller and larger zooplankton species. The timing of sampling needs to be adapted as well, to precisely measure the influences of in- and outflowing waters, and a wider range of environmental factors at the time of sampling need to be measured in the future. This study is the first to give a taxonomic overview of zooplankton in the Bay of Gibraltar and with the proposed methodology forms the basis for initiating long-term zooplankton monitoring in the Bay of Gibraltar. Regular monitoring could create many opportunities, such as measuring and maintaining good environmental status and detecting potential threats: a regime shift in the Mediterranean, an introduction of foreign species through the ballast waters of shipping and uncontrolled proliferation of microalgae.

 

 

Primary Supervisor:                  Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisor:             Dr Astrid Cornils, Alfred Wegener Institute

Microplastic survey of abundance and characterisation across the shores of Gibraltar: A marine management issue

Bethany Wilkinson

Abstract

Microplastics are a severe pollutant found globally throughout previously pristine marine environments, across all beaches to the deep sea. Microplastics (MPs) are plastic debris smaller than 5 mm and are categorised as either primary or secondary MPs. Primary microplastics are deliberately manufactured to a small size to be used in industry, to create larger plastic items, or in cosmetics or cleaning products. Secondary microplastics occur from the fragmentation and degradation of larger items of plastic. Plastic pollution can have a damaging impact on marine organisms and human health through ingestion and tourism due to aesthetic reasons. As a new, rapidly growing area of research, novel methods of MP research are still being tested, meaning there is a lack of standardised protocols and definitions. Comparison of results across the world is therefore complex. Furthermore, there is a defined difference in the funds available for microplastic research conducted in Western countries compared to developing countries with developing countries lacking the resources or expertise to complete large-scale, temporal research, making the literature from Developed countries more abundant. Research on microplastics has taken place in beach sediments, seabed sediment, water surface, water column and in the deep sea. Trends in research have shown that microplastics are being found in sediments worldwide with their abundance strongly increasing. The aim of the current study is to create a cost-effective, feasible methodology for use by NGOs and Citizen Scientists across the globe, creating harmonisation in results on the state of microplastic pollution worldwide, whilst producing a baseline of microplastic abundance data in Gibraltar.

 

First, a critical literature review determined the best definitions, methodology for sampling, identification techniques and presentation of results. A pilot study was implemented to trial the methodology and a refinement stage took place. The final methods were executed around the shores of Gibraltar in October 2021. A total of 120 replicates across seven sites were sampled from the top 3 cm in a 25 x 25 cm square area. Microplastics were visually identified, enumerated, and categorised by form, colour, shape, and size into five distinct groups: fragments, fibres, films, foams, and pellets. A baseline of data was identified on the abundance and characterisation of the microplastics present in Gibraltar. Results presented Gibraltar with an average of 39.54 ± 51.67 items per m2 across all the sites with fragment being the most common category. Inside the Bay of Gibraltar has a higher abundance of microplastics, containing 82.4 % of the total microplastics found. The results were elevated owing to Camp Bay’s pollution level; holding over half the microplastics found (N = 188, 60.26 %). Forensic analysis was executed to determine the source of microplastics in Camp Bay and two different sources were identified: paint flakes from the seating area surrounding the beach and rubber fragments originating at a nearby play park with fall protection flooring. Urgent action is required from the Government of Gibraltar in Camp and Little Bay areas and recommendations have been made for better marine management, including researching an alternative to painting every year, replacing the fragmenting fall protection in the play park, and replacing the crumbling stairs in Little Bay. The findings from the present research form the first ever comprehensive baseline study of microplastic abundance and characterisation in beaches in Gibraltar while implementing a feasible, standardised method. Recommendations are proposed for research to be continued over temporal and spatial scales, conducted at multiple times of the year for a period of several years to assess trends in the data. The implications for marine management are discussed within.

read more about Bethany’s research here.

Keywords: microplastic, sediment, characterisation, analysis, paint, marine management.

 

Primary Supervisor:                  Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisor:             Dr Jaime Davis

Patella ferruginea distributions at the Western side of Gibraltar, the future threat of sea level rise and a novel method for morphotype identification

Petros Dimitriou

Abstract

 

Patella ferruginea (Gmelin, 1791) is the most endangered marine macroinvertebrate along the Western Mediterranean rocky shores, where its relative abundance has declined drastically. Anthropogenic pressures have been deemed the number one threat this species faces and has been associated with high mortality rates. Patella ferruginea has two distinct morphotypes, Rouxi with a taller and more symmetrical shell and Lamarcki with a flatter and asymmetrical shell. The species is being protected by two international directives Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive and Annex II of the Berne and Barcelona Convention and local Nature Protection law (Gibraltar Government’s Nature Protection Ordinance No. 2608) in Gibraltar where this study takes place. Climate Change and Sea level rise has been an important subject when it comes to the future of survival of any marine associated species. Three different sites within the West side of Gibraltar were assessed for the examination of the distribution of the species and its two morphotypes, along with two aspects of the crypsis element the species presents (visual and crevice), the threat that is sea level rise (SLR) for the population in the three sites and in general Gibraltar. A novel method is introduced as well for the identification of the two morphotypes using photographic material and fractal analysis as a measure to reduce human disturbance to Patella ferruginea and recommendations were made for the further conservation of the species. Our results show high number of individuals across two sites with accessibility of a site and the level of pollution in the area being the major driving force for distribution. Vibrations cause by construction sites and airplanes have also been identifies as a driving force. The morphotype distribution was based on the exposure of each site to the elements but also to the height (elevation) of each site with numbers of Rouxi morphotypes decreasing in higher sites. Visual crypsis was attributed to the protection against predators, and sea level rise has been linked with high mortality rates across all possible scenarios. The novel way of identifying the two different morphotypes of Patella ferruginea was successful, and several conservation points were raised.

raed more about Petros’s research here.

Keywords: Patella ferruginea; Morphotypes; Rouxi; Lamarcki; Conservation; Climate Change; Sea Level Rise; Threats; Methodology; Fractal; Gibraltar;

 

Primary Supervisor:               Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisor:          Dr Darren Fa

 

In conjunction with:

Stephen Warr: Department of Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Heritage

Habitat complexity and Community Ecology

Form follows function?: The influence of algal architecture on epifaunal assemblages in the invasive algae Rugulopteryx okamurae in Gibraltar

Lilli Marie Blume

Abstract

 

Over the last decades the number of marine invasive species around the world has increased as a consequence of high anthropogenic mobility, i.e., in particular shipping traffic, the destruction and degradation of habitat resilience, caused by e.g., exploitation or pollution, and the progressing change to a globally warmer climate. The arrival of invasive species to a recipient ecosystem can have drastic effects on the local communities. One of the more recent invaders in the Mediterranean and the Strait of Gibraltar is the brown seaweed Rugulopteryx okamurae. Algae provide and form habitat for many species of epifaunal invertebrates, a change in algal species composition and resulting changes in the habitat structural complexity can influence these communities. To test the effect that R. okamurae and especially its structural complexity has on the native invertebrate fauna of Gibraltar, algae was collected from four locations during summer. The interstitial space index was calculated as an approximate representation of the algal complexity and the epifauna was counted and identified. The study aimed to test two hypothesis: Firstly, the complexity of R. okamurae is different at the chosen locations corresponding to different levels of relative exposure to drag and secondly, the epifaunal assemblages will differ from each other. A total of 11 taxonomic groups were identified. Most abundant groups were amphipods, followed by isopods, and gastropods. The study found several significant differences for both, algal complexity and epifaunal diversity using both univariate and multivariate analysis. However, no universal patterns were found for differences between locations, neither for the algal complexity nor the epifaunal diversity. The diversity and complexity differed between the two sheltered locations. Highest complexity coincided with highest diversity and vice versa, lowest complexity of R. okamurae coincided with lowest diversity in the epifaunal assemblage. The results suggest that relative exposure to drag force influences the morphology of Rugulopteryx okamurae, displaying a finely fronded morphotype that is reduced in height, in locations less exposed to water flow. Further, data indicates that morphological complexity of R. okamurae and the epifaunal diversity are positively correlated, where higher complexity promotes diversity. This study gives a first insight into the ecological role R. okamurae assumes in the coastal communities of Gibraltarian waters and highlights, the need for research on the connection between environmental factors and algal complexity, and further the resulting impacts on the associated communities.

Read more about Lilli’s research here.

Keywords: Habitat complexity, Epifauna, Rugulopteryx okamurae, Gibraltar

 

Primary supervisor:                  Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary supervisor:             Dr Darren Fa

Community structure and its role within ecosystem artificial reef The Ark

Lucinda Rosheuvel

Abstract

 

This research report gives insight into the community structure of artificial reef (AR) in Gibraltar, named ‘the Ark’ and the conditions that are relevant influencing factors of success in performance. The usage of ARs is worldwide established. Purposes of usage vary from tourism; scuba diving or snorkelling, fishing; commercial or recreational, nature conservation; protection of shorelines, fish stock rehabilitation, biodiversity enhancement, habitat restoration or rehabilitation and science. In the end, various purposes all aim for the enhancement of marine life but there is a distinction to make between economic, socioeconomic or environmental purposes. ‘The Ark’ can be considered as an ecosystem in itself. Quantitative and qualitative collected field data yields a total of 74 different taxa habiting this particular AR in 2021, indicating a biodiverse reef in terms of species that might be interesting from a socio-economic

perspective and a variety of habitat-building organisms that also host other marine life. The field data were collected in the month of June by using 0,25 m x 0,25 m quadrats to quantify the microbenthic community. Underwater Visual Census (UVC) is used to conduct a quantitative fish survey. The AR was divided into 7 different sectors in order to test if different factors such as spatial orientation and substrate could be of influence on the community structure. Additional qualitative data is collected to get a complete as possible overview of species presence. The identification of taxa is done in the software

program BIIGLE. To assess if time has changed the community structure, imagery from 2004, 2008 and 2012 have been analysed and compared to the present qualitative dataset. Multivariate data analysis has been done in PRIMER 7. An extensive literature review is carried out to help to answer the question of what factors can be of influence in the performance of ARs and as preparation for the field study. Reviewing the literature and comparing these to the field data result, structural complexity and spatial

orientation are suggested factors of influence most relevant to these results. Sector 4 counted the highest biodiversity, richness and abundance. Sector 1-6 showed a similar community structure, but amongst individual samples, ANOSIM analysis showed several significant differences, driven by the factors spatial orientation and substrates. The community structure in sector 7 is distinct from other sectors. This sector was mostly covered by algae, causing a potential bias in the lower abundance, species richness and

diversity count. Interestingly two Bryozoa taxa Myriapora truncata and Pentapora were found present in sector 7, sector 4 and sector 1, indicating that these species were well recruited throughout the entire AR. Concluding it is possible to say that each sector with different features contributed to biodiversity in its way. The studied literature points out that non-adequate management in terms of lack of ownership and responsibility, insufficient monitoring and the choice of unfavourable materials, location or other

environmental factors can be causes of failure in ARs’ performance. Ecological engineering has the perspective to look at the environment by choosing more natural materials, for example, ECOncrete© or BIOROCK, and attempts to mimic the structural complexity of habitat in the design. Future AR planning should consider using new ecological engineering solutions to maintain or restore a natural balance in

marine habitats. Another management suggestion is to designate individual ARs as small-scale MPAs. Various protected species in Gibraltar are found on the studied AR, including Diplodus annularis, D. puntzzo, D. cervinus, D. vulgaris, D. sargus, Spondyliosoma cantharus, Sarpa salpa, Serranus cabrilla, Conger conger, Epinephelus spp., Octopus vulgaris, Mullididae, Scorpaenidae, Labrus viridis. Potentially, a small, protected area can enforce a higher level of protection and better regulation of anthropogenic activities. Small-scale protection can also enable adequate management in terms of creating clearer boundaries with a demarcated object that also makes monitoring and protection of marine life more feasible. There are still gaps in knowledge on ecosystem functioning of individual species and structural

complexity is not quantified as a potential factor of influence. Lastly, the effect of this AR on the surrounding natural habitat including associated behavioural patterns can be the next step in research to further investigate.

Read more about Lucinda’s research here.

Primary Supervisor:               Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisors:         Dr Darren Fa

Dr Jaime Davis, University of Plymouth

Invasive Species

PROJECT MIS: Investigating the presence of non-native species in Mid Harbour Small Boats Marina, assessing recreational vessels as vectors, and exploring stakeholder engagement in implications for marine management

Amy Louise Swift

Abstract

 

The marine environment is facing several threats, many of which are caused or exacerbated by anthropogenic pressures. Amongst the four most detrimental is the impact of non-native species on their introduced environment, alongside habitat loss and overexploitation of resources. Such introductions outside of a species natural

range can lead to irreversible changes in benthic community structure and in the long-term, can result in local extinctions. The transportation of non-native species has been an issue ever since humans first started travelling across the sea. Over the centuries, the pressures have grown due to the increase in the number of sea going vessels, the reduction in journey times and the raised vulnerability of the marine environment. The main human-mediated vectors are ballast water and the hulls of vessels. Commercial ships were previously considered the priority for monitoring and regulations, though it has since been established that recreational vessels have a major part to play in the introductions and secondary spread of non-indigenous species (NIS). In part due to the lack of regulations in place, allowing them to set sail

with heavily fouled hulls to distant locations. Not all dispersed species can become invasive and colonising their new environment, although all species should be considered as a potential threat, for if left unmonitored, can become problematic. Local, national, and international bodies have been working on the implementation of guidelines and policies to aid in the mitigation of impacts caused by the pressures of NIS, specifically focusing on recreational vessels and marinas. In turn, working to achieve or re-establish the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) Descriptor (2), requiring that human-mediated activities do not influence alterations of the marine ecosystem through the introduction of NIS.

Gibraltar has not been spared of this, failing to achieve its aim due, in part to the establishment of the invasive algae Rugulopteryx okamurae. The most recent consultation report states that monitoring programmes are now in place with the aim of reaching targets to achieve the reduction in spread and abundance of NIS using benthic and intertidal surveys and citizen science data. Local and regional efforts in the obtention of GES for this descriptor are hindered by the lack of biosecurity management of marinas despite the understanding that they are hotspots for introduction and spread of NIS. As a first in Gibraltar, this comprehensive study aimed to assess the presence of NIS in the territorial waters. Focusing on marinas as hotspots, in particular, the Mid Harbour Small Boats Marina (MHSBM). Developing a rapid assessment survey protocol which can be used in other marinas in Gibraltar and further afield, using accessible methods. Using visual methods to acquire and annotate footage from floating pontoons and removing scrape samples for species identification. Using a semi-quantitative ranking system, the level of fouling present on the vessels at the marina was evaluated. In addition, a questionnaire was distributed to the boat owners, to gain an understanding of the behaviour and knowledge of NIS to inform marine management on the inclusion of educational

outreach programs to facilitate monitoring and reduce environmental impacts.

The discovery of NIS species in the present study, including the invasive amphipod Caprella scaura and the colonial bryozoan Amathia verticillata, emphasises the necessity of implementing regular rapid assessment surveys to evaluate the changes in presence and abundance of such species in MHSBM and the other marinas in the territory. The level of fouling on the vessels highlighted the presence of biofilm and macrofouling, including some vessels with near total coverage of the hull and niche areas. Findings from the questionnaire are of particular use in future stakeholder engagement, highlighting the lack of awareness of recreational vessels as vectors of introduction and secondary spread. The inclusion of visual footage of floating pontoons can be used as a training and first identification tool in monitoring the build-up of fouling and the detection of at-risk areas in the marina and in vulnerable habitats within the territorial waters. Implementation of future rapid assessments will aid in the detection of new arrivals, in reaching the MSFD targets and most importantly, in protecting the rich biodiversity of this unique hotspot, at the meeting point of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. A vital ecosystem for marine life, providing goods and services to society.

Read more about Amy’s research here.

Keywords: Recreational boating – Marinas – Non-indigenous species – Hull fouling

 

Primary Supervisor:                  Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisor:             Dr Jaime Davis

 

In conjunction with:

Ken Ruiz                                  Mid Harbour Small Boat Marina Committee

Form follows function?: The influence of algal architecture on epifaunal assemblages in the invasive algae Rugulopteryx okamurae in Gibraltar

Lilli Marie Blume

 Abstract

 

Over the last decades the number of marine invasive species around the world has increased as a consequence of high anthropogenic mobility, i.e., in particular shipping traffic, the destruction and degradation of habitat resilience, caused by e.g., exploitation or pollution, and the progressing change to a globally warmer climate. The arrival of invasive species to a recipient ecosystem can have drastic effects on the local communities. One of the more recent invaders in the Mediterranean and the Strait of Gibraltar is the brown seaweed Rugulopteryx okamurae. Algae provide and form habitat for many species of epifaunal invertebrates, a change in algal species composition and resulting changes in the habitat structural complexity can influence these communities. To test the effect that R. okamurae and especially its structural complexity has on the native invertebrate fauna of Gibraltar, algae was collected from four locations during summer. The interstitial space index was calculated as an approximate representation of the algal complexity and the epifauna was counted and identified. The study aimed to test two hypothesis: Firstly, the complexity of R. okamurae is different at the chosen locations corresponding to different levels of relative exposure to drag and secondly, the epifaunal assemblages will differ from each other. A total of 11 taxonomic groups were identified. Most abundant groups were amphipods, followed by isopods, and gastropods. The study found several significant differences for both, algal complexity and epifaunal diversity using both univariate and multivariate analysis. However, no universal patterns were found for differences between locations, neither for the algal complexity nor the epifaunal diversity. The diversity and complexity differed between the two sheltered locations. Highest complexity coincided with highest diversity and vice versa, lowest complexity of R. okamurae coincided with lowest diversity in the epifaunal assemblage. The results suggest that relative exposure to drag force influences the morphology of Rugulopteryx okamurae, displaying a finely fronded morphotype that is reduced in height, in locations less exposed to water flow. Further, data indicates that morphological complexity of R. okamurae and the epifaunal diversity are positively correlated, where higher complexity promotes diversity. This study gives a first insight into the ecological role R. okamurae assumes in the coastal communities of Gibraltarian waters and highlights, the need for research on the connection between environmental factors and algal complexity, and further the resulting impacts on the associated communities.

Read more about Lilli’s research here.

Keywords: Habitat complexity, Epifauna, Rugulopteryx okamurae, Gibraltar

 

Primary supervisor:                  Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary supervisor:             Dr Darren Fa

Marine Fisheries

Understanding the specific pressures and methodologies of marine recreational fishing and impact to demersal fish species in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters and mapping marine recreational fishing hotspots

Clive Crisp

Abstract

 

Marine Recreational Fishing (MRF) is an extremely popular leisure activity at a global scale, it is an area of fisheries which has been, until recently, overlooked as having an impact on commercially important fish stocks. Recent studies suggest that it may have the same impact on demersal and pelagic fish species as that of small-scale fisheries, artisanal fisheries, and subsistence fisheries. Gibraltar has no commercial fishing fleet but has an element of local artisanal/ subsistence fishing, its national legislation prohibits any commercial fishing activity, or the methods employed within this modality of fisheries. The main form of fishing in Gibraltar is that of marine recreational fishing, undertaken as shore fishing, fishing from a vessel and underwater fishing. Although MRF is considered well regulated in Gibraltar no methodologies for monitoring or the collection of data for marine recreational fishing has been implemented. Data reporting in the form of a creel survey was designed to collect specific data of MRF activity in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. MRF methods were listed and analysed in terms of bait used, specific location, use of anchor, season, and target species. The MRF methods were individually assessed and assigned an impact score of low, medium, or high depending on several factors based on research already carried out in the field of MRF. The impact scores were colour coded (Traffic light system) for ease of reference and visualisation. Geographical Information System Software (GIS) QGIS was utilised to collect and interrogate the data. The results were analysed to evaluate the different MRF methods, what fishing areas they are carried out in, and their impact, also producing a heat map of MRF fishing intensity in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW). It was found that MRF methods utilised have a linear relationship to skill and experience, which has a direct output in the effectiveness of the catch of the desired or targeted fish species. MRF fishing is location specific and the fishing intensity and impacts on the benthic environment need to be studied and researched further. This study shows location specific MRF impact upon rocky reefs and rocky outcrops, the impact of continuous fishing over the same area will have consequential repercussions on important demersal fish population and abundance. The methodology designed in this study should be continued by the Department of the Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Heritage on a regular basis to be able to make informed decisions in the near future on its policy with regards to fishing, creation and management of Marine Conservation Areas and the protection of the marine environment.

 

Primary Supervisor:               Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisor:          Dr Darren Fa

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in the Straits of Gibraltar: from historical to recreational fisheries, and recommendations for implementing a catch-and-release fishery via stakeholder engagement

Francine Pons

Abstract

 

The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) has been a highly prized species for millennia. A review on the existing literature has been carried out in order to understand the ecology and life-history of the species, including oceanographic processes relating to their distribution. In addition, the history of tuna fisheries, dating back to 3rd century B.C. are discussed, as well as management challenges faced by ICCAT and its epistemic community, such as the Pluri-Annual Recovery Plan (PARP) for the eastern stock. The second part of the study focuses on the Gibraltar recreational tuna fishery. Current policies and regulations are discussed, under the Tuna Preservation Regulations 2014 and Marine Regulations, 2014. In addition, a statistical analysis for the Gibraltar catch data is carried out, demonstrating that the fishing method employed (Trolling, Popping and Live bait) can have a significant effect on the size (weight, kg) (fork length, cm) of the tuna caught. Moreover, an online survey was distributed to tuna anglers in Gibraltar, in order to devise local perceptions towards catch-and-release. Our results show that 92% of respondents are interested in implementing a catch and release fishery. Potential implications, as well as best-practices for catch-and-release and tagging are discussed, including recommendations to increase compliance, sustainability and animal welfare.

Read more about Francine’s research here.

 

Keywords

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus, ecology, Recreational fisheries,

Catch-and-Release, Tag-and-release, management, ICCAT

 

Primary Supervisor: Dr Awantha Dissanayak

Secondary Supervisor: Dr Darren Fa

 

In conjunction with:

Stephen Warr and Clive Crisp: Department of Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Heritage (DESCCH)

Marine Mammals/Cetaceans

Recreational fishing impacts on Dolphins: A study on prevalence in Gibraltarian waters and public perceptions on fishermen-dolphin interactions

Adrianna Proetta

Abstract

 

The Strait of Gibraltar is known as a heavily used marine area with intense fishing operations. Gibraltarian waters are highly biodiverse, providing home to three dolphin species: the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) and the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) are a hotspot for recreational fishing, including tuna fishing. Fishermen are known to use the dolphin-tuna association to catch tuna, which has the potential to injure dolphins, sometimes even fully amputating dorsal fins. This study aims to 1) investigate fishing activities and fishermen-dolphin interactions in the Bay of Gibraltar, and 2) understand public perceptions on fishing impacts on dolphins and their conservation issues. This was attained following an extensive literature review, observational boat surveys and an online public questionnaire (n=116). Via boat surveys, illegal fishing activities were seen within the Dolphin Protection Zone (DPZ), and most recreational vessels weren’t following the cetacean protocol. The online survey showed an overall concern towards fishing impacts on dolphins though a lack of awareness of certain regulations already in place. There is also a trend in attitudes of Gibraltarians placing conservation responsibility on stakeholders and the Government. The conclusions of this study show that the public could benefit from a raise in awareness on existing methods of dolphin conservation in Gibraltar, in order to encourage public participation in marine management, which is essential for management success. Results of the public survey along with the field data collected on fishing impacts and fishermen behaviour could be combined in order to provide more appropriate and effective management measures to protect dolphins in BGTW.

Read more about Adrianna’s research here.

 

Keywords: Recreational Fishing Impacts, Dolphins, Injuries, Cetacean Conservation, Environmental Attitudes, Public Engagement, Marine Policy

 

Primary supervisor: Dr Awantha Dissanayake, University of Gibraltar

Secondary supervisor: Luisa Haasova, University of Gibraltar/MMIRC,

In conjunction with:

Stephen Warr, Department of Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Heritage (DESCCH)

Marine Policy

The concept of Green Port as a driver of positive change for both local and international level and possible implementation in Gibraltar

Riccardo Fornasari

Abstract

To date, almost everything we buy has been first produced in other countries and then transported to us by ship. In the last decades, the shipping sector has grown significantly and it is predicted that will continue to do so, as well as its environmental impact and emissions. Increasingly large ports, very often located within cities, play a fundamental role within the shipping sector but their activities are associated with serious and different kinds of problems affecting the local level, but also the international: in fact, matters tied to climate change and people’s health are related to port’s activities adverse effects. In addition to this, they can also bring negative influence on the daily quality of the life of port cities citizens and affect the biodiversity in the proximity of ports. Green ports are those ports that aim to balance economic development and the impact of their activities, causing minimal damage to the environment and society. Their diffusion would allow alleviating local problems that affect the host community and the surrounding natural environment, but not only: green ports can be, in fact, entities able to influence the entire shipping sector, facilitating its greener transition in various ways. Despite the efforts, the diffusion of green ports remains, particularly in certain regions of the world, limited, as well as the knowledge and awareness of the general public on this topic. The Strait of Gibraltar is one of the busiest in the world in terms of passing ships, and there are several ports, located in different countries, in this area. As the case study of this project, the Port of Gibraltar was chosen, of which various aspects were researched, all united by the aim to gain clues and investigate sub-topics to answer the question: “Can the Port of Gibraltar achieve greater sustainability?”. In particular, were researched, through a common perception survey, how the local port was perceived by the citizens of Gibraltar, which criticalities they identify related to the port’s activities and how they affect their daily life and their level of knowledge on the adverse effects of the ports. In addition to this, the project wanted to investigate, through interviews with three stakeholders of the sector, how realistically would be the implementation of solutions and technologies, methods of mitigation, or more sustainable practices within the Port of Gibraltar. In the event that from the interviews emerged that these practices will not be achievable, the project wanted to research the reasons, what are the barriers, and what nature they are, that prevent the attainments of greater level of sustainability of the Port of Gibraltar. The conclusions of the project showed that the Port of Gibraltar has over the years partly tried to reduce its impact and has achieved an important goal such as the possibility of providing cleaner fuel. Despite this, its influence on the life of the host community is evident, as there are still many elements on which the Port of Gibraltar should work and improve its sustainability. What seems to be missing is primarily a long-term vision of clear goals to be achieved, while other important elements indicate the presence of knowledge and willingness to reduce its impact both for local and international level and increase its sustainability.

 

Keywords: Green ports, Port of Gibraltar, Sustainability, Common Perception Survey, Stakeholders, Interviews, Green Transition.

Primary Supervisor:      Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Second Supervisor:      Sara Méndez Roldan, Ramboll

Marine Social Science

Jellyfish: A potential coastal threat?; Assessment of Public Perceptions and Integration of Citizen Science to aid global gaps in knowledge of Spatial and Temporal distribution of jellyfish (Cnidaria & Ctenophora)

John Antony Yañez Dobson

Abstract

Jellyfish are keystone predators and important to many marine ecosystems. The current state of the literature revolves around a jellyfish paradigm, of whether populations are increasing over time or following their natural decal oscillation in populations. Many anthropogenic factors like eutrophication, climate change, and overfishing have been attributed to an increase in jellyfish populations, however, the current data is based on a relatively small spatial and temporal scale. Apart from the paradigm, the direct and indirect impacts stemming from jellyfish are understudied and lack sufficient data. Further, the scientific community surrounding jellyfish has failed to consider the publics’ knowledge, behaviour, and needs associated with jellyfish. This dissertation explores both the public perception of jellyfish via a survey and six sampling techniques used for jellyfish. Results showed that the public rank jellyfish as more of a concern than sharks, but when jellyfish were compared to nine other contemporary marine topics, jellyfish was given the least concern and the least level of prioritization. The survey also revealed that people overwhelmingly think about the negative aspects of jellyfish rather than the positive aspects, and when it comes to treating stings, folklore treatments such as urine are still one of the most dominant answer. The results from the survey indicate the need to expand ocean literacy within the public, and offer them jellyfish identification guides, jellyfish probability maps, and proper treatment plans. The results from the sampling methodologies, showed nets was the most used technique since 1976, and is the technique that gathers the most quantitative data out of the six sampling methodologies. The results also show that in the last four years, acoustic and citizen science approaches are increasing significantly. The increase in citizen science derived data concerning the spatial and temporal abundance of jellyfish is not only helping scientists uncover previously unknown ecological aspects, but also helping to enhance knowledge of participants towards the socio-economic impacts that jellyfish present. This dissertation concludes that the involvement of citizens should be a priority as it contextualizes the socio-economic impacts of jellyfish and allows scientists to create further impact with their studies, and hence can create coastal management policies that are more aligned with the public’s needs.

 

 

 

Primary Supervisor: Dr Awantha Dissanayake,

Secondary Supervisor: Dr Cesar Bordehore, Universidad de Alicante

Evaluation of citizenship attitudes and attachments towards the marine environment in Gibraltar with a view to informing sustainable marine governance practices

Emma Hall

Abstract

 

The health of the marine and coastal environment is increasingly threatened by anthropogenic pressures, causing widespread impacts for habitats, species and valuable ecosystem services. A growing urgency to protect the oceans is driving participatory governance reform, which incorporates citizens in marine policy delivery and development, to help ameliorate ecosystem stressors. This study seeks to understand the attitudes and attachments held towards Gibraltar’s marine environment, with a view to establishing the potential role of citizens in supporting sustainable marine governance. Following an extensive literature review, an online survey (n = 142) was used to evaluate marine citizenship attitudes in Gibraltar. Results provided empirical evidence that respondents generally felt concerned about threats to the marine environment, displayed an awareness of pressing issues and indicated attitudes of environmental responsibility. In addition, respondents felt positively connected to Gibraltar’s marine environment and were predominantly able to identify recreational activities they enjoyed, as well as places that were special to them, in the marine and coastal zone. Attitudes were not uniform across the sample, with gender affecting responsibility and age influencing personal connection to the marine environment. Overall, attitudes were deemed conducive to the success of marine citizenship in Gibraltar and respondents further acknowledged the responsibility of citizens in helping to manage the marine environment. The implications for marine governance in Gibraltar are discussed and the potential strengths and weaknesses of adopting a more participatory approach are assessed. Increasing citizen involvement in marine governance offers the opportunity to capture socio-ecological relationships and pressures, provide meaningful engagement in environmental protection and foster the continued development of marine citizenship. By assessing attitudes and attachments typically excluded from the policy landscape, this research hopes to achieve sustainable outcomes for marine governance in Gibraltar, particularly through the amplified role of citizens in protecting marine environmental health.

Read more about Emma’s research here.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisor: Danielle M. Farrugia, University of Malta

Identifying the importance of cultural ecosystem services (II-CES): a non-monetary valuation

Luisa Haasova

Abstract

 

Concept of ecosystem services increasingly gained attention during the past decades. It is mainly focusing on the material benefits that people obtain from the natural ecosystems, leaving a gap in non-material benefits, which are cultural ecosystem services (CES). CES and their non-monetary valuation received only little attention due to (i) no standard framework developed for their valuation (ii) lack of recognition and consideration in decision making (iii) there is not enough research dedicated to this subject, because majority of the ecosystems are seen through the economic lens. This paper combines existing frameworks and conducts non-monetary valuation of CES in Gibraltar. It examines environmental places, cultural practices and cultural ecosystem benefits derived from marine/ coastal ecosystems in more profound way. It also identifies the CES practices and benefits that people were lacking during the lockdown period of COVID-19 pandemic.

 

A part of this work is a literature review outlining (i) what non-monetary methods are used to assess CES (ii) what type of CES are studied the most by non-monetary valuation (iii) the geographic distribution of the studies where non-monetary valuations in CES took place. This thesis represents the first non-monetary valuation in Gibraltar. By understanding these environmental places, cultural practices and cultural ecosystem benefits, decision makers are provided with a framework, which shows the importance of CES.

 

Primary Supervisor:               Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisor:          Dr Emma McKinley, Cardiff University

Underwater noise

Characterisation of the underwater noise caused by marine traffic in the Bay of Gibraltar

María Renee Contreras Merida

 

The introduction of sound to the ocean from human activities is a form of pollution commonly known as underwater noise. This noise can be categorised into two sources, impulsive and continuous sounds (also known as ambient noise), depending on the time scale it persists,. Low-frequency ambient noise in the ocean, mainly from ships, has been increasing since the nineteenth century. The rise in noise levels in the ocean have been reported to impact on marine fauna, in the form of masking important biological signals, inducing stress and different behavioural responses. As international regulations continue to be developed, several regional or local legislations have been created to regulate many pollutants and achieve a Good Environmental Status, including underwater noise. Efforts to monitor and manage vessel noise pollution are embodied in the MSFD descriptor (11.2), which mandates member states to ensure underwater noise levels do not surpass good environmental status thresholds. One of the most common methodologies in these guidelines is the passive acoustic measurements undertaken with hydrophones deployed either by surface-based or bottom-mounted systems.

 

Gibraltar is considered a relevant marine area due to its rich diversity in species and habitats, presenting several pelagic fishes and cetaceans migrations through the Strait of Gibraltar, crossing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and vice versa. Within the Bay of Gibraltar, a no-take, no anchoring zone called Seven Sisters was created in the Marine Conservation Zone in Rosia Bay due to high marine biodiversity importance. This British overseas territory presents high traffic flow density, in which elevated continuous underwater noise is likely to impact all the marine fauna and ecosystems present in this area. As there is currently no sufficient evidence to assess underwater noise trends in such relevant areas, this study was created to develop the first characterisation of underwater noise caused by marine traffic in Seven sisters, Rosia Bay, Gibraltar. To achieve this, the project was carried out deploying an RTSys EA-SDA14 hydrophone to collect continuous underwater noise and develop recommendations for management and mitigation of underwater noise in this area based on the obtained results. Using PAMGuide in RStudio, different noise level metrics (PSD, SPL, TOL) were estimated for three different time frames (morning, midday and evening) of fifteen minutes each, for a day of the week and a day of the weekend. Spectrograms and statistical analysis were obtained for five files of three minutes each. Direct observations were acquired for every vessel in the Bay during the deployment period. The noise levels between the different time frames for each day, using the broadband SPL values were further analysed through an ANOSIM in Primer7.

Based on the results of the acoustic analysis in this study, marine traffic noise was located in different frequency bands ranges (20 to 500 Hz, above 1,000 Hz up to 10,000 Hz). This study is the first underwater noise measurement caused by marine traffic in the Bay of Gibraltar, the broadband noise levels present in the Bay of Gibraltar were reported around 113 to 138 dB re 1 μPa during a weekday, and around 115 to 140 dB re 1 μPa during a weekend day. From the observational data, the noise levels in the weekday were produced by more commercial vessels (n=34) than recreational vessels (n=10). Meanwhile, for the weekend, an almost equal amount of recreational (n=44) and commercial (b=41) vessels were observed during the acoustic recordings. Further analysis in the ANOSIM demonstrated significant differences (p<0.01) between almost all of the different time frames of both days.

To fulfil the MSFD requirements, the noise levels were also reported for the 1/3-octave band frequencies, 63 Hz and 125 Hz, as well as adding a third frequency (2,000 Hz) recommended by authors to include recreational vessels. For the 63 Hz third-octave frequency band, values ranging from 95 to 125 dB re 1 μPa, and from 98 to 125 dB re 1 μPa were recorded for the weekday and weekend day, respectively. In the 125 Hz third-octave frequency, values of 97 to 120 dB re 1 μPa for the weekday and from 100 to 125 dB re 1 μPa for the weekend day, were reported. The added 2,000 Hz frequency presented values of 95 to 118 dB re 1 μPa during the weekday and 100 to 120 during the weekend day. Due to high noise levels impacts on marine fauna by masking biological signals, stressing and inducing behavioural responses, it is recommended for Gibraltar’s waters to implement mitigation strategies such as defining allowable harm limits of noise and a maximum limit of bunkering vessels in the Bay, promotion of proper maintenance of the hull and machinery, stakeholder engagement, speed limit and temporal restrictions when needed.

 

Keywords: Underwater noise, Marine traffic, noise mitigation, Gibraltar.

 

 

Primary Supervisor:                            Dr Awantha Dissanayake

Secondary Supervisor:                       Dr Nathan Merchant

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science –Cefas

In conjunction with:

Clive Crisp

Department of Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Heritage –DESCCH

Our Programme

  • MSc

    Master in Marine Science & Climate Change

    Designed and delivered by expert academics and scientists, this full or part-time interdisciplinary programme blends theoretical study with practical, field-based work. You will cover specialist subject areas and gain the skills required to tackle the complex issues associated with the sustainable development of marine ecosystems.[...]

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    No Placement option

    Full Time

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  • MSc

    Master in Environmental Science & Climate Change (Coming Soon)

    Green skills are essential for the transition towards a Green Economy. Designed and delivered by expert academics and scientists and in conjunction with local stakeholders, this full-time interdisciplinary programme blends theoretical study with practical, field-based work.[...]

    1 Year

    No Placement option

    Full Time

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