What is it?

To put it simply, biodiversity can be described as “all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area”(Hancock). This includes the abundance of plants, animals, fungi, and even the things we can’t see, such as microorganisms. Biodiversity also focuses on the way in which all of these living things end up working together in order to create a complex, yet perfectly maintained ecosystem. Through research, it has been discovered that there are approximately 8.7 million species of plants and animals on Earth. Although, it is important to note that only about 1.2 million species have been specifically identified. This statistic is one reason why biodiversity is so significant, because despite the immense number of organisms that there are, they all have a role and purpose that allow all the different regions of species to thrive together. 


Why Should We Care?

There are a multitude of ways that our ecosystems help humans, with three simple categories being economic, ecological, and scientific. Economically, a successful, biodiverse ecosystem is able to provide a plethora of raw material resources that we then use for consumption and production. This provides jobs for professions such as farmers, fishers, and foresters. Ecologically, a biodiverse region can successfully function to perform the processes of supplying oxygen, purifying air and water, pollinating plants, along with a number of other examples. Lastly, biodiversity provides humans with a vast resource to sample data from which gives further information as to how environments interact and the ways in which humans are affecting those environments. Today, climate change is arguably the most pressing issue for biodiversity. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states how “The rate of warming since 1982 is more than three times as fast”, making it 0.20° Celsius warmer per decade (NOAA). These rising temperatures have brought along disasters such as drought, storms, ocean acidification, and sea level rising. All of these occurrences deeply affect the biodiversity of each region, which will consequently affect humans as well. 


How to Help

Because organisms work together so seamlessly, it can be easy for humans to forget the processes that are actually occurring, and that our actions can have both positive and negative effects on the environment surrounding us. When biodiversity in an ecosystem is threatened, a number of challenges can occur. Because any loss of biodiversity decreases an ecosystems ability to properly function, it therefore puts it at risk to be more significantly affected by large scale dangers, such as global warming. If an ecosystem's resilience to change is largely affected, it can eventually lead to an entire collapse of the ecosystem. This is why it is incredibly important for humans to have an understanding of general biodiversity and how our actions affect it. Currently, extinction rates are nearly 1,000 times higher than they naturally were, causing great concern for biodiversity and how those losses will affect overall ecosystems over time. In part of understanding biodiversity, it is vital to also recognize the actions we as humans can take in order to support biodiversity. As a whole, pollution, the overexploitation of resources, and invasive species are all current threats to biodiversity. By becoming more aware and knowledgeable about these topics, we can do our part to offset the damages and assist the ecosystems in maintaining a healthy state of biodiversity. 

Impacts and Background Information

The Mediterranean Sea is a hotspot for biodiversity on the planet; in fact, the Mediterranean is home to over 17,000 marine species with anywhere between 20 to 30 percent of them being endemic (the largest known global percentage). This statistic is also important as the Mediterranean Sea is host to 18% of all of the world's marine species. Endemic species are species which only occur within one specific location in the world. Over 1,000 non-indigenous or non native marine species have been recorded with only 618 species being considered established. These invasive species pose threats to endemic species whether it be resource competition, disruption of the food chain by adding new predators to the chain, or even habitat destruction. Coralligenous ecosystems, which are ecosystems composed of coralline algal structures that can grow in calm waters and dim light conditions, are crucial for climate resilience and maintenance of fisheries and cover approximately 2,760 square kilometers. Unfortunately, these ecosystems are threatened by destructive fishing gear, boat anchoring, invasive species, pollution, and climate change. An estimated 70% of habitat loss for Posidonia oceanica, commonly known as Mediterranean tapeweed, is projected by 2050 with a potential for functional extinction by 2100. From 1950-2011, the Mediterranean lost 41% of top predators, including marine mammals. Projections suggest that more than 30 endemic species will become extinct by the end of the century. Fisheries are also common amongst sea and bay areas which are fine when managed well and preventative measures are taken to ensure a lack of disruption in the ecosystem, but in regards to the Mediterranean Sea, 78% of fishing areas are over exploited thus creating a negative flow within the ecosystem. Sea turtles (89%) and elasmobranchs (cartilaginous fish) (8%) are the groups of species with the highest percentages of reported incidental catch from 2000 to 2020 leaving them at high vulnerability. Seabirds and marine mammals, together, represent around 4% of the total.

 The Mediterranean sea does not consist only of open water and underwater environments either, there are 150 wetlands of international importance for marine and migrating birds, and 5,000 islands as well. Unfortunately regarding the wetland habitats, 70% of them have disappeared since the year 1970. This is due to factors such as agricultural needs and development of homes and structures within these wetlands. This is most likely due to the fact that wetlands contain very rich soil and are sought after by farmers for better crop development and yields. 

Of the 17,000 species, an estimated 26% of them are prokaryotic and eukaryotic marine microbes although information on these species is limited. When discussing the Animal kingdom, the proportion of species records were from subphylum Crustacea (crustaceans) (13.2%) and phyla Mollusca (molluscs) (12.4%), Annelida (segmented worms) (6.6%), Platyhelminthes (flatworms) (5.9%), Cnidaria (jellyfish, coral) (4.5%), the subphylum Vertebrata (vertebrates) (4.1%), Porifera (sponges) (4.0%), Bryozoa (simple invertebrates) (2.3%), the subphylum Tunicata (tunicates) (1.3%), and Echinodermata (echinoderms) (0.9%). Other invertebrate groups accounted for 14% of the species, and Plantae (plants) included 5%.


Due to a majority of the land surrounding the Mediterranean Sea being inhabited by humans, human interference through pollution, fishing, and other destructive methods is far more likely than many other locations in the world. Human interference has a high likelihood of ruining and damaging the environment and ecosystems within the sea which can eventually lead to extinction or disruption of mating or migration patterns of certain species, and can even lead to further introduction of invasive species. With human interference being as high as it is, it is expected that as time progresses, more and more damage will be caused until a point is reached where nothing can be done to fix it.



There are 1,233 Marine Protected Areas and other effective area-based conservation measures. These MPA’s coupled with other conservation measures cover roughly 8.9% of the Mediterranean Sea, but only 10% commit to effective management plans. Only 0.04% of the surface of the Mediterranean is covered by zones in which it is prohibited to fish, swim, and dive. A big factor in taking preventative measures to ensure the safety of the environment and protection of ecosystems would be to have more protected areas assert proper management plans. There are many species rich areas that can be flagged and labeled so that fishing along with other recreational activities are prohibited to preserve ecosystems. Stronger fishing regulations should also be put in play to ensure overfishing of specific areas doesn’t occur thus destroying a whole ecosystem. Unfortunately, consistent collection of data regarding biodiversity of any large body of water, including the Mediterranean Sea, is difficult due to the size of the body along with there being many zones that are highly difficult to access along with generally inaccessible zones. Thankfully, more systems continue to be developed and put into place that allow for easier and more efficient data collection regarding marine environments and the species that inhabit them. Equipment such as satellites and drones have allowed for improved collection of data along with support from biologgers and eDNA and other molecular methods. The more structured analysis becomes, the greater the understanding of the environment and ecosystems within the Mediterranean Sea would be. With further advancements in science and technology occurring daily, more unique and thorough methods for data collection will be introduced. Studying data that has currently been collected along with using consistent systems to find more data are crucial to possessing more accurate information to be shared. Conversely, information regarding human impacts and statistics on the decline of biodiversity should be more broadcasted so that the communities surrounding the Mediterranean Sea are aware of the impacts human lifestyle has on their own environment. 

Preventing the destruction of wetlands is much more complicated than other topics regarding the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, a higher human population demands higher amounts of food availability, and farmers taking up wetland areas to allow for this production are causing harm. A potential solution to this is making many of these wetlands protected areas as well thus allowing the local flora and fauna to evolve and keep a healthy environment. Human interference and destruction of land is causing many species to go endangered, and even worse, extinct. Decreases in biodiversity also cause issues within surrounding ecosystems and their food webs. Marine protected area programs should take initiative and protect the wetlands as well which would allow for biodiversity to increase and thrive.



Local Biodiversity

The Ieranto Bay, located in the Sorrento Peninsula is a hotspot for biodiversity due to the bay’s diverse mixture of natural environments such as caves, canyons, and vertical cliffs, N-S orientation allowing for different shadow-light areas that provide different habitats, and upwelling currents bringing nutrients up towards the surface which all allow for immense biodiversity. Of the species found, invertebrates make up 55.7% of the species in the bay (151 species) with vertebrates representing 24.0% (65 species) and plantae representing 20.3% (55 species). Recent data has found that there are 271 species within the 11 phyla of Plantae, Annelida, Arthropoda, Bryozoa, Cnidaria, Echinodermata, Entropcta, Mollusca, Porifera, Protista, and Chordata. Chardata (fish) represent the highest percentage of species with around 58 species found in the bay, then Plantae with 55 species, then Mollusca with 41 species.  Of the 271 species found in the Bay, 17 are protected, while 13 are endemic and 5 are invasive. These regulations and restrictions are imposed by the Marine Protected Area of Punta Campanella, which aims to protect about 30 km from the Gulf of Naples and the Gulf of Salerno.