Landscape ecology is a multidisciplinary field that combines the spatial approach of geography with functional ecology. Concerning marine environment, a submerged landscape, called seascape, is defined as a spatially heterogeneous area of coastal environment. Measurement of spatial patterns plays a central role in monitoring environmental change and for studying the multi-scale processes that drive organism distributions and biodiversity.
In 2011, ECOMERS co-organized with the French Agency for the Marine Protected Areas an international workshop on the seascape. The contributions have been published in a Springer volume (Underwater seascapes - From geographical to ecological Perspectives. 2014. Musard O., Le Dû-Blayo L., Francour P., Beurier J.P., Feunteun E., Talassinos L. (eds). Springer Science & Business Media). In collaboration with CREOCEAN company, ECOMERS published in this book a method to assess the seascape integrity (Thorin S., Bodilis P., Schvartz T., Durtieux E., Francour P. 2014. Seascape integrity assessment: a proposed index for the Mediterranean coast: 263-275). The aim of this paper was to propose a relevant seascape index focussing on Mediterranean littoral areas, moreover rocky habitat that constitutes one of the most important and characteristic habitats of the north-western Mediterranean coastal areas. The methodology proposed to score marine sites addresses three factors: biological, geomorphologic (i.e. 3D complexity) and anthropogenic. The goal was to build a functional and relevant tool that could eventually be used for a large scale geographical analysis of submarine landscapes along the north-western Mediterranean coast. The proposed index can qualitatively assess the value of the seascape within a site. Statistical tests showed that the proposed index is an accurate and relevant proxy of the seascape complexity value. The seascape integrity index we developed can then be a new tool that could complement other existing biological indices.
Recently, in collaboration with NaturDive, an association of non professional Scuba divers interested in marine ecology, Patrice Francour (ECOMERS) proposed a training, including lecture and scuba diving, to involve non professional divers in seascape monitoring along the Riviera coast. The aim of this citizen science initiative is (1) to gather data on seascape integrity of most of the diving spots along the coast, (2) to provide some managers (marine protected areas, Natura 2000 areas, etc.) with quantitative data, scientifically validated, and (3) to improve Scuba divers awareness on the ecological importance of seascape.
This seascape initiative is included in the ECOCIMED, a program of citizen science, managed by ECOMERS and AMPN (Association Monégasque pour la Protection de la Nature; manager of the MPAs in Monaco). Contributions to ECOCIMED are available of the ECOCIMED Facebook page.