Abstract

This volume collects the main results of 2 years of multidisciplinary researches (2007–08) on the Vlora Gulf ecosystem, carried out by a joint Italian (National Interuniversity Consortium for Marine Sciences [CoNISMA], National Research Council [CNR, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche] and Agenzia Regionale per la Prevenzione e la Protezione Ambientale [ARPA] Puglia) and Albanian (University of Tirana, the Science Academy, and the Ministry of the Environment) research team.

The studies and analyses were aimed at identifying the environmental factors and components that strongly interact with, and affect, the marine ecosystem of the region. In particular, the main research tasks were related to geological and hydrogeological aspects of the river basins, the bottom morphology of the whole marine area, the problems of coastal erosion phenomena, the stratigraphy of the marine sediment, the physical and chemical parameters of the water column, an examination of primary production, the biodiversity of benthic and pelagic ecosystems, and the existence of problems connected to the ecotoxicology of the biota.

The results pointed out the weakness to the Vlora Gulf ecosystem from several sources, including the (1) heavy human impacts on the natural coastal evolution, resulting in coastal erosion and/or accretion; (2) considerable influence of the input of suspended mud from the Vjosa River, causing conspicuous degeneration phenomena on the benthic biocoenoses (e.g., on the Posidonia oceanica meadow; and (3) conspicuous urban and industrial water discharge, producing diffuse pollution related to the presence of heavy metals (mercury, among others) in the sediments of the gulf area.

Finally, a further aim of the project was the planning of an International Center for Marine Research, located in Albania, to support an international focal point for researchers involved in environmental studies of the Eastern Mediterranean.

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