Site details

Eastern Mediterranean
(lookup in gazetteer)
Flag of International
5 stars - Fully protected as a national park or Natura 2000 site by national legislation
MarBEF Deep Sea and Open Ocean Reference Site

Map type: Google Maps  SVG (dynamic)  Image (static)

Eastern Mediterranean Photo:

Extensive description of site:

The Eastern Mediterran, within a limited distance (i.e. 100-150 miles) almost any type of habitat can be found. The Eastern Basin is generally very deep, more than 80% of the Ionian and Levantine Seas being below 200 m, and characterized by abyssal plains around 3000 m water depth and deep trenches (max. depth 5093 m) related to the Mediterranean ridge system. There is. Mud volcanism and diapirism along parts of the northern .ank of the Mediterranean Ridge accretionary complex are well-known phenomena related to collisional tectonics between Africa and Eurásia. This area is very rich in terms of habitats and it can be divided in several seas like the Aegean, Ionian, Levantine and Cretan seas.

Habitats present:

Deep-Sea BedRockSandMudBiohermBenthopelagicWater Column
Continental MarginXXX XEpi-pelagic X
Abyssal PlainXXX XMesopelagic X
Seamounts and
Oceanic Islands flanks
XXX  Bathypelagic X
X    Abyssopelagic X

Description of fauna and flora:

There are very low primary production rates which are related to a depletion nutriments in the euphotic zone, which gives a very low organic matter supply to the deeper waters and the benthos due to the warm and well oxygenated intermediate and deep waters which allow higher decomposition rates. There are a strong grazing of phytoplankton by the high zooplankton standing stock in the upper layers and a restriction of the vertical transport of particles to deepsea floor. All these characteristics result in a scarcity of marine organisms (macrofauna, meiofauna) as well as low levels of microbial activity and biomass at water depths between 2000 and 4000 m, a characteristic which has been mostly related to the very low levels of factors indicating food availability.

Habitat description:

Habitats according to EUNIS classification:

A5.1 Deep-sea rock and artificial hard substrates
A5.3 Deep-sea sand substrates
A5.4 Deep-sea muddy sand
A5.22 Deep-sea biogenic gravels (shells, coral debris) ( formed by living or recent dead organisms)
A5.61 Deep-sea bioherm dominated by scleractinian coral framework
A6.2 Seamounts, knolls and banks
A6.3 Oceanic ridges
A6.4 Isolated ‘oceanic’ features influenced by hypoxic water column
A6.5 Vents in the deep sea
A7 Pelagic water column


All habitats are within a distance of 50-150 miles either from Athens or Heraklion harbour. The area can be accessed easily within with a research vessel from Athens, Heraklion, Rhodes or Limassol. These cities are easily accessed by plane. Only during winter there might be short periods (i.e. 1-2 weeks) where access is prohibited due to weather conditions. There are two research vessels. R/V Aegeo based in Athens (62m) and R/V Philia (26m) based in Heraklion. Details for both of them: There is the man submersible Thetis (, the MaxRover ROV ( and small benthic landers. The Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) has facilities (including laboratories), in Athens, Heraklion and Rhodes.

Available database and website:

Time-series data:

The area is being studied since 1966, however due to its size there is no real time –series available data, with the exception of unpublished sediment trap data available at HCMR.

Datasets covering this area:

Commitment and ongoing research:

The area has been used during the last ten years as a targed area for several international research projects such as ADIOS, BIODEEP, CINCS, MATER, ALIPOR. Other cooperation’s, on a national level, have also taken place (i.e. U. Witte and J Priede: University of Aberdeen). In this moment there are German national funds as well as recent EU projects (HERMES).

Additional Information:

Boetius A, Scheibe S, Tselepides A, Thiel H (1996) Microbial biomass and activities in deep sea sediments of the Eastern Mediterranean: trenches are benthic hotspots. Deep-Sea Research I 43:1439-1460
Böttger-Schnack R., 1997. Vertical structure of small metazoan plankton, especially oncalanoid copepods. II Deep Eastern Mediterranean (Levantine Sea). Oceanol. Acta, 20: 399- 419.
Böttger-Schnack R.,1994. The microcopepod fauna in the Eastern Mediterranean and Arabian Seas: a comparision with the Red Sea fauna. Hydrobiologia, 292/93: 271-282.
Danovaro R, Della Croce N, Eleftheriou A, Fabiano M, Papadopoulou N, Smith C, Tselepides A (1995) Meiofauna of the deep Eastern Mediterranean Sea: distribution, and abundance in relation to bacterial biomass, organic matter composition and other environmental factors. Prog Oceanog 36:329-341
Danovaro R, Fabiano M (1995) Meiofaunal abundance and distribution in bathyal sediments of the Mediterranean Sea: An overview. Biol Mar Medit 2:217-225
Delalo E.P., 1966. The zooplankton of the Eastern Mediterranean (Levantine Sea and Gulf of Sirte). Issled. Plankt. Juzhn. Mor. Okeanogr. Kom. Akad. Nauk SSSR, 7: 62-81 (in Russian).
Jones EG, Tselepides A, Bagley PM, Collins MA, Priede IG (2003) Bathymetric distribution of some benthic and benthopelagic species attracted to baited cameras and traps in the deep eastern Mediterranean. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 251:75-86
Koutsoubas D., Koukouras A., Karakassis I., Dounas C., 1992. Contribution to the knowledge of Gastropoda and Bivalvia (Mollusca) of Crete island (S. Aegean Sea). Bolletino Malacologico, 28: 69-82.
Koutsoubas D., Tselepides A., Eleftheriou A., 2000. Deep Sea Molluscan Fauna of the Cretan Sea (Eastern Mediterranean): Faunal, Ecological and Zoogeographical Remarks. Sencken. Marit., 30(3/6): 85-98.
Pancucci-Papadopoulou M.A., Siokou-Frangou I., Theocharis A., Georgopoulos D., 1992. Zooplankton vertical distribution in relation to the hydrology in the NW Levantine and SE Aegean seas (spring 1986). Oceanol. Acta, 15: 365-381.
Siokou-Frangou I, Christou ED, Fragopoulu N, Mazzocchi MG (1997) Mesozooplankton distribution from Sicily to Cyprus (Eastern Mediterranean): II. Copepod assemblages. Oceanol Acta 20:537-548
Tselepides A, Eleftheriou A (1992) South Aegean (Eastern Mediterranean) continental slope benthos: macrofaunalenvironmental relathionships. In: Rowe GT, Pariente V (eds) Deep-Sea food chains and the global carbon cycle. Kluwer Academic Publishers, p 139-156
Tselepides A, Lampadariou N (2004) Deep-sea meiofaunal community structure in the Eastern Mediterranean: are trenches benthic hotspots? Deep-Sea Research I 51:833-847
Tselepides A, Papadopoulou KN, Podaras D, Plaiti W, Koutsoubas D (2000) Macrobenthic community structure over the continental margin of Crete (South Aegean Sea, NE Mediterranean). Prog Oceanog 46:401-428
Weikert H, Koppelmann R, Wiegratz S (2001) Evidence of episodic changes in deep-sea mesozooplankton abundance and composition in the Levantine Sea (Eastern Mediterranean). Journal of Marine Systems 30:221-239