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FEMI
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Faunistics and ecology of the Maltese Islands (FEMI)


This ongoing research project was started in 1984 with the following objectives:

(i) The compilation and analysis of existing data on the faunistics and ecology (coastal and marine) of the Maltese Islands with the aim of assessing present knowledge, identifying areas where information is still poor or non-existent, and producing a baseline account as a starting point for further work.

(ii) The detailed study of particular habitats, and of the taxonomy, distribution, habitat relations, biogeographical affinity, basic ecology and conservation status of particular groups of the Maltese fauna. These groups were chosen taking into consideration a number of factors including: intrinsic biological interest, importance in terms of the biogeography of the Maltese Islands, the fact that they have been little studied, the ecosystem services they provide, and their potential for use as biological indicators of environmental quality and habitat type. 

(iii) The assessment of human impact on the natural environment, particularly the biota, habitats and ecosystems, of the Maltese Islands. The aim here is to generate good quality information on which to base policies for the sound management of local biotic resources.

The main results obtained to date include:

  • The production of inventories of various groups of marine animals, including: sponges, thoracican cirripedes, brachyuran decapod crustaceans, polyplacophoran, gastropod and cephalopod molluscs, echinoderms and elasmobranchs. Work on other groups is in progress.
  • Characterisation of particular habitats, including: saline marshlands, coastal rock-pools, rocky shore littoral habitats, sandy and shingle beaches and seagrass meadows.
  • The production of accounts of human impact on the local ecosystem, including the impact of the sewage outfall at Wied Ghammieq on the shore biota at Ix-Xghajra, the impacts of marine aquaculture installations on benthic assemblages, the impact of the thermal effluent from the Delimara Power Station on the benthic ecology of the discharge site at Il-Hofra z-Zghira, and the effect of coastal development on seagrass meadows.
  • The characterisation and mapping of the major marine habitat types in the Maltese Islands.
  • The compilation of a database on the biodiversity of the Maltese Islands.

Work carried out as part of the FEMI programme formed the basis of the marine component of a number of reports, including: the Malta Structure Plan Report of Survey on natural resources [Malta Structure Plan Technical Report Nº 5.4 - Planning Services Division, Floriana] upon which the present Malta Structure Plan policies on conservation are based; the publications Localities with Conservation Value in the Maltese Islands and the Red Data Book for the Maltese Islands, which are the first of their kind locally and are extensively used as reference works on conservation and management of species and habitats and the chapter on "Living resources, fisheries and agriculture" of the first ever State of the Environment Report for Malta 1998 and in the second such report State of the Environment Report for Malta 2002. Data on local habitats and species generated as part of FEMI have also formed part of Maltese contributions to international compilations on nature conservation. 
This programme is funded mainly by University of Malta research grants with some subsidiary funding from external sources, such as the Malta Environment & Planning Authority.

 

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Last Updated: 14 October 2010

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