The study areas of the project include MPAs and Natura sites. One key study area will be visited in each country. In Greece, the targeted MPA is the regional marine park of northern Karpathos Saria and Astakidonision (GR4210003); it is located in the island of Karpathos and exhibits three marine habitat types, as defined in the Natura 2000 framework: Posidonia beds, Shallow bays (soft bottom) and Reefs.
The Park covers 6116.24 ha of land and 5181.74 ha of sea. In Cyprus, the targeted MPA is the Kavo Gkreko (CY3000005), located in the south-eastern part of the island and covering 914.3 ha of terrestrial and 961.7 ha of marine area. It encompasses the marine habitat types identified in the Karpathos study area, as well as Sandbanks. In Albania, the study site is the area Ksamil Bay and islands – Stillo Cape – Togo Island south of Saranda town up to Greek coastal border), with a total area of about 10.000 ha, of which 1.000 ha is the marine area. It is a proposed MPA and includes an existing Coastal Protected Area (CPA), a National Park, a Ramsar site (lagoon of Butrint) and an archaeological/UNESCO site (Butrint anthic town). Key habitats include Posidonia beds, which extend in more than 30 m depth, coralligenous assemblages, macroalgae belts with Cystoseira and Halophila species. Saranda is one of the most important tourist destinations in Albania and therefore one of the most impacted areas in the Albanian Ionian coast, especially Ksamil Bay and islands. In Bulgaria, the Natura 2000 site that will be visited is Gradina-Zlatna Ribka (BG0000146), with a total area of 1246.75 ha, including a terrestrial and a marine part (82,95% of the area). The marine part of the area consists of the semi-enclosed Sozopol Bay, the rocky shores of the Sv. Ivan and Sv. Peter islands and the peninsula of the town of Sozopol. Key marine habitats include Sandbanks which are slightly covered by seawater all the time (933.65 ha) and Reefs with brown, red and green macroalgae (95.92 ha). This site is strongly influenced by different anthropogenic pressures from the town of Sozopol, as well as the tourism and fisheries industries in the area.