Citizen-science for monitoring marine invasions and stimulating public engagement: a case project from the eastern Mediterranean.
The distribution of marine life has been alarmingly reshaped lately and the number of non-indigenous species and their impacts are rapidly escalating globally. Timely and accurate information about the occurrence of non-indigenous species are of major importance for the mitigation of the issue. However, still large gaps in knowledge about marine bioinvasion exist. Mediterranean Sea is among the most impacted ecoregions globally. In this work we present a comprehensive overview of the project "Is is Alien to you? Share it!!!" which monitors non-indigenous species in Greece and Cyprus with the help of citizen scientists. The goal of this work is to present this project as a case study in order to demonstrate how citizen science can substantially contribute to the monitoring of biological invasions. We compared the projects database with the databased of ELNAIS and EASIN, for discuss weaknesses and advantages and future steps for advancing the effort. In total 691 records of marine alien and cryptogenic species were collected in these 2 years from Greece and Cyprus, with the density of records reaching 20 observations per km2 in some locations. The project has contributed significantly in the assessment of descriptor D2 "Exotic Species" of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, with 3 new species for Greece. Future steps should focus on training citizens to report less reported taxa and raising the awareness of all relevant stakeholders.