A strong commitment to environmental sustainable development has always stood at the heart of Eni's strategies. This approach requires a continuous and systematic analysis of the environmental aspects; in this respect biodiversity conservation represents an essential part of Eni sustainability model. Taking into account different operating contexts and areas characterized by sensitive environments, several biodiversity studies have been undertaken both onshore (Italy-Val d'Agri, and Ecuador) and offshore (Barents Sea and Mediterranean Sea) in accordance with the most advanced and stringent international standards of EBI (Energy and Biodiversity Initiative, 2003). Eni, with the technical contribution of ISPRA - National Institute for the Protection and Environmental Research (ex ICRAM - Central Institute for Marine Research Applied to the Sea), University of Siena, Bologna and Lecce from 2003 to 2008, have carried out a research program with the aim to determine an optimal method to assess marine biodiversity associated with off-shore platforms and to understand the ecosystem role of these artificial structures. The research has been focused on the ecosystems around the gaseous hydrocarbon extraction platforms operating in the Ionian Sea and in the Adriatic Sea. The oceanographic research has been focused on both water column and sediment, while monitoring techniques ranged from fishing, visual census (the technique of taking a census by direct observation), biomarker-analyses, study of soft-bottom benthic assemblages, and ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) exploration, which enables a surface operator to interact with the marine environment without diving. In addition, an innovative methodology was applied with the use of remote sensing cameras placed on the platforms. The combination of these tested techniques have leaded to the definition of an optimum methodological approach to the characterization of the biodiversity in offshore environments. In particular, this study has showed that the species richness of the inner areas of the platforms resulted higher than that of previous studies carried out through traditional surveys, with new species not previously identified. In the offshore environment, the oil and gas platforms emerge as real hot spot of biodiversity: in fact the results have underlined the importance of these structures as areas of reproduction, of nursery and of attraction for a lot of fish species. The use, for the first time in Mediterranean Sea, of these techniques in off-shore platforms located in different areas allowed the introduction of an investigation protocol also replicable in other areas. The results of study may also contribute significantly toward resolving and preventing conflicts with local fishing interests, through the development of joint strategies for the protection of fish resources

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