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Concept: Albania


The Mediterranean shores stretching between Sicily, Southern Italy and the Southern Balkans witnessed a long series of migration processes and cultural exchanges. Accordingly, present-day population diversity is composed by multiple genetic layers, which make the deciphering of different ancestral and historical contributes particularly challenging. We address this issue by genotyping 511 samples from 23 populations of Sicily, Southern Italy, Greece and Albania with the Illumina GenoChip Array, also including new samples from Albanian- and Greek-speaking ethno-linguistic minorities of Southern Italy. Our results reveal a shared Mediterranean genetic continuity, extending from Sicily to Cyprus, where Southern Italian populations appear genetically closer to Greek-speaking islands than to continental Greece. Besides a predominant Neolithic background, we identify traces of Post-Neolithic Levantine- and Caucasus-related ancestries, compatible with maritime Bronze-Age migrations. We argue that these results may have important implications in the cultural history of Europe, such as in the diffusion of some Indo-European languages. Instead, recent historical expansions from North-Eastern Europe account for the observed differentiation of present-day continental Southern Balkan groups. Patterns of IBD-sharing directly reconnect Albanian-speaking Arbereshe with a recent Balkan-source origin, while Greek-speaking communities of Southern Italy cluster with their Italian-speaking neighbours suggesting a long-term history of presence in Southern Italy.

Concepts: Mediterranean Sea, Europe, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Sicily, Albania, Albanian language


Pushed by ongoing conflicts and pulled by the desire for a better life, over one million migrants/refugees transited Balkan countries and arrived in Europe during 2015 and early 2016. To curb this influx, European countries instituted restrictive migration policies often characterized by building of razor-wire border fences and border closures. Among migrants/refugees who received mental health care in Serbia while travelling through Balkan countries to Northern Europe, we assessed the prevalence and patterns of violent events experienced including physical trauma.

Concepts: Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Central Europe, Bulgaria, Albania, Croatia, Kosovo


A collection of 172 durum wheat landraces from 21 Mediterranean countries and 20 modern cultivars were phenotyped in 6 environments for 14 traits including phenology, biomass, yield and yield components. The genetic structure of the collection was ascertained with 44 simple sequence repeat markers that identified 448 alleles, 226 of them with a frequency lower than 5%, and 10 alleles per locus on average. In the modern cultivars all the alleles were fixed in 59% of the markers. Total genetic diversity was HT = 0.7080 and the genetic differentiation value was GST = 0.1730. STRUCTURE software allocated 90.1% of the accessions in five subpopulations, one including all modern cultivars, and the four containing landrace related to their geographic origin: eastern Mediterranean, eastern Balkans and Turkey, western Balkans and Egypt, and western Mediterranean. Mean yield of subpopulations ranged from 2.6 t ha-1 for the western Balkan and Egyptian landraces to 4.0 t ha-1 for modern cultivars, with the remaining three subpopulations showing similar values of 3.1 t ha-1. Modern cultivars had the highest number of grains m-2 and harvest index, and the shortest cycle length. The diversity was lowest in modern cultivars (HT = 0.4835) and highest in landraces from the western Balkans and Egypt (HT = 0.6979). Genetic diversity and AMOVA indicated that variability between subpopulations was much lower (17%) than variability within them (83%), though all subpopulations had similar biomass values in all growth stages. A dendrogram based on simple sequence repeat data matched with the clusters obtained by STRUCTURE, improving this classification for some accessions that have a large admixture. landraces included in the subpopulation from the eastern Balkans and Turkey were separated into two branches in the dendrogram drawn with phenotypic data, suggesting a different origin for the landraces collected in Serbia and Macedonia. The current study shows a reliable relationship between genetic and phenotypic population structures, and the connection of both with the geographic origin of the landraces.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Mediterranean Sea, Sociology, Turkey, Greek language, Greece, Albania


The Neolithic populations, which colonized Europe approximately 9,000 y ago, presumably migrated from Near East to Anatolia and from there to Central Europe through Thrace and the Balkans. An alternative route would have been island hopping across the Southern European coast. To test this hypothesis, we analyzed genome-wide DNA polymorphisms on populations bordering the Mediterranean coast and from Anatolia and mainland Europe. We observe a striking structure correlating genes with geography around the Mediterranean Sea with characteristic east to west clines of gene flow. Using population network analysis, we also find that the gene flow from Anatolia to Europe was through Dodecanese, Crete, and the Southern European coast, compatible with the hypothesis that a maritime coastal route was mainly used for the migration of Neolithic farmers to Europe.

Concepts: Mediterranean Sea, Europe, Spain, Turkey, Greek language, Greece, Albania, Slovenia


Continental Shelf Waves (CSWs) are oscillatory phenomena migrating along the continental margins, controlled by the interplay of rotation and bathymetric gradients. Here we combine observational data from five moored current meters and high-resolution hydrodynamic model fields for describing the generation and propagation of CSWs along the Southern Adriatic Margin (SAM, eastern Mediterranean Sea), where the possibility of their occurrence has been theoretically hypothesised but not experimentally observed up to now. Results show that in spring 2012 a train of CSWs with 35-87 km wavelength and 2-4 day period was generated on the northern sectors of the SAM and propagated southwards along its western slope. Along their path, CSWs modify their apparent frequency and oscillation mode as an effect of the background current and scattering caused by changes in the continental margin morphology. This signal appears as a persistent feature triggered by the inflow of a dense water vein formed in the northern Adriatic Sea, propagating upwelling and downwelling patterns along broad sectors of the continental slope. CSWs thus appear as an additional remote-controlled mechanism for cross-shelf exchange of water, sediment and nutrients in the SAM, besides the well-acknowledged dense water downflow along preferential pathways driven by local topographic constraints.

Concepts: Oceanography, Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Oscillation, Hypothesis, Albania, Continental shelf, Continental margin


Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is the most widespread tick-borne disease of humans, occurring from western China to the Balkans in Eurasia and south throughout the length of Africa. Its incidence has increased over the past decade, particularly in Turkey and Iran, and the disease has also emerged in India. Research has been hindered by limited laboratory capacity in many regions where the disease is prevalent, indicating the need for collaboration between investigators in endemic countries and those with greater scientific resources. In an effort to increase such collaboration, the First International Conference on Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever was held in Thessaloniki, Greece, from February 13-14, 2015. This meeting followed the conclusion of an EU-supported Collaborative Project under the Health Cooperation Work Programme of the 7th Framework Programme (Grant agreement No. 260427). It is expected to be the first in a series of meetings that will bring together researchers from around the world to exchange knowledge and experience on various aspects of CCHF. This report summarizes major presentations by the invited speakers at the First International Conference on CCHF.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Prevalence, Balkans, Turkey, Collaboration, Greece, Albania, Ottoman Empire


Assessing the distribution and intensity of human threats to biodiversity is a prerequisite for effective spatial planning, harmonizing conservation purposes with sustainable development. In the Mediterranean Sea, the management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is rarely based on explicit consideration of the distribution of multiple stressors, with direct assessment of their effects on ecosystems. This gap limits the effectiveness of protection and is conducive to conflicts among stakeholders. Here, a fine scale assessment of the potential effects of different combinations of stressors (both land- and marine-based) on vulnerable rocky habitats (i.e. lower midlittoral and shallow infralittoral) along 40 km of coast in the western Mediterranean (Ionian Sea) has been carried out. The study area is a paradigmatic example of socio-ecological interactions, where several human uses and conservation measures collide. Significant differences in the structure of assemblages according to different combinations of threats were observed, indicating distinct responses of marine habitats to different sets of human pressures. A more complex three-dimensional structure, higher taxon richness and β-diversity characterized assemblages subject to low versus high levels of human pressure, consistently across habitats. In addition, the main drivers of change were: closeness to the harbour, water quality, and the relative extension of beaches. Our findings suggest that, although efforts to assess cumulative impacts at large scale may help in individuating priority areas for conservation purposes, the fact that such evaluations are often based on expert opinions and not on actual studies limits their ability to represent real environmental conditions at local scale. Systematic evaluations of local scale effects of anthropogenic drivers of change on biological communities should complement broad scale management strategies to achieve effective sustainability of human exploitation of marine resources.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Evaluation, Effectiveness, Mediterranean Sea, Sustainability, Italy, Sicily, Albania


Since their domestication in the Mediterranean zone of Southwest Asia in the eighth millennium BC, sheep, goats, pigs and cattle have been remarkably successful in colonizing a broad variety of environments. The initial steps in this process can be traced back to the dispersal of farming groups into the interior of the Balkans in the early sixth millennium BC, who were the first to introduce Mediterranean livestock beyond its natural climatic range. Here, we combine analysis of biomolecular and isotopic compositions of lipids preserved in prehistoric pottery with faunal analyses of taxonomic composition from the earliest farming sites in southeast Europe to reconstruct this pivotal event in the early history of animal husbandry. We observe a marked divergence between the (sub)Mediterranean and temperate regions of Southeast Europe, and in particular a significant increase of dairying in the biochemical record coupled with a shift to cattle and wild fauna at most sites north of the Balkan mountain range. The findings strongly suggest that dairying was crucial for the expansion of the earliest farming system beyond its native bioclimatic zone.

Concepts: Agriculture, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Balkans, Turkey, Livestock, Bulgaria, Albania


Health literacy (HL) may be an important determinant of health, but this concept is largely under-researched in Albania, a transitional country in the Western Balkans which is currently undergoing major political and socioeconomic changes. We aimed to assess the sociodemographic distribution of HL in this transitional South Eastern European country aspiring to join the European Union.

Concepts: European Union, United States, Eastern Europe, Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Kosovo, Republic of Macedonia


The aim was to describe health literacy among the older population of Kosovo, an Albanian speaking post-war country in the Western Balkans, in the context of self-perceived health status and self-reported chronic morbidity. A cross-sectional study was conducted in Kosovo in 2011 including 1753 individuals aged ≥65 years (886 men, 867 women; mean age 73.4 ± 6.3 years; response rate: 77%). Participants were asked to assess, on a scale from 1 to 5, their level of difficulty with regard to access, understanding, appraisal and application of health information. Sub-scale scores and an overall health literacy score were calculated for each participant. Information on self-perceived health status, presence and number of chronic diseases and socioeconomic characteristics was also collected. Mean values of the overall health literacy score and all sub-scale scores (access, understanding, appraisal and application) were lower among older people who reported a poorer health status or at least one chronic condition compared with individuals who perceived their health status as good or had no chronic conditions (p < 0.001 for all). Our findings provide valuable evidence on the independent and inverse association between health literacy levels and self-perceived health and chronic morbidity in this post-war European population. The putative link with chronic morbidity and lower adherence to health services is hard to establish through this cross-sectional study. Prospective population-based studies should be conducted in Kosovo and other transitional settings to replicate these findings and properly address the causal relationship between health literacy and health status.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Health, Sociology, Ageing, Health informatics, Literacy, Albania