Leiopathes glaberrima is a tall arborescent black coral species structuring important facies of the deep-sea rocky bottoms of the Mediterranean Sea that are severely stifled by fishing activities. At present, however, no morphological in vivo description, ecological characterization, age dating and evaluation of the possible conservation actions have ever been made for any population of this species in the basin. A dense coral population was reported during two Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) surveys conducted on a rocky bank off the SW coasts of Sardinia (Western Mediterranean Sea). L. glaberrima forms up to 2 m-tall colonies with a maximal observed basal diameter of nearly 7 cm. The radiocarbon dating carried out on a colony from this site with a 4 cm basal diameter revealed an approximately age of 2000 years. Considering the size-frequency distribution of the colonies in the area it is possible to hypothesize the existence of other millennial specimens occupying a supposedly very stable ecosystem. The persistence of this ecosystem is likely guaranteed by the heterogeneous rocky substrate hosting the black coral population that represents a physical barrier against the mechanical impacts acted on the surrounding muddy areas, heavily exploited as trawling fishing grounds. This favorable condition, together with the existence of a nursery area for catsharks within the coral ramifications and the occurrence of a meadow of the now rare soft bottom alcyonacean Isidella elongata in small surviving muddy inclaves, indicates that this ecosystem have to be considered a pristine Mediterranean deep-sea coral sanctuary that would deserve special protection.

Persistence of pristine deep-sea coral gardens in the Mediterranean Sea (SW Sardinia)

CANNAS, RITA;CAU, ALESSANDRO;FOLLESA, MARIA CRISTINA;CAU, ANGELO
2015-01-01

Abstract

Leiopathes glaberrima is a tall arborescent black coral species structuring important facies of the deep-sea rocky bottoms of the Mediterranean Sea that are severely stifled by fishing activities. At present, however, no morphological in vivo description, ecological characterization, age dating and evaluation of the possible conservation actions have ever been made for any population of this species in the basin. A dense coral population was reported during two Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) surveys conducted on a rocky bank off the SW coasts of Sardinia (Western Mediterranean Sea). L. glaberrima forms up to 2 m-tall colonies with a maximal observed basal diameter of nearly 7 cm. The radiocarbon dating carried out on a colony from this site with a 4 cm basal diameter revealed an approximately age of 2000 years. Considering the size-frequency distribution of the colonies in the area it is possible to hypothesize the existence of other millennial specimens occupying a supposedly very stable ecosystem. The persistence of this ecosystem is likely guaranteed by the heterogeneous rocky substrate hosting the black coral population that represents a physical barrier against the mechanical impacts acted on the surrounding muddy areas, heavily exploited as trawling fishing grounds. This favorable condition, together with the existence of a nursery area for catsharks within the coral ramifications and the occurrence of a meadow of the now rare soft bottom alcyonacean Isidella elongata in small surviving muddy inclaves, indicates that this ecosystem have to be considered a pristine Mediterranean deep-sea coral sanctuary that would deserve special protection.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11584/104100
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