ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202306.1521.v1
Subject: Environmental And Earth Sciences, Ecology Keywords: Gorgonians; benthic assemblages; fishing impact; global change; conservation; Mediterranean Sea
Online: 21 June 2023 (10:06:21 CEST)
Mass mortality events and anthropogenic impacts were increasingly documented affecting Paramuricea clavata (Risso, 1826) during the last decades. These impacts enhance the settling of epibiontic organisms on the injured colonies. The epibiosis was studied by photographic sampling carried out on the granitic outcrops of the Tavolara Channel within the Tavolara-Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Protected Area (NE Sardinia) between 2017-2023 at 35-55 m. The number of colonies and percent surface involved in epibiosis, the specific richness of the epibiontic community and the temporal evolution of the phenomenon were investigated. Almost all the investigated gorgonians (93%) showed parts involved in epibiosis, with a high percentage of covering (one-third of the surface). Out of the 37 epibiontic species recorded, the most recurrent described an ecological succession dominated by hydrozoans, sponges, bryozoans, serpulids and the parasitic soft coral Alcyomiun coralloides. Nevertheless, single colonies studied through time revealed the unpredictability of the colonization process. The peculiar habitat of a high naturalistic value of the granitic outcrops hosting the P. clavata forests demonstrates a widespread suffering condition, supported both by environmental and anthropogenic sources of stress. Such considerations make it necessary to review the current zonation of the area, where the actual vulnerability and usability evaluations are based on obsolete information.