ReSilience of long-lived MARine sTructural species in a changing world: towards a sustainable coastal management and restoration (SMART)

 

Model species

The project will focus on long-lived structural species given their contribution to habitat structural complexity, to biodiversity and their fragility face to increasing threats. More specifically, the different questions proposed in the study will be addressed using four coral and gorgonian species (the coral Cladocora caespitosa, the red coral Corallium rubrum, the red gorgonian Paramuricea clavata and the white gorgonian Eunicella singularis) and one deep-water algae (Cystoseira zosteroides), which have been intensively studied by the research team during the last years.


Cladocora caespitosa

Corallium rubrum

Paramuricea clavata

Eunicella singularis

Cystoseira zosteroides

The distribution of these species is basically restricted to the Mediterranean, where they usually form dense populations that thrive at a range of 10–100 m depth. These species also contribute greatly to the aesthetic value of the Mediterranean sublittoral zone and attract high numbers of recreational divers. These species display slow growth rates and high longevity and they are characterised by episodic recruitment pulses which render them fragile face to the increase of disturbance regime. These species are being increasingly affected by warming, invasive species and other large and low frequency disturbances such as extraordinary storms, in addition, the red coral Corallium rubrum has been overharvested since ancient times. Overall, these long-lived structural species are an excellent model to examine a wide range of the processes underlying the resilience of marine benthic Mediterranean communities with a high patrimonial value.

 

Study sites

The project will be mainly performed in five Protected Areas (MPAs): Medes Islands Marine Reserve, Parc Natural del Cap Creus, Columbretes Marine Reserve, Illots de Ponents and Es Vedrà Natural Reserves and Réserve Naturelle de Scandola (France). We focused on MPAs because they include the most representative and richest sites harbouring populations of our model species. These MPAs are also characterized by different environmental conditions and they have been differentially affected by recent mass mortality events. These characteristics allow us to address accurately the questions proposed in the SMART project. The study areas are included in the T-MED Net network (an initiative of our research team), which is devoted to spread the acquisition of high resolution temperature series in Mediterranean coastal waters (0-40 m) (www.t-mednet.org) to characterize usual temperature regimes, as well as positive thermal anomalies linked to mass mortality events in several areas of the NW Mediterranean. These data have been crucial to determine the relationship between temperature and mass mortality impacts and guided realistic experimental conditions in thermal tolerance experimental approaches.

1) Medes Islands Marine Reserve 2) Parc Natural del Cap Creus 3) Columbretes Marine Reserve

4) Illots de Ponents and Es Vedrà Natural Reserves 5) Réserve Naturelle de Scandola