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Changes and stability of a Mediterranean hard bottom benthic community over 25 years

  • Marco Bertolino (a1), Federico Betti (a1), Marzia Bo (a1), Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti (a2), Maurizio Pansini (a1), Jeniffer Romero (a1) and Giorgio Bavestrello (a1)...


During the last decades, the Mediterranean shallow-water benthic communities have experienced significant changes in taxa composition and distribution. These variations were related to a complex set of anthropogenic stressors as well as to mass mortality events starting from 1999 and related to the current climatic changes. To evaluate the effect of these changes on long-living species with a limited larval dispersal capacity, a quantitative and qualitative monitoring of the shallow-water hard bottom community structure was performed over a pluri-decennial interval of time. The aim of this work was the comparison of the quali-quantitative occurrence and seasonal cycles of several benthic taxa living on a rocky cliff of the Portofino Promontory (eastern Liguria, Mediterranean Sea), from 15 to 20 m depth. The studied community, within a LithophylloHalimedetum tunae association, was analysed by sets of photographs repeated, exactly in the same site, at 25 years of distance (1987/88 and 2012/13). The results suggest that the macroalgal coverage of the surveyed cliff suffered, during the monitored span of time, a significant depletion in quali-quantitative terms, while the overall sponge coverage remained almost unvaried. Nevertheless, a discrete analysis of the most common sponge species present in the study area showed significant variations, with some taxa now more abundant (Axinella spp. and Agelas oroides), some virtually stable (Cliona viridis and the complex of red encrusting sponges), and others drastically depleted (Chondrosia reniformis, Phorbas tenacior, Acanthella acuta, Ircinia spp., Dysidea avara and Petrosia ficiformis). Finally, some sponge species showed clear seasonal cycles indicating recruitment periods and post-recruit mortalities.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to:M. Bertolino, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell'Ambiente e della Vita, Università degli Studi di Genova, Corso Europa, 26, 16132, Genova, Italy email:


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Changes and stability of a Mediterranean hard bottom benthic community over 25 years

  • Marco Bertolino (a1), Federico Betti (a1), Marzia Bo (a1), Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti (a2), Maurizio Pansini (a1), Jeniffer Romero (a1) and Giorgio Bavestrello (a1)...


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