Resilience of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica following pulse-type disturbance

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Understanding the response of species to disturbance and the ability to recover is crucial for preventing their potential collapse and ecosystem phase shifts. Explosive submarine activity, occurring in shallow volcanic vents, can be considered as a natural pulse disturbance, due to its suddenness and high intensity, potentially affecting nearby species and ecosystems. Here, we present the response of Posidonia oceanica, a long-lived seagrass, to an exceptional submarine volcanic explosion, which occurred in the Aeolian Archipelago (Italy, Mediterranean Sea) in 2002, and evaluate its resilience in terms of time required to recover after such a pulse event. The study was carried out in 2011 in the sea area off Panarea Island, in the vicinity of Bottaro Island by adopting a back-dating methodological approach, which allowed a retrospective analysis of the growth performance and stable carbon isotopes (δ13C) in sheaths and rhizomes of P. oceanica, during a 10-year period (2001-2010). After the 2002 explosion, a trajectory shift towards decreasing values for both the growth performance and δ13C of rhizomes was observed. The decreasing trend reversed in 2004 when recovery took place progressively for all the analysed variables. Full recovery of P. oceanica occurred 8 years after the explosive event with complete restoration of all the variables (rhizome growth performance and δ13C) by 2010. Given the ecological importance of this seagrass in marine coastal ecosystems and its documented large-scale decline, the understanding of its potential recovery in response to environmental changes is imperative.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution

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