Marine caves of the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea: a First Census of BenthicBiodiversity

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This is the first paper documenting research on a selection of marine caves located along the coast of Capo Milazzo in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea. Three submarine and one semi-submerged caves were surveyed and sampled using underwater photo sampling. Surveys have only taken into account the sessile species belonging to the main taxa: Porifera, Anthozoa, Bryozoa and Polychaeta. Diversity indices and abundances were calculated for three sections within each explored cave: the Entrance Zone, Intermediate Zone and Bottom Zone. The richest group was Porifera with 21 taxa, followed by cnidarians, (Anthozoa), with 8 taxa, Polychaeta (5 taxa), and Bryozoa (5 taxa). Among Porifera, the presence of Petrobiona massiliana, a protected species according to SPA/BIO Protocol and the Bern Convention, must be highlighted. The encrusting forms were dominant in the Bottom Zone, the massive forms in the Intermediate Zone and the arborescent forms in the Entrance Zone. Generally, the percentage coverage of each morphological group showed a decline in the Intermediate Zone and a general increase in the Dark Zone within each cave. The S, H’ and J values showed different trends in the five caves. These differences, also evidenced by Permanova analysis, depend on the topographic specificity of each cave which, in turn, affects the gradients of the biotic and abiotic parameters. Finally, no horizontal gradient of rarefaction of the benthic sessile fauna has been detected. This study represents an important step for the management and conservation practices of these fragile ecosystems, especially in view of the forthcoming establishment of the Marine Protected Area.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)1-9
Numero di pagine9
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2017


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