Fucales (Phaeophyceae) are ecosystem engineers and forest-forming macroalgae whose populations are declining dramatically. In the Mediterranean Sea, Cystoseira sensu lato (s.l.)—encompassing the genera Cystoseira sensu stricto, Ericaria, and Gongolaria—is the most diverse group, and many species have been shown to be locally extinct in many areas, resulting in a shift toward structurally less complex habitats with the consequent loss of ecosystem functions and services. In this study, we report on the extensive occurrence of healthy and dense marine forests formed by Fucales in the Santa Maria di Castellabate Marine Protected Area in Cilento, Italy (Tyrrhenian Sea, Mediterranean). On a total area of 129.45 ha, 10 Cystoseira s.l. taxa were detected using a combined morphological and molecular approach, with an average cover of more than 70%. One of these taxa has been sequenced for the first time. These findings underline the high ecological value of this area as a hotspot of benthic biodiversity and highlight the importance of marine protected area management and regional monitoring programs to ensure the conservation of these valuable yet fragile coastal ecosystems.

The Lush Fucales Underwater Forests off the Cilento Coast: An Overlooked Mediterranean Biodiversity Hotspot

Annalisa Falace
Conceptualization
;
2023-01-01

Abstract

Fucales (Phaeophyceae) are ecosystem engineers and forest-forming macroalgae whose populations are declining dramatically. In the Mediterranean Sea, Cystoseira sensu lato (s.l.)—encompassing the genera Cystoseira sensu stricto, Ericaria, and Gongolaria—is the most diverse group, and many species have been shown to be locally extinct in many areas, resulting in a shift toward structurally less complex habitats with the consequent loss of ecosystem functions and services. In this study, we report on the extensive occurrence of healthy and dense marine forests formed by Fucales in the Santa Maria di Castellabate Marine Protected Area in Cilento, Italy (Tyrrhenian Sea, Mediterranean). On a total area of 129.45 ha, 10 Cystoseira s.l. taxa were detected using a combined morphological and molecular approach, with an average cover of more than 70%. One of these taxa has been sequenced for the first time. These findings underline the high ecological value of this area as a hotspot of benthic biodiversity and highlight the importance of marine protected area management and regional monitoring programs to ensure the conservation of these valuable yet fragile coastal ecosystems.
2023
Pubblicato
https://www.mdpi.com/2223-7747/12/7/1497
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/3042598
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