The northern Adriatic Sea (NAS) hosts numerous biogenic subtidal reefs that are considered biodiversity hotspots. Several studies have already investigated the origin and biodiversity of these reefs. However, many of them are still unexplored and further knowledge is needed for their conservation. Here, the spatial variability, epibenthic community structure, and environmental features that characterize these habitats were investigated. Fifteen randomly selected reefs were sampled between 2013 and 2017, including some remote sites that have never been studied before. A fuzzy k-means clustering method and redundancy analysis were used to find similarities among sites in terms of epibenthic assemblages and to model relationships with abiotic variables. The results showed that these reefs are highly heterogeneous in terms of species composition and geomorphological features. The results were also consistent with previous studies and highlighted three main types of benthic assemblages defined by the dominance of different organisms, mainly reflecting the coastal-offshore gradient: nearshore reefs, generally dominated by stress-tolerant species; reefs at a middle distance from the coast, characterized by sponges, non-calcareous encrusting algae and ascidians; offshore reefs, dominated by reef builders. However, distance from the coast was not the only factor affecting species distribution, as other local factors and environmental characteristics also played a role. This kind of biogenic reefs in temperate seas are still poorly known. The present work contributed to shed further light on these habitats, by complementing the results of previous studies on their natural diversity, highlighting the specificity of the epibenthic communities of NAS reefs and the need to improve current, still inadequate, conservation measures.

Spatial patterns and drivers of benthic community structure on the northern Adriatic biogenic reefs

Sara Kaleb;Cosimo Solidoro;Vinko Bandelj;Annalisa Falace
2023-01-01

Abstract

The northern Adriatic Sea (NAS) hosts numerous biogenic subtidal reefs that are considered biodiversity hotspots. Several studies have already investigated the origin and biodiversity of these reefs. However, many of them are still unexplored and further knowledge is needed for their conservation. Here, the spatial variability, epibenthic community structure, and environmental features that characterize these habitats were investigated. Fifteen randomly selected reefs were sampled between 2013 and 2017, including some remote sites that have never been studied before. A fuzzy k-means clustering method and redundancy analysis were used to find similarities among sites in terms of epibenthic assemblages and to model relationships with abiotic variables. The results showed that these reefs are highly heterogeneous in terms of species composition and geomorphological features. The results were also consistent with previous studies and highlighted three main types of benthic assemblages defined by the dominance of different organisms, mainly reflecting the coastal-offshore gradient: nearshore reefs, generally dominated by stress-tolerant species; reefs at a middle distance from the coast, characterized by sponges, non-calcareous encrusting algae and ascidians; offshore reefs, dominated by reef builders. However, distance from the coast was not the only factor affecting species distribution, as other local factors and environmental characteristics also played a role. This kind of biogenic reefs in temperate seas are still poorly known. The present work contributed to shed further light on these habitats, by complementing the results of previous studies on their natural diversity, highlighting the specificity of the epibenthic communities of NAS reefs and the need to improve current, still inadequate, conservation measures.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/3049918
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