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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2003

Pattern of distribution and diversity of demersal assemblages in the central Mediterranean sea

Colloca, Francesco; Cardinale, Massimiliano; Belluscio, Andrea; Ardizzone, Giandomenico


A highly diversified mix of fish species, cephalopods and crustaceans, together with several macro-epibenthic organisms, compose trawl catches in the Mediterranean Sea. Management of Mediterranean trawling needs a multispecies approach that considers the community and not the single species as the basic unit of the analysis. While many studies have correlated several environmental factors to the spatial organizations of demersal organisms, few have focused on the role of macro-epibenthic communities in structuring demersal assemblages. In this paper, the following hypotheses were tested: (1) there are discrete demersal assemblages in the central Mediterranean Sea; (2) the distribution and diversity of demersal communities does not change on small temporal scales (I year); (3) the demersal assemblages were segregated across both different epibenthic assemblages and depth gradients. Shallow stations were separated into coastal and middle-deep shelf assemblages while stations on the slope formed three main assemblages: slope edge, upper slope and middle slope assemblages. The demersal community did not show a substantial change at the small temporal scale. Sandy, sand-muddy and detritic epibenthic communities characterized coastal shelf assemblages, while epibenthic assemblage on muddy bottoms were dominant in the deeper areas of the shelf. A well-defined difference in macro-epibenthic faunal associations among stations on the slope (depth > 200 m) was not found. Depth appeared to affect diversity of the main taxa of demersal organisms in different ways. Teleostean diversity did not show any trend with depth, the number of cephalopod species increased on the shelf and decreased on the slope while crustacean and elasmobranch species richness increased significantly from the shelf to the middle slope. The strong correlation shown in this study between epifaunal benthic communities and demersal fish assemblages requires the formulation of an ecosystem-based management for the Mediterranean Sea trawl fisheries. The existence of such biological diversity certainly contributes to the Mediterranean ecosystem health and its conservation should become one of the main objective of demersal resources management in the future. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.


Mediterranean sea; assemblages structure; fauna distribution; macrobenthos; diversity

Published in

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
2003, Volume: 56, number: 3-4, pages: 469-480

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    Agricultural Science

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