, Volume 145, Issue 2, pp 381-391
Date: 10 Mar 2004

Intertidal assemblages on artificial and natural habitats in marinas on the north-west coast of Italy

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Following the progressive expansion of human populations, the number of artificial habitats is increasing in shallow waters of urbanised coastal areas. The comparison of assemblages between natural and artificial habitats is necessary to determine whether there is real loss and fragmentation of natural habitats. This study investigates the changes in intertidal assemblages caused by marinas for tourists, along exposed rocky shores on the north-west coast of Italy. Marinas, being made of transplanted boulders and by internal wave-sheltered seawalls, introduce different types of artificial habitats in a relatively small area. Intertidal assemblages on breakwaters, seawalls and adjacent rocky shores were compared at three locations, thousands of metres apart. To assess the generality of patterns through time, natural and artificial habitats were sampled at three different times, over a period of about 2 years. Data were analysed by means of multivariate and univariate analyses to test the hypotheses that assemblages and abundances of single taxa differed among habitats, consistently among locations and times of sampling. Furthermore, the variability of assemblages at the scales of tens of centimetres and metres was compared among habitats. Assemblages on seawalls were largely distinct from those on rocky shores or breakwaters. Seawalls, which supported a smaller number of species than breakwaters and rocky shores, were dominated by encrusting algae and lacked common species such as Rissoella verrucosa and Patella rustica. The abundance of main-space occupiers did not differ between breakwaters and rocky shores, but there were differences in variability of assemblages at both the spatial scales investigated. This study provides evidence for differences between intertidal assemblages supported by artificial habitats at marinas and those on adjacent rocky shores. Differences in habitat-structure (and/or wave-exposure in the case of seawalls) could explain the occurrence of distinct intertidal assemblages. Despite the nature and magnitude of these differences, varied according to the type of artificial habitat considered, neither breakwaters nor seawalls could be considered surrogates of rocky shores.

Communicated by R. Cattaneo-Vietti, Genova