Original Paper

Marine Biology

, Volume 161, Issue 5, pp 1015-1026

First online:

Demographic parameters of two populations of red coral (Corallium rubrum L. 1758) in the North Western Mediterranean

  • L. BramantiAffiliated withCNRS, UMR8222, LECOB, Observatoire Océanologique, Université Pierre et Marie CurieInstituto de Ciencias del Mar, Barcelona (ICM-CSIC)Department of Biology, Università di Pisa Email author 
  • , I. VielminiAffiliated withAquaTT
  • , S. RossiAffiliated withEnvironmental Science and Technology Institute, Autonomous University of Barcelona
  • , G. TsounisAffiliated withLeibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology GmbH (ZMT)
  • , M. IannelliAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics, Università di Trento
  • , R. Cattaneo-ViettiAffiliated withDipartimento per lo Studio del Territorio e delle sue Risorse (Dip.Te.Ris), Università di Genova
  • , C. PrioriAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Università di Pisa
  • , G. SantangeloAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Università di Pisa

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The demographic and reproductive structure of populations represents the main data set needed for conservation and management plans. Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum has been exploited for 2,000 years, but only recently management plans have been solicited by the international community. We examined and compared the demographic features of two red coral shallow populations located in distinct geographic locations: Portofino (Italy) and Cap de Creus (Spain). Adults and juveniles density, growth rates, population size and age structure, fecundity and fertility were examined. Juveniles were the dominant class (33 %) in both populations. The analysis of the gamete content of 653 colonies revealed that the populations have balanced sex ratios and similar fertility and polyp fecundity. The average annual growth rate, determined on 119 colonies by annual growth rings count, was similar in both populations (0.24 mm year−1), decreasing with colony age. Maximum life span of 99 % of the colonies was 60 and 40 years at Portofino and Cap de Creus, respectively. Minimum harvestable size (7 mm basal diameter) was reached in 30–35 years, and the percentage of colonies above it was 6.7 % at Portofino and 2.1 % at Cap de Creus, where juvenile and adult colony densities were significantly lower and the percentage of commercial-sized colonies reduced by 25 % in just a few years. Notwithstanding similar growth and fecundity, the two populations showed different densities and size/age structures suggesting local factors, together with different fishing pressures, have to be taken into account in the management plans for this species.