, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 377-397

Sewage pollution and extinction risk: an endangered limpet as a bioindicator?

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The mollusc Patella ferruginea, endemic to the Mediterranean, is the most endangered marine species on the list of the European Council Directive 92/43/EEC and it is under serious risk of extinction. In spite of the low abundances and restricted distribution of this limpet, important populations have been found in the harbour of Ceuta, north Africa. The main objective of the present study was to characterise, for the first time, the effects of sewage pollution on P. ferruginea and related limpet species, and to evaluate the potential value of these limpet assemblages as bioindicators, using univariate and multivariate analyses. Physicochemical parameters and limpets were sampled in nine stations located at 0, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 and 128 m away from the discharge point of a sewage effluent in Ceuta harbour. The stations closer to the outfall (0, 1, 2, 4 and 8) were characterised by higher values of turbidity, phosphate and ammonia in the water column, and organic matter, faecal coliforms and faecal Streptococci in sediments. A total of six limpet species were found and studied (Patella ferruginea, P. caerulea, P. nigra, P. rustica, P. ulyssiponensis and Siphonaria pectinata); the number of limpet species increased with increasing distance from the outfall, while diversity and evenness reached the highest values at intermediate sites. Siphonaria pectinata and P. caerulea were the most resistant and abundant species, while P. ferruginea was the most sensitive species to sewage pollution, only found at stations from 32 to 128 m. The distribution of this endangered limpet seems mainly affected by the pollution gradient, and not by the competition with the remaining limpets. The results of this study should be taken into account in future programmes of management and conservation of P. ferruginea.