Marine Biology

, Volume 158, Issue 11, pp 2459–2469 | Cite as

Testing a new classification of morphological functional groups of marine macroalgae for the detection of responses to stress

  • David BalataEmail author
  • Luigi Piazzi
  • Fabio Rindi
Original Paper


Morpho-functional group classifications have been widely used in studies concerning benthic macroalgal communities, due to their easy application and the reduced cost and workload compared with species-level identifications. However, their effectiveness in representing spatio-temporal patterns and describing the effect of disturbances has been disputed. We propose a new, expanded classification of morphological functional groups based on thallus structure, growth form, branching pattern, and taxonomic affinities. This approach was tested on subtidal macroalgal assemblages of the western Mediterranean. We examined the differences in composition of assemblages subjected to different types of stressors using species, traditional morphological groups, and new morphological groups. Results showed that the new morphological groups allowed to detect patterns highlighted through species analyses generally better than the use of traditional morpho-functional groups. The new morphological groups may represent a valid tool in monitoring programs and environmental impact assessments, where it is important to detect early stages of environmental changes using methods that allow to examine a large number of samples in a limited time.


Macroalgae Chlorophyta Rhodophyta Environmental Impact Assessment Morphological Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tenuta San BedaMontecarloItaly
  2. 2.Centro Interuniversitario di Biologia Marina ed Ecologia ApplicataLivornoItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienze del MareUniversità Politecnica delle MarcheAnconaItaly

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