Illegal trawling and induced invasive algal spread as collaborative factors in a Posidonia oceanica meadow degradation

Abstract

Posidonia oceanica, a key seagrass species of the Mediterranean Sea, shows clear signs of regression throughout the Mediterranean and illegal trawling is recognized as one of the main causes. We examined the condition of a P. oceanica meadow in Alykes Bay (Zakynthos Island, western Greece), a typical Mediterranean littoral area where illegal trawling is common practice, in respect to the total area affected, and in terms of possible ecological substitution. A side scan sonar (SSS) survey of the seafloor provided an image of the condition of the meadow and biological sampling evaluated the ecological status in affected meadow areas. SSS images revealed that trawling has a serious effect on the meadow, with 11% of the vegetated area being abraded, and the affected areas were also found to be fully colonized by the invasive alga Caulerpa racemosa. Moreover, unusually high densities of the polychaete Sabella pavonina were detected in the affected areas among C. racemosa fronds. Recolonization by P. oceanica of the affected meadow areas that have been colonized by C. racemosa seems improbable considering the allelopathic interactions between the species, with the alga displaying phytotoxic properties through caulerpenyne production and deterioration of the sediment quality.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the Community Initiative INTERREG IIIA Greece—Italy 2000–2006 for the financial support for this work under Grant No I3101024 (Acronym: GoW). We would also like to thank Dr G. Tryphonopoulos for aiding in the biological data collection and photographs, A. Koutsodendris for his assistance during the SSS data acquisition, Professor S. Sfendourakis for his valuable comments on the manuscript and Mrs A. Mullholland for comments on the language.

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Correspondence to Sotiris Kiparissis.

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Kiparissis, S., Fakiris, E., Papatheodorou, G. et al. Illegal trawling and induced invasive algal spread as collaborative factors in a Posidonia oceanica meadow degradation. Biol Invasions 13, 669–678 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-010-9858-9

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Keywords

  • Posidonia oceanica
  • Caulerpa racemosa var cylindracea
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Colonization
  • Side Scan Sonar
  • Trawling