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“Pink round stones”—rhodolith beds: an overlooked habitat in Madeira Archipelago

Abstract

Despite its worldwide distribution in sedimentary infralittoral and circalittoral bottoms, rhodolith beds have been the subject of fewer studies than other nearshore communities, like kelp forests and coral reefs. This is also the case in Madeira archipelago (Eastern Atlantic), where until recently our knowledge on rhodolith beds was limited to a few references to its occurrence and species composition. In the course of an ongoing habitat-mapping project developed in Madeira, observations revealed that rhodolith beds are more common and extensive than previously supposed. The habitat maps for these beds in Madeira archipelago here presented are the first ever produced for the region. They reveal a total of 46 rhodolith beds at eleven different locations spread across three islands (Madeira, Desertas and Porto Santo), with areas ranging from 776 to 101,081 m2 and at depths between 12 and 35 m. Author’s observations, as well as the results suggest that more rhodolith beds are likely to exist in the archipelago, particularly at greater depths and unexplored locations. The application of molecular systematic tools for the identification of rhodolith-forming species revealed the occurrence of four species belonging to the genera Lithothamnion and Phymatolithon. This latter genus is represented by a single species which is commonly found in rhodolith beds of the archipelago. Genetically, our results show similarities both with the rhodolith communities from the Canary islands and the Algarve (south of Portugal) and highlight the singularities of the archipelago’s marine flora. The new array of data here presented is deemed essential for an effective management and conservation of these important and sensitive habitats.

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The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

Claúdia Ribeiro and Pedro Neves were financially supported by the Oceanic Observatory of Madeira Project (M1420- 01-0145-FEDER-000001— Observatório Oceânico da Madeira-OOM). Additional funding was provided from National Funds through FCT — Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, through the project UIDB/04326/2020 granted to Centro de Ciências do Mar (CCMAR). Acquisition of molecular data was carried out at the CNRS-UMS 2700 in Service de Systématique Moléculaire, MNHN, Paris with funds from the Action Transversale du Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle. Viviana Peña thanks Maria Tarin for collaboration with molecular work. The present work would not be possible without the help and support of several colleagues and institutions. The authors wish to thank Museu da Baleia da Madeira for the logistical support during the sampling efforts in Caniçal, the Instituto das Florestas e Conservação da Natureza for the assistance in field trips to several of the sampled locations, the Direcção Regional de Ordenamento do Território e do Ambiente (DROTA) for providing the reports from the Portuguese Hydrographic Institute (Instituto Hidrográfico, Estação de Biologia Marinha do Funchal for all the logistical support and our colleagues Luísa Costa and Andreia Braga-Henriques for their help with the rhodolith measurements. Finally, we also wish to thank Explorations de Monaco—Mission Macaronésie 2017, for the logistical support and opportunity to visit some of the surveyed sites. Finally, the authors are very grateful to three anonymous reviewers and editor for their comments and suggestions that significantly improved this manuscript.

Funding

Claúdia Ribeiro and Pedro Neves were financially supported by the Oceanic Observatory of Madeira Project (M1420-01-0145-FEDER-000001—Observatório Oceânico da Madeira-OOM). Additional funding was provided from National Funds through FCT——Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, under the projects UIDB/04326/2020 granted to CCMAR. Acquisition of molecular data was carried out at the CNRS-UMS 2700 in Service de Systématique Moléculaire, MNHN, Paris with funds from the Action Transversale du Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle.

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Contributions

All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by PN and CR. VP conducted the taxonomic and genetic analysis. The first draft of the manuscript was written by PN, CR and VP and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Pedro Neves.

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Conflicts of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare that are relevant to the content of this article.

Ethical approval

Authorizations for the samples collected were obtained via the regional authorities (Instituto das Florestas e da Conservação da Natureza—IP RAM).

Additional information

Communicated by Angus Jackson.

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This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Coastal and marine biodiversity.

Supplementary Information

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

10531_2021_2251_MOESM1_ESM.eps

Supplementary file1 (EPS 3665 kb) Geographical locations of confirmed (closed circles) and unconfirmed (open circles) sites of rhodolith-forming species. For numerical key refer to SI Table 1. CRS: WGS84

10531_2021_2251_MOESM2_ESM.eps

Supplementary file2 (EPS 1955 kb) Residuals plots for the GLM of L vs Location.Depth strata (a) and Multivariate GLM of the percentage of each shape-class on the different locations (b)

10531_2021_2251_MOESM3_ESM.eps

Supplementary file3 (EPS 176 kb) Phylogenetic tree inferred from ML and BI analyses of psbA sequences of the rhodolith-forming species collected in the islands of Madeira (MA) and Porto Santo (PO) (in bold) and publicly available sequences for Hapalidiales genera. Sequences of the generitypes of Lithothamnion, Phymatolithon and Mesophyllum are also highlighted in bold. Bootstrap ML values > 60% and posterior probabilities > 0.60 from Bayesian inference are shown for each node. Members of Lithophyllum (order Corallinales) were used as outgroup. Scale bar: 0.02 substitutions per site

Supplementary file4 (DOCX 27 kb)

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Neves, P., Silva, J., Peña, V. et al. “Pink round stones”—rhodolith beds: an overlooked habitat in Madeira Archipelago. Biodivers Conserv 30, 3359–3383 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-021-02251-2

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Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • Coralline red algae
  • Distribution
  • Habitat mapping
  • GIS
  • Marine community underwater surveys
  • Macaronesia
  • Rhodolith