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Hydrobiologia

, Volume 784, Issue 1, pp 211–224 | Cite as

Does historical harvesting affect colony size distribution and genetic diversity in Corallium rubrum (Linnaeus, 1758)? Evidences from the Southern Mediterranean commercial banks

  • Sabri JaziriEmail author
  • Federica CostantiniEmail author
  • Luca Rugiu
  • Marco Abbiati
  • Othman Jarboui
Primary Research Paper

Abstract

The precious octocoral Corallium rubrum has a long history of exploitation in the Mediterranean Sea. Historically, harvesting followed the “boom and bust” cycles whereby newly discovered beds were overexploited to depletion. In the past, most of the red coral harvesting came form France, Italy, and Spain. Today, landing data show that Tunisia is the third largest supplier of C. rubrum. The aim of this study was to asses whether and how the exploitation effort affects size distribution and genetic diversity of Tunisian commercial populations. Biometric data and microsatellite markers were used to characterize 113 colonies collected on nine commercial banks. Size and branching pattern indicate that collected colonies are up to 100 years old with a high reproductive rate. Nevertheless, 38% of the colonies were undersized according to FAO-GFCM recommendations (basal diameter <7 mm). Tunisian populations showed a weak genetic structuring and significant differentiation between coastal and offshore populations. Harvesting did not alter the structure of red coral populations. However, technological improvement and intensive harvesting of Tunisian banks, if not properly managed, may lead to their rapid depletion, causing long-lasting shifts in population demography and genetic structure, and the loss of this valuable resource.

Keywords

Red coral Management Tunisia Population genetics Connectivity Colony size 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study was carried out in the framework of a cooperation agreement between stakeholders in the red coral fisheries: researchers, administration, and fishermen (UTAP, divers, traders, and ship-owners). A special thanks to all of them. We declare no conflicts of interest. Sabri JAZIRI was supported by a Ph.D grant from the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture, Institution for Agricultural Research and Higher Education, and National Institute of Marine Sciences and Technologies. This study was also supported by the PRIN 2011 project on “Coastal bioconstructions: structure, function and management,” Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare (Project 2010, Studio di popolazioni di Corallo rosso profondo), and Ministero delle Politiche Agricole, Alimentari e Forestali (Project 2012, Use of ROV in the management of deep C. rubrum populations). We are also greatly thankful to Dr. J.X.W. Wong and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions, which greatly improved the quality of the manuscript.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut National des Sciences et Technologie de la Mer (INSTM)SalammbôTunisia
  2. 2.Institut National Agronomique de Tunisie (INAT)MahrajèneTunisia
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienze Biologiche, Geologiche e Ambientali, Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerca per le Scienze AmbientaliUniversità di Bologna,UR CoNISMaRavennaItaly
  4. 4.Section of Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  5. 5.ISMAR, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche - Istituto di Scienze MarineBolognaItaly

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