Local benthic assemblages in shallow rocky reefs find refuge in a marine protected area at Madeira Island

  • Filipe AlvesEmail author
  • João Canning-Clode
  • Cláudia Ribeiro
  • Ignacio Gestoso
  • Manfred Kaufmann


The patterns of variability in the composition and structure of benthic communities along two depth strata (5 and 10 m) and the presence of sea urchins in structuring the subtidal rocky reefs were quantified in a long-established coastal marine protected area (Garajau MPA) and in two size equivalent and contiguous impacted areas (one highly urbanized and other with high fishing pressure) at Madeira Island (northeast Atlantic). Results suggest i) the MPA could be acting as a refuge for local biodiversity, ii) communities from the highly fished area could be suffering an impoverishment of local biodiversity, and iii) communities from the highly urbanized area would be enriched by the establishment of opportunistic species. These findings support that the level of human-pressure likely plays an important role in the composition of benthic communities in this insular ecosystem, although this was more relevant at the shallower stratum where the key grazer Diadema africanum explained 65% of the variance of benthic assemblages. It is suggested that this MPA small dimension and proximity to human impacted areas are limiting the survival of predators of the D. africanum.


Community structure Diadema africanum Macroalgae Human pressure Madeira Island Sessile macrofauna 



We thank Catarina Alves, Jorge Alves, Luís Dias, Cláudia Delgado, Helena Kaufmann, and Filipe Henriques for their collaboration during the sampling surveys, and Serviço do Parque Natural da Madeira (as IFCN since 2016) and Frente MarFunchal for logistical support. This study was partially supported by the Oceanic Observatory of Madeira for funding the CR postdoctoral grant throughout the project M1420-01-0145-FEDER-000001-OOM, and by ARDITI - Madeira’s Regional Agency for the Development of Research, Technology and Innovation, for funding the FA and IG postdoctoral grants throughout the Project Madeira M1420-09-5369-FSE-000001. JCC was supported by a starting grant in the framework of the 2014 FCT Investigator Programme (IF/01606/2014/CP1230/CT0001).

Compliance with ethical standards

Declarations of interest


Research data

The data used in the present study is available as Electronic supplementary material B.

Supplementary material

11852_2018_669_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 18 kb)
11852_2018_669_MOESM2_ESM.xls (174 kb)
ESM 2 (XLS 174 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MARE, Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Quinta do Lorde MarinaCaniçalPortugal
  2. 2.CIIMAR-Madeira, Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research of MadeiraFunchalPortugal
  3. 3.OOM, Oceanic Observatory of Madeira, Madeira TecnopoloFunchalPortugal
  4. 4.Department of Oceanography and FisheriesIMAR, Centre of the University of the AzoresAzoresPortugal
  5. 5.Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterEdgewaterUSA
  6. 6.CCMAR, Centro de Ciências do MarFaroPortugal
  7. 7.Faculty of Life Sciences, Marine Biology Station of FunchalUniversity of MadeiraFunchalPortugal
  8. 8.CIIMAR, Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental ResearchUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal

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