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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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).

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Alves, F., Canning-Clode, J., Ribeiro, C. et al. Local benthic assemblages in shallow rocky reefs find refuge in a marine protected area at Madeira Island. J Coast Conserv 23, 373–383 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11852-018-0669-y

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Keywords

  • Community structure
  • Diadema africanum
  • Macroalgae
  • Human pressure
  • Madeira Island
  • Sessile macrofauna