Rendiconti Lincei. Scienze Fisiche e Naturali

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 583–588 | Cite as

Know the distribution to assess the changes: Mediterranean cold-water coral bioconstructions

  • Giovanni ChimientiEmail author
  • Marzia Bo
  • Francesco Mastrototaro
Changes and Crises in the Mediterranean Sea


Cold-water corals (CWCs) are the main engineers of extensive deep coral frameworks hosting a lush diversity of species in certain areas of the world, including the Mediterranean Sea. In this basin, the most important bioconstructor species are the so-called “white corals”, i.e. the colonial scleractinians Madrepora oculata and Lophelia pertusa as well as the solitary coral Desmophyllum dianthus. Anthropogenic impacts (e.g., fishing pressure) and human-induced changes (e.g., rising temperatures and ocean acidification) are known to affect these important deep-sea bioconstructors. The present paper provides an overview of the horizontal and vertical distribution of white corals in the Mediterranean Sea. The knowledge of the present distribution of living CWCs represents a crucial baseline to understand how anthropogenic and natural changes are affecting these deep Mediterranean habitats.


Deep sea White corals Distribution Biogeography Mediterranean Sea 


  1. Angeletti L, Taviani M, Canese S et al (2014) New deep-water cnidarian sites in the southern Adriatic Sea. Mediter Mar Sci 15(2):225–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bo M, Bava S, Canese S et al (2014) Fishing impact on deep Mediterranean rocky habitats as revealed by ROV investigation. Biol Conserv 171:167–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bo M, Bavestrello G, Angiolillo M et al (2015) Persistence of pristine deep-sea coral gardens in the Mediterranean Sea (SW Sardinia). PLoS ONE 10(3):e0119393. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chimienti G, Bo M, Taviani M, Mastrototaro F (2018) Occurrence and biogeography of Mediterranean cold-water corals. In: Orejas C, Jiménez C (eds) Mediterranean cold-water corals: past, present and future. Springer (in press)Google Scholar
  5. D`Onghia G, Maiorano P, Carlucci R et al (2012) Comparing deep-sea fish fauna between coral and non-coral “megahabitats” in the Santa Maria di Leuca cold-water coral Province (Mediterranean Sea). PLoS ONE 7(9):e44509. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. D’Onghia G, Maiorano P, Sion L et al (2010) Effects of deep-water coral banks on the abundance and size structure of the megafauna in the Mediterranean Sea. Deep-Sea Res II 57:397–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. D’Onghia G, Capezzuto F, Cardone F et al (2015) Macro- and megafauna recorded in the submarine Bari canyon (southern Adriatic, Mediterranean Sea) using different tools. Mediter Mar Sci 16(1):180–196. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. D’Onghia G, Calculli C, Capezzuto F et al (2016) Anthropogenic impact in the Santa Maria di Leuca cold-water coral province (Mediterranean Sea): observations and conservation straits. Deep Sea Res PT II 145:87–101. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Danovaro R, Corinaldesi C, Dell’Anno A, Snelgrove PVR (2017) The deep-sea under global change. Curr Biol 27(11):R461–R465. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. EC Reg. 2008/56 Establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (Marine Strategy Framework Directive). Accessed 2017-10-16 at
  11. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) (2009) International guidelines for the management of deep-sea fisheries in the high seas. FAO, Rome, p 73Google Scholar
  12. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) (2011) Report of the workshop on deep-sea species identification, Rome, 2–4 December 2009. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Report. No. 947. Rome: FAO. 209 ppGoogle Scholar
  13. Fink HG, Wienberg C, Hebbeln D et al (2012) Oxygen control on Holocene cold-water coral development in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Deep Sea Res PT I 62:89–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fink HG, Wienberg C, De Pol-Holz R, Wintersteller P, Hebbeln D (2013) Cold-water coral growth in the Alboran Sea related to high productivity during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene. Mar Geol 339:71–82. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fink HG, Wienberg C, De Pol-Holz R, Hebbeln D (2015) Spatio-temporal distribution patterns of Mediterranean cold-water corals (Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata) during the past 14,000 years. Deep Sea Res PT I 103:37–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Freiwald A, Roberts JM (eds) (2005) Cold-waters corals and ecosystems. Springer, Heidelberg, Berlin, p 1243.
  17. Freiwald A, Beuck L, Rüggeberg A et al (2009) The white coral community in the central Mediterranean Sea revealed by ROV surveys. Oceanography 22(1):58–74. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Freiwald A, Boetius A, Bohrmann G (2011) Deep water ecosystems of the Eastern Mediterranean, Cruise No. 70, Leg 1–3. METEOR-Berichte, p 312Google Scholar
  19. GFCM (General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean) (2006) Recommendation GFCM/2006/3. Report of the thirtieth session Istanbul. Turkey, 24–27 January 2206. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation, Rome, Italy, p 55Google Scholar
  20. Gori A, Orejas C, Madurell T et al (2013) Bathymetrical distribution and size structure of cold-water coral populations in the Cap de Creus and Lacaze-Duthiers canyons (northwestern Mediterranean). Biogeosciences 10:2049–2060. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gori A, Ferrier-Pagès C, Hennige SJ et al (2016) Physiological response of the cold-water coral Desmophyllum dianthus to thermal stress and ocean acidification. PeerJ 4:e1606. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kiriakoulakis K, Freiwald A, Fisher E, Wolff G (2007) Organic matter quality and supply to deep-water coral/mound systems of the NW European Continental Margin. Int J Earth Sci 96:159–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lo Iacono C, Gràcia E, Ranero CR et al (2014) The West Melilla cold-water coral mounds, eastern Alboran Sea: morphological characterization and environmental context. Deep Sea Res PT II 99:316–326. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Marchese C (2015) Biodiversity hotspots: a shortcut for a more complicated concept. Glob Ecol Conserv 3:297–309. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mastrototaro F, Matarrese A, Tursi A (2002) Un mare di coralli nel Mar Ionio. Biol Mar Mediter 9:616–619Google Scholar
  26. Mastrototaro F, D’Onghia G, Corriero G et al (2010) Biodiversity of the white coral ecosystem off cape Santa Maria di Leuca (Mediterranean Sea): an update. Deep Sea Res PT II 57:412–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mastrototaro F, Maiorano P, Vertino A et al (2013) A facies of Kophobelemnon (Cnidaria, Octocorallia) from Santa Maria di Leuca coral province (Mediterranean Sea). Mar Ecol 34:313–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mastrototaro F, Chimienti G, Capezzuto F et al (2015) First record of Protoptilum carpenteri (Cnidaria: Octocorallia: Pennatulacea) in the Mediterranean Sea. Ital J Zool 82(1):61–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McCulloch M, Taviani M, Montagna P et al (2010) Proliferation and demise of deep-sea corals in the Mediterranean during the Younger Dryas. Earth Planet Sci Lett 298:143–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Millot C, Taupier-Letage I (2005) Circulation in the Mediterranean Sea. The handbook of environmental chemistry 5 K. Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, pp 29–66Google Scholar
  31. Orejas C, Jiménez (eds) (in press) Mediterranean cold-water corals: past, present and future. SpringerGoogle Scholar
  32. Pérès JM, Picard J (1964) Nouveau manuel de bionomie benthique de la Mer Méditerranée. Rec Trav St Mar Endoume 31:1–137Google Scholar
  33. Roberts JM, Wheeler AJ, Freiwald A (2006) Reefs of the deep: the biology and geology of cold-water coral ecosystems. Science 312:543–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Roberts JM, Wheeler A, Freiwald A et al (2009) Cold-water corals: the biology and geology of deep-sea coral habitats. Cambridge University Press, New York, p 334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rodolfo-Metalpa R, Montagna P, Aliani S et al (2015) Calcification is not the Achilles’ heel of cold-water corals in an acidifying ocean. Glob Change Biol 21(6):2238–2248. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rosso A, Vertino A, Di Geronimo I et al (2010) Hard and soft-bottom thanatofacies from the Santa Maria di Leuca deep-water coral province, Mediterranean. Deep Sea Res PT II 57(5–6):360–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rueda JL, Urra J, Aguilar R et al (2018) Cold-water coral associated fauna in the Mediterranean Sea and adjacent areas. In: Orejas C, Jiménez C (eds) Mediterranean cold-water corals: past, present and future. SpringerGoogle Scholar
  38. Sweetman AK, Thurber AR, Smith CR et al (2017) Major impacts of climate change on deep-sea benthic ecosystems. Elem Sci Anth 5(4):1–23. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Taviani M, Freiwald A, Zibrowius H (2005) Deep coral growth in the Mediterranean Sea: an overview. In: Freiwald A, Roberts JM (eds) Cold-waters corals and ecosystems. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 137–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Taviani M, Angeletti L, Antolini B et al (2011a) Geo-biology of Mediterranean deep-water coral ecosystems. In: Brugnoli E, Cavaretta G et al (eds) Marine research at CNR. Dipartamento Terra e Ambiente, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Roma, pp 705–720Google Scholar
  41. Taviani M, Vertino A, López Correa M et al (2011b) Pleistocene to Recent scleractinian deep-water corals and coral facies in the Eastern Mediterranean. Facies 57:579–603. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Taviani M, Angeletti L, Beuck L et al (2015) Reprint of ‘On and off the beaten track: megafaunal sessile life and Adriatic cascading processes’. Mar Geol 375:146–160. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Taviani M, Angeletti L, Canese S et al (2016) The “Sardinian cold-water coral province” in the context of the Mediterranean coral ecosystems. Deep Sea Res PT I. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Thiem Ø, Ravagnan E, Fosså JH et al (2006) Food supply mechanisms for cold-water corals along a continental shelf edge. J Mar Syst 60:207–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tunesi L, Diviacco G (1997) Observation by submersible on the bottoms off shore Portofino Promontory (Ligurian Sea). In: Atti del 12° Congresso dell’Associazione Italiana di Oceanologia e Limnologia, pp 61–74Google Scholar
  46. Tursi A, Mastrototaro F, Matarrese A et al (2004) Biodiversity of the white coral reefs in the Ionian Sea (Central Mediterranean). Chem Ecol 20:107–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Vafidis D, Koukouras A, Voultsiadou-Koukoura E (1997) Actiniaria, Corallimorpharia and Scleractinia (Hexacorallia, Anthozoa) of the Aegean Sea, with a checklist of the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea species. Isr J Zool 43:55–70Google Scholar
  48. Vertino A, Stolarski J, Bosellini FR et al (2014) Mediterranean corals through time: from Miocene to Present. In: Goffredo S, Dubinsky Z (eds) The Mediterranean Sea: its history and present challenges, pp 257–274.
  49. Wienberg C, Titschack J (2017) Framework-forming scleractinian cold-water corals through space and time: a late quaternary North Atlantic perspective. In: Rossi S, Bramanti L, Gori A, Orejas C (eds) Marine animal forests: the ecology of benthic biodiversity hotspots. Springer, p 34.
  50. Yasuhara M, Danovaro R (2016) Temperature impacts on deep-sea biodiversity. Biol Rev 91:275–287. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zibrowius H (1980) Les scléractiniaires de la Méditerranée et de l’Atlantique nord-oriental. Mémoires de l’Institut océanographique, Monaco 11:1–284Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Biologia e CoNISMa LRUUniversità degli Studi di Bari Aldo MoroBariItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell’Ambiente e della VitaUniversità degli Studi di GenovaGenovaItaly

Personalised recommendations