A large amount of data on the precious coral Corallium rubrum has attested to a dramatic shift in the size structure of its over-harvested Mediterranean populations in recent decades. One of the main problems for the conservation of this species is the substantial lack of data concerning the time span necessary for a population subjected to pluri-decennial harvesting pressure to return to its pristine status. Here, we present a multi-annual data set gathered from the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Portofino, which hosts the most important shallow-water coral populations in the Ligurian Sea and was subjected to strong harvesting pressure from the 1950s to the early 1970s. Quantitative comparison of the population structure data recorded in 1964, 1990 and 2012 indicated a strong size increase of the colonies (from 3 to 8 g mean weight), resulting in an increase in colony biomass from 300 to the current 1500 gm 2. As a consequence, over the same span of time, the density of colonies has slightly decreased. The role of mass mortality phenomena, like that occurred in this area during 1999, as possible biological features triggering the switch of red coral populations from a ‘grass plain-like’ towards a ‘forest-like’ structure, is discussed. All these data indicate that the instigation of MPAs is a winning strategy in the conservation of this precious species and similar management plans should also be evaluated for the protection of the deep benthic communities thriving on off-shore banks.
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|Titolo:||Long‐term comparison of structure and dynamics of the red coral metapopulation of the Portofino Promontory (Ligurian Sea): a case‐study for a Marine Protected Area in the Mediterranean Sea|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2015|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||01.01 - Articolo su rivista|