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Open AccessArticle

Abrupt Change in a Subtidal Rocky Reef Community Coincided with a Rapid Acceleration of Sea Water Warming

1
Department of Earth, Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Genoa, 16132 Genoa, Italy
2
École Pratique des Hautes Études, USR 3278 EPHE-CNRS-UPVD CRIOBE, University of Perpignan, 66860 Perpignan, France
3
Italian Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, Marine Environment Research Centre, 19032 La Spezia, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2019, 11(11), 215; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11110215
Received: 27 September 2019 / Revised: 29 October 2019 / Accepted: 11 November 2019 / Published: 13 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Change Effects on Marine Benthos)
Seawater warming is impacting marine ecosystems, but proper evaluation of change requires the availability of long-term biological data series. Mesco Reef (Ligurian Sea, Italy) offers one of the longest Mediterranean data series on sessile epibenthic communities, based on underwater photographic surveys. Photographs taken in four stations between 20 m and 40 m depth allowed calculating the percent cover of conspicuous species in 1961, 1990, 1996, 2008, and 2017. Multivariate analysis evidenced an abrupt compositional change between 1990 and 1996. A parallel change was observed in Ligurian Sea temperatures. Two invasive macroalgae (Caulerpa cylindracea and Womersleyella setacea) became dominant after 1996. Community diversity was low in 1961 to 1996, rapidly increased between 1996 and 2008, and exhibited distinctly higher values in 2008–2017. A novel community emerged from the climate shift of the 1990s, with many once characteristic species lost, reduced complexity, biotic homogenization, greater diversity and domination by aliens. Only continued monitoring will help envisage the possibility for a reversal of the present phase shift or for further transformations driven by global change. View Full-Text
Keywords: sea water warming; historical data series; phase shift; subtidal sessile epibenthos; coralligenous community; alien species; biotic homogenization; Mediterranean Sea sea water warming; historical data series; phase shift; subtidal sessile epibenthos; coralligenous community; alien species; biotic homogenization; Mediterranean Sea
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Bianchi, C.N.; Azzola, A.; Parravicini, V.; Peirano, A.; Morri, C.; Montefalcone, M. Abrupt Change in a Subtidal Rocky Reef Community Coincided with a Rapid Acceleration of Sea Water Warming. Diversity 2019, 11, 215.

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