Special Issue "Conservation of Marine Ecosystems: Selected Papers from MetroSea 2021"

A special issue of Biology (ISSN 2079-7737). This special issue belongs to the section "Marine Biology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 December 2021) | Viewed by 5414

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Roberto Carlucci
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biology, University of Bari, via Orabona 4, 70125 Bari, Italy
Interests: ecological modeling; marine trophic webs; fishery stock assessment; marine mammal conservation; marine biodiversity; ecosystem services
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Emilio Sperone
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biology, Ecology and Earth Sciences, Università della Calabria, via Pietro Bucci, 87036 Arcavacata di Rende, Cs, Italy
Interests: ecology; systematics (Taxonomy) and zoology of sharks; amphibians; reptiles; fish and marine mammals
Dr. Giulia Cipriano
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biology, University of Bari Aldo Moro, via Orabona 4, 70125 Bari, Italy
Interests: ecology; marine mammals; biodiversity; conservation; GIS; ecological modeling
Dr. Giovanni Chimienti
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biology, University of Bari Aldo Moro, Via Orabona 4, 70125 Bari, Italy
Interests: zoology; benthos; taxonomy; anthozoa; deep sea; mesophotic; corals; conservation
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Antonella Petrocelli
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Water Research Institute of National Research Council in Italy, IRSA CNR Talassografico “A. Cerruti”, 74123 Taranto, Italy
Interests: non-indigenous species; IMTA; bioactive compounds from macroalgae; circular economy from marine products

Special Issue Information

This Special Issue aims to gain contributions related to the conservation of marine ecosystems, proposed as extended abstracts at the 2021 IEEE International Workshop on Metrology for Sea.

Dear Colleagues,

The 2021 IEEE International Workshop on Metrology for the Sea (MetroSea) (http://www.metrosea.org/home) serves as a forum to gather contributions from people working to develop instrumentation and measurement methods related to the sea. Traditionally addressed to engineers and experts in measurement instrumentations and sensors, MetroSea is currently open to receiving contributions on measurements in the field of marine biology and ecology. This Special Issue aims to collect papers presented at the 2021 International Workshop “MetroSea” related to the following topics:

  • Advanced techniques for the monitoring of aquatic ecosystems;
  • Aquaculture;
  • Biodiversity;
  • Conservation;
  • Ecoinformatics;
  • Ecosystem services;
  • Marine biology;
  • Marine ecology.

Dr. Roberto Carlucci
Dr. Emilio Sperone
Dr. Giulia Cipriano
Dr. Giovanni Chimienti
Dr. Antonella Petrocelli
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Biology is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • biodiversity
  • marine biology
  • monitoring
  • conservation
  • ecosystem services

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
Environmental Status and Geomorphological Characterisation of Seven Black Coral Forests on the Sardinian Continental Shelf (NW Mediterranean Sea)
Biology 2022, 11(5), 732; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology11050732 - 11 May 2022
Viewed by 239
Abstract
Marine animal forests are key mesophotic ecosystems that are under threat from increasing natural and human pressures. Despite the fact that various international agreements strive to preserve these fragile ecosystems, the environmental status of the majority of these animal-structured environments is unknown. Assessing [...] Read more.
Marine animal forests are key mesophotic ecosystems that are under threat from increasing natural and human pressures. Despite the fact that various international agreements strive to preserve these fragile ecosystems, the environmental status of the majority of these animal-structured environments is unknown. Assessing their environmental status is the first step needed to monitor these essential habitats’ health over time and include them within conservation and protection frameworks, such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Based on Multibeam data and ROV footage, we characterized the geomorphological setting and evaluated the environmental status of seven black coral forests in the centre of the Western Mediterranean Sea, using the Mesophotic Assemblages Conservation Status (MACS) Index. The presence of two antipatharians, Antipathella subpinnata and Leiopathes glaberrima, characterized the seven investigated sites, dwelling on rocky substrate characterized by different environmental drivers (i.e., depth, slope of the substrate, terrain ruggedness, topographic positioning index, and aspect). From the combined evaluation of the associated benthic community status and the anthropogenic impacts affecting it, a “high” and “good” environmental status was assessed for five out of the seven studied black forests, with only two forests classified as having a “moderate” and “poor” status, respectively. Overall, our study showed a site-specific variability of mesophotic black coral forest status, explained by different biological community structures and environmental conditions mainly associated with morphological and anthropogenic factors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conservation of Marine Ecosystems: Selected Papers from MetroSea 2021)
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Article
Parasitic Load, Hematological Parameters, and Trace Elements Accumulation in the Lesser Spotted Dogfish Scyliorhinus canicula from the Central Tyrrhenian Sea
Biology 2022, 11(5), 663; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology11050663 - 26 Apr 2022
Viewed by 349
Abstract
Parasitological, hematological, and ecotoxicological analyses were carried out on a population of lesser spotted dogfish Scyliorhinus canicula from the central Mediterranean Sea. Parasitological analyses highlighted a poor helminthic community, highly dominated by a single taxon represented by the cestode Nybelinia sp. No differences [...] Read more.
Parasitological, hematological, and ecotoxicological analyses were carried out on a population of lesser spotted dogfish Scyliorhinus canicula from the central Mediterranean Sea. Parasitological analyses highlighted a poor helminthic community, highly dominated by a single taxon represented by the cestode Nybelinia sp. No differences in the parasitic load between females and males were observed. Hematological analyses showed that the number of leukocytes was significantly lower in the sharks that resulted in parasitism, and this could be due to the ability of some trace elements, such as arsenic, weakening the immune system and exposing animals to a higher risk of parasite infection, although further hematological and parasitological analyses are required on a larger number of samples. Trace elements analyses in the vertebrae, skin, and liver highlighted that the most abundant and potentially toxic elements were lead (Pb), arsenic (As), and cadmium (Cd). Other trace elements were also abundant, such as manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), and iron (Fe). Pb, As, and Mn showed the highest concentrations in vertebrae, while Cd, Cu, and Zn were the highest in the liver, probably due to their concentration in the prey items of the sharks; Fe and Ni showed the highest concentrations in the skin, due to their presence in the water column, especially along the coast where animals were collected. The concentration of some trace elements analyzed in the vertebrae decreased with the growth of the sharks. These results confirm that elasmobranchs, being predators at the apex of the marine food chain, act as final receptors for a series of polluting elements regularly discharged into the sea. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conservation of Marine Ecosystems: Selected Papers from MetroSea 2021)
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Article
An Integrated Monitoring Approach to the Evaluation of the Environmental Impact of an Inshore Mariculture Plant (Mar Grande of Taranto, Ionian Sea)
Biology 2022, 11(4), 617; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology11040617 - 18 Apr 2022
Viewed by 415
Abstract
The results of an ex-ante survey aiming to assess the impact of a fish farm in the Mar Grande of Taranto (southern Italy, Mediterranean Sea) on the surrounding environment are reported. There, the implementation of an innovative IMTA plant was planned, with the [...] Read more.
The results of an ex-ante survey aiming to assess the impact of a fish farm in the Mar Grande of Taranto (southern Italy, Mediterranean Sea) on the surrounding environment are reported. There, the implementation of an innovative IMTA plant was planned, with the goals of environment bioremediation and commercially exploitable biomass production. Analyses were conducted in February and July 2018. Both seawater and sediments were sampled at the four corners of the fish farm to detect the existing biological and physico-chemical features. The investigation was performed to identify the best area of the farming plant for positioning the bioremediating system, but also to obtain a data baseline, to compare to the environmental status after the bioremediating action. Data were also analyzed by canonical analysis of principal coordinates (CAP). All the measurements, in particular, microbiology and macrobenthic community characterization using AZTI’s Marine Biotic Index (AMBI) and the Multivariate-AMBI (M-AMBI) indices, suggest that the effect of fish farm waste was concentrated and limited to a small portion of the investigated area in relation to the direction of the main current. A site named A3, which was found to be the most impacted by the aquaculture activities, especially during the summer season, was chosen to place the bioremediation system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conservation of Marine Ecosystems: Selected Papers from MetroSea 2021)
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Article
Deep-Dwelling Populations of Mediterranean Corallium rubrum and Eunicella cavolini: Distribution, Demography, and Co-Occurrence
Biology 2022, 11(2), 333; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology11020333 - 20 Feb 2022
Viewed by 494
Abstract
Corallium rubrum and Eunicella cavolini are two octocorals, reported as co-occurring species in the deep rocky habitats of the Mediterranean Sea with a high hydrodynamic and moderate eutrophication. Their spatial distribution and demography in the deep sea are mainly affected by temperature and [...] Read more.
Corallium rubrum and Eunicella cavolini are two octocorals, reported as co-occurring species in the deep rocky habitats of the Mediterranean Sea with a high hydrodynamic and moderate eutrophication. Their spatial distribution and demography in the deep sea are mainly affected by temperature and direct and indirect anthropogenic activities; however, knowledge of the factors that potentially influence their co-existence is scarce. This paper provides novel data on the distribution and demography of these two species, at depths between 50 and 290 m in the Western Mediterranean Sea, providing insights on their co-occurrence. Both species exhibited the highest population density at deeper sites (>150 m), showing an inverse size–density relation. Density values ranged from 0.03 colonies m−2 to 32 and 80 col. m−2 for yellow gorgonian and red coral, respectively. The two species co-occurred in 13% of the total frames examined, mostly dwelling between 120 and 160 m depth. Distance-based linear modeling (DistLM) emphasized that when co-occurring the variability of the two species’ densities were significantly driven by the density—rather than the morphology (i.e., height)—of the other species. We stress the need for further studies to elucidate the possible mutual effects of suspension feeders and to test the role of different environmental factors potentially influencing inter-specific relationships. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conservation of Marine Ecosystems: Selected Papers from MetroSea 2021)
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Article
Snapshot of the Distribution and Biology of Alien Jellyfish Cassiopea andromeda (Forsskål, 1775) in a Mediterranean Touristic Harbour
Biology 2022, 11(2), 319; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology11020319 - 16 Feb 2022
Viewed by 618
Abstract
Harbors are hotspots for the introduction of alien species, and, usually, investigations on their host populations help fill the knowledge gap in their pathways of invasion and in their impacts on marine biodiversity and ecosystems. In 2014, the upside-down alien jellyfish Cassiopea andromeda [...] Read more.
Harbors are hotspots for the introduction of alien species, and, usually, investigations on their host populations help fill the knowledge gap in their pathways of invasion and in their impacts on marine biodiversity and ecosystems. In 2014, the upside-down alien jellyfish Cassiopea andromeda invaded a Mediterranean touristic harbor (“Cala”), and its abundance has since increased over time. In the present study, the distribution and trophic behavior of C. andromeda in Cala were investigated for the years 2017–2018 through visual sampling, and GIS-based statistical and stable isotope analyses. Since Cala is a hard-to-reach area (with many anchor cables and boats), Megabenthos Underwater Video was used to count the number and estimate the size of jellyfishes. The variations in size throughout the study period suggest that the population of C. andromeda is quite established in Cala at depths lower than 7.5 m. The ranges of the environmental parameters recorded (temperature, salinity, and transparency) were consistent with the ideal conditions for maintaining a Cassiopea population, but they did not seem to influence aggregation. Additionally, the carbon and nitrogen isotopic signatures studied highlight the mixotrophic behavior of this species. These preliminary results confirm the capacity of C. andromeda to live and reproduce in heavily anthropized areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conservation of Marine Ecosystems: Selected Papers from MetroSea 2021)
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Article
Benefits and Risks of the Technological Creep of LED Light Technologies Applied to the Purse Seine Fishery
Biology 2022, 11(1), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology11010048 - 29 Dec 2021
Viewed by 430
Abstract
This study is a first attempt to investigate the catch efficiency of LED light technology compared to the traditional incandescent lamp that is used in the purse seine fishery (PS) in the Central Adriatic Sea (Mediterranean Sea). Catches per unit effort were adopted [...] Read more.
This study is a first attempt to investigate the catch efficiency of LED light technology compared to the traditional incandescent lamp that is used in the purse seine fishery (PS) in the Central Adriatic Sea (Mediterranean Sea). Catches per unit effort were adopted to assess the performance of lighting systems, considering the electrical energy and the fuel consumption as effort units. Concerning the catch efficiency, the white LED, which emits the same light spectra as the incandescent lamp, increased the yield by over 2 times per consumption unit of energy and fuel. The yield efficiency increased up to approximately 6 and 9 times when adopting the pulsing white or blue LED, respectively. These increases were due to the energy savings resulting from the flashing of the white LED or by the greater water penetration of the blue LED. No significant difference in target species sizes was detected between the use of LEDs and the incandescent lamp. The results obtained from estimates of the hourly fuel consumption and CO2 emissions stress potential benefits in the reduction of the carbon footprint due to the use of LEDs within the PS fishery. Positive economic impacts were derived from the LED technology on the PS fishery, with the fuel cost-saving percentages all being higher than 60%. The LED technology clearly shows potential benefits at the economic level for the fishermen, and the possibility of mitigating indirect negative effects on the environment due to fuel combustion and greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, the application of new technology that improves the catch efficiency of fishing gears should be carefully considered. The lack of regulations controlling technological advancement could cause unwanted long-term effects. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conservation of Marine Ecosystems: Selected Papers from MetroSea 2021)
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Article
A Newly Discovered Forest of the Whip Coral Viminella flagellum (Anthozoa, Alcyonacea) in the Mediterranean Sea: A Non-Invasive Method to Assess Its Population Structure
Biology 2022, 11(1), 39; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology11010039 - 28 Dec 2021
Viewed by 866
Abstract
Coral forests are vulnerable marine ecosystems formed by arborescent corals (e.g., Anthozoa of the orders Alcyonacea and Antipatharia). The population structure of the habitat-forming corals can inform on the status of the habitat, representing an essential aspect to monitor. Most Mediterranean corals live [...] Read more.
Coral forests are vulnerable marine ecosystems formed by arborescent corals (e.g., Anthozoa of the orders Alcyonacea and Antipatharia). The population structure of the habitat-forming corals can inform on the status of the habitat, representing an essential aspect to monitor. Most Mediterranean corals live in the mesophotic and aphotic zones, and their population structures can be assessed by analyzing images collected by underwater vehicles. This is still not possible in whip-like corals, whose colony lengths and flexibilities impede the taking of direct length measurements from images. This study reports on the occurrence of a monospecific forest, of the whip coral Viminella flagellum in the Aeolian Archipelago (Southern Tyrrhenian Sea; 149 m depth), and the assessment of its population structure through an ad-hoc, non-invasive method to estimate a colony height based on its width. The forest of V. flagellum showed a mean density of 19.4 ± 0.2 colonies m−2 (up to 44.8 colonies m−2) and no signs of anthropogenic impacts. The population was dominated by young colonies, with the presence of large adults and active recruitment. The new model proved to be effective for non-invasive monitoring of this near threatened species, representing a needed step towards appropriate conservation actions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conservation of Marine Ecosystems: Selected Papers from MetroSea 2021)
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Article
Mapping the Energetic Costs of Free-Swimming Gilthead Sea Bream (Sparus aurata), a Key Species in European Marine Aquaculture
Biology 2021, 10(12), 1357; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology10121357 - 20 Dec 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 841
Abstract
Measurement of metabolic rates provides a valuable proxy for the energetic costs of different living activities. However, such measurements are not easy to perform in free-swimming fish. Therefore, mapping acceleration from accelerometer tags with oxygen consumption rates (MO2) is a promising [...] Read more.
Measurement of metabolic rates provides a valuable proxy for the energetic costs of different living activities. However, such measurements are not easy to perform in free-swimming fish. Therefore, mapping acceleration from accelerometer tags with oxygen consumption rates (MO2) is a promising method to counter these limitations and could represent a tool for remotely estimating MO2 in aquaculture environments. In this study, we monitored the swimming performance and MO2 of 79 gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata; weight range, 219–971 g) during a critical swimming test. Among all the fish challenged, 27 were implanted with electromyography (EMG) electrodes, and 27 were implanted with accelerometer tags to monitor the activation pattern of the red/white muscles during swimming. Additionally, we correlated the acceleration recorded by the tag with the MO2. Overall, we found no significant differences in swimming performance, metabolic traits, and swimming efficiency between the tagged and untagged fish. The acceleration recorded by the tag was successfully correlated with MO2. Additionally, through EMG analyses, we determined the activities of the red and white muscles, which are indicative of the contributions of aerobic and anaerobic metabolisms until reaching critical swimming speed. By obtaining insights into both aerobic and anaerobic metabolisms, sensor mapping with physiological data may be useful for the purposes of aquaculture health/welfare remote monitoring of the gilthead sea bream, a key species in European marine aquaculture. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conservation of Marine Ecosystems: Selected Papers from MetroSea 2021)
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Review

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Review
Large-Scale Distribution of the European Seahorses (Hippocampus Rafinesque, 1810): A Systematic Review
Biology 2022, 11(2), 325; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology11020325 - 18 Feb 2022
Viewed by 444
Abstract
Human pressures on marine ecosystems have caused extensive degradation of marine habitats and several local extinctions. Overexploitation and destructive fishing practices are responsible for biodiversity loss in many coastal ecosystems. The definition of conservation programs in marine fish requires comprehensive knowledge on large-scale [...] Read more.
Human pressures on marine ecosystems have caused extensive degradation of marine habitats and several local extinctions. Overexploitation and destructive fishing practices are responsible for biodiversity loss in many coastal ecosystems. The definition of conservation programs in marine fish requires comprehensive knowledge on large-scale geographical distribution, while considering distribution/abundance patterns in relation to key environmental variables. Due to their life-cycle traits, the two European seahorses (Hippocampus guttulatus and H. hippocampus), as with other congeneric species, are particularly sensitive to the effects of anthropogenic activities and habitat changes. However, information on the ecological distribution of these two species is scattered, patchy, and mainly focused on small-scale studies. In this paper, we followed an international standard protocol for systematic reviews (the PRISMA protocol) to provide a detailed assessment of the two species’ geographical distribution in relation to the environmental characteristics. According to the 134 analyzed studies, Hippocampus guttulatus is more common in confined areas, while H. hippocampus is found in marine shelf waters. With several interspecific differences, seagrasses were the most used holdfasts of both species. The EUNIS codes (European nature information system) referring to a specific and unique habitat were discussed as a potential tool for defining the ecological distribution of the two species. The obtained results and their future implementation could help plan conservation actions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conservation of Marine Ecosystems: Selected Papers from MetroSea 2021)
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