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Threatened biogenic formations of the Mediterranean: Current status and assessment of the vermetid reefs along the Lebanese coastline (Levant basin)
- Badreddine, Ali, Milazzo, Marco, Abboud-Abi Saab, Marie, Bitar, Ghazi, Mangialajo, Luisa
- Ocean & coastal management 2019 v.169 pp. 137-146
- anthropogenic activities, basins, climate change, coastal zone management, coasts, conservation status, ecosystems, habitat destruction, habitats, littoral zone, nondestructive methods, reefs, seawater, tropics, urbanization, Lebanon, Mediterranean Sea, Pacific Ocean
- Vermetid reefs are a key intertidal habitat in the warm-temperate part of the Mediterranean Sea and in some subtropical and tropical regions in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This unique and highly diverse ecosystems is under siege due to both the high anthropogenic pressure and the global climate change, with documented local population declines in the Eastern Mediterranean. This study aims at evaluating the conservation state of vermetid reefs along the Lebanese coast (Eastern Mediterranean), where seawater warming, habitat degradation and coastal urbanization likely threaten their presence. In order to assess the conservation status of vermetid reefs in Lebanon, five sites were randomly selected among those belonging to three impact classes: i) not impacted (i.e. protected), ii) moderately impacted, and iii) impacted. Two different non-destructive methods were applied to assess the presence of living vermetids Dendropoma anguliferum (Monterosato, 1878) and Vermetus triquetrus (Bivona-Bernardi, 1832) which shape the reef, and the associated communities. Our results highlight that no living vermetid reefs were recorded in the impacted sites where evident signs of bio-physical erosion of the reef are already underway. Living individuals of Vermetus triquetrus were found in some not impacted and moderately impacted sites, while living individuals of the endemic reef-builder Dendropoma anguliferum were found only at very low densities at the not impacted (protected) site. Such findings corroborate preliminary observations of population decline in the Eastern Mediterranean, and of vermetid reefs vulnerability to human disturbances. This raises concerns about the near future persistence of vermetid reefs in the region, and represents a call for management and conservation actions to preserve this reef-building species in the Mediterranean Sea.