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Relationships among predatory fish, sea urchins and barrens in Mediterranean rocky reefs across a latitudinal gradient
Guidetti, P.; Dulcic, J. (2007). Relationships among predatory fish, sea urchins and barrens in Mediterranean rocky reefs across a latitudinal gradient. Mar. Environ. Res. 63(2): 168-184
In: Marine Environmental Research. Applied Science Publishers: Barking. ISSN 0141-1136; e-ISSN 1879-0291, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Aquatic organisms > Heterotrophic organisms > Predators
    Coastal zone
    Fauna > Aquatic organisms > Aquatic animals > Fish
    Spatial variations > Latitudinal variations
    Echinoidea [WoRMS]
    MED, Adriatic [Marine Regions]

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    Previous studies conducted on a local scale emphasised the potential of trophic cascades in Mediterranean rocky reefs (involving predatory fish, sea urchins and macroalgae) in affecting the transition between benthic communities dominated by erected macroalgae and barrens (i.e., bare rock with partial cover of encrusting algae). Distribution patterns of fish predators of sea urchins (Diplodus sargus sargus, Diplodus vulgaris, Coris julis and Thalassoma pavo), sea urchins (Paracentrotus lividus and Arbacia lixula) and barrens, and fish predation rates upon sea urchins, were assessed in shallow (3-6 m depth) sublittoral rocky reefs in the northern, central and southern sectors of the eastern Adriatic Sea, i.e., on a large spatial scale of hundreds of kilometres. No dramatic differences were observed in predatory fish density across latitude, except for a lower density of small D. sargus sargus in the northern Adriatic and an increasing density of T. pavo from north to south. P. lividus did not show any significant difference across latitude, whereas A. lixula was more abundant in the southern than in the central Adriatic. Barrens were more extended in the southern than in the central and northern sectors, and were related with sea urchin density. Fish predation upon adult sea urchins did not change on a large scale, whereas it was slightly higher in the southern sector for juveniles when predation rates of both urchins were pooled. Results show that: (1) assemblages of predatory fish and sea urchins, and barren extent change across latitude in the eastern Adriatic Sea, (2) the weak relations between predatory fish density and predation rates on urchins reveal that factors other than top-down control can be important over large scale (with the caveat that the study was conducted in fished areas) and (3) patterns of interaction among strongly interacting taxa could change on large spatial scales and the number of species involved.

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