Coralligenous reefs state along anthropized coasts: Application and validation of the COARSE index, based on a rapid visual assessment (RVA) approach

Type Article
Date 2015-05
Language English
Author(s) Gatti Giulia1, 2, Bianchi C. N.1, Morri C.1, Montefalcone M.1, Sartoretto StephaneORCID2
Affiliation(s) 1 : Univ Genoa, Dept Earth Environm & Life Sci, DISTAV, I-16132 Genoa, Italy.
2 : IFREMER, Zone Portuaire de Bregaillon, F-83500 La Seyne Sur Mer, France.
Source Ecological Indicators (1470-160X) (Elsevier Science Bv), 2015-05 , Vol. 52 , P. 567-576
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolind.2014.12.026
WOS© Times Cited 30
Keyword(s) Coralligenous reefs, Rapid visual assessment, Sea-floor integrity, Visual estimation, COARSE index, Mediterranean Sea
Abstract A rapid visual assessment (RVA) approach for the characterization and assessment of the integrity of coralligenous reefs was applied in 21 stations subjected to different levels of anthropogenic pressure, along the French Mediterranean coasts. The reefs were characterized from both the geomorphologic and bionomic (biotic cover, conspicuous species richness, canopy-forming species, etc.) points of view, and their health status was estimated through the COARSE (COralligenous Assessment by ReefScape Estimate) index. The sensitivity of the COARSE index and the robustness of the RVA approach to observer biases were analyzed. Results showed that most coralligenous reefs were characterized by (sub) vertical cliffs or platforms with variable slope, usually dominated by biotic facies with Paramuricea clavata and/or Eunicella cavolini in healthy stations, or by algal associations or facies of impoverishment in the most impacted situations. The overall quality scores of the COARSE index generally reflected the putative level of stress of the sampling stations; differences due to observer biases resulted negligible. Coupling the RVA approach with the COARSE index proved an effective protocol for both the characterization and the evaluation of coralligenous reefs: the former is achieved by the analysis of the whole complexity of this habitat, the latter provides for the first time an indication of sea-floor integrity, differently from previous indices that aim at estimating water quality.
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