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Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Factors affecting Adriatic brown algal forests and solutions for habitat restoration

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
1.03.03  Natural sciences and mathematics  Biology  Ecosystems 

Code Science Field
B003  Biomedical sciences  Ecology 

Code Science Field
1.06  Natural Sciences  Biological sciences 
Keywords
brown algal forests, Cystoseira spp., regression, anthropogenic and natural factors, cartography, fish assemblage, culturing algae, transplantation
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (12)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  54221  Daša Donša  Biology  Researcher  2022 - 2023 
2.  32728  PhD Danijel Ivajnšič  Biology  Researcher  2019 - 2023 
3.  10352  PhD Mitja Kaligarič  Biology  Researcher  2019 - 2023  49 
4.  34499  PhD Katja Klun  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2019 - 2023 
5.  11069  PhD Lovrenc Lipej  Biology  Researcher  2019 - 2023 
6.  18338  Tihomir Makovec    Technical associate  2019 - 2023 
7.  27504  PhD Borut Mavrič  Biology  Researcher  2019 - 2023 
8.  20398  PhD Martina Orlando Bonaca  Biology  Head  2019 - 2023 
9.  34474  PhD Valentina Pitacco  Biology  Researcher  2020 - 2023 
10.  10903  Milijan Šiško  Biology  Technical associate  2019 - 2023  91 
11.  38171  PhD Domen Trkov  Biology  Researcher  2019 - 2023 
12.  56176  Leon Lojze Zamuda    Technical associate  2022 - 2023 
Organisations (2)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0105  National Institute of Biology  Ljubljana  5055784  445 
2.  2547  University of Maribor, Faculty of natural sciences and mathematics  Maribor  5089638051  915 
Abstract
Canopy-forming species are widespread in the Mediterranean coastal area, and represent the final stage of the succession of photophilic algal communities on hard substrata. Among them, brown algal species of the genus Cystoseira play an important role as habitat-building species, since their three-dimensional structure provides habitat and shelter for many smaller algae, invertebrates and fish on rocky bottom. In the last decade many researchers observed that coastal ecosystems are subjected to multiple local stressors (mainly from anthropogenic sources), which can result in shifts between alternative habitats. Since Cystoseira species follow long-term periodicity, their disappearance from a coastal rocky-bottom site should be considered as indicative of environmental degradation. Under key anthropogenic stressors, Cystoseira spp. are often replaced by persistent, smaller and less complex algae that are usually defined as turf-forming taxa. These low-lying algae then form an alternative stable state that is able to inhibit recolonization by canopy-forming species. In the Mediterranean Sea some Cystoseira spp. were already driven to regional extinction, and despite the implementation of significant conservation actions, many degraded brown algal forests have not recovered. Also in Slovenian coastal waters there is an increasing abundance of turf-forming taxa and a decreasing abundance of canopy-forming taxa. Therefore, the specific goals of this research project are to: 1) carry out the first cartography of brown algal forests, 2) identify signs of regression of algal forests, 3) identify the pressures affecting the distribution and regression of brown algal forests, 4) evaluate the importance of these forests for the coastal fish assemblage, 5) test and possibly improve the ex situ cultivation protocol for Cystoseira spp., 6) prepare the action plan and test the restoration of damaged coastal sites by the transplantation of cultured juveniles of Cystoseira spp., 7) implement new conservation and restoration measures, and 8) ensure healthy coastal ecosystems by implementing Cystoseira spp. health management strategies based on their adaptability to anthropogenic/natural pressures and climate change. The proposed duration of the project is three years, and the proposal is divided into four interconnected Work Packages. The WP1 will be devoted to the cartography of brown algal forests along the Slovenian coastal belt, since the cartography of these forests in the whole northern Adriatic has not been performed yet. Geospatial trends in brown algal forests cover will be estimated, as well. Within WP2 the identification and quantification of anthropogenic and natural pressures will be carried out, since the pressures on brown algal forests in Slovenian waters are not evaluated yet. We are planning to identify and possibly quantify the most important anthropogenic and natural pressures in these environments, and possibly we will evaluate also the major impacts. We hope that by analysing trends of considered abiotic factors (measured or remotely sensed), climate change issues will be identified, as well. Within WP3 will be conducted the assessment of the value of brown algal forests for the coastal fish community. A high diverse fish assemblage exists in the infralittoral belt of different Mediterranean areas. The members of this assemblage are closely associated with the seabed and are often dominant elements in algal belts, yet the factors responsible for species density and distribution remain poorly understood. Eventually, within WP4 non-destructive experiments for the restoration of Cystoseira populations will be conducted. Despite the growing conservation efforts at a Mediterranean level, there is a deep need to prepare large-scale restoration strategies. For some Cystoseira species ex situ protocols for the cultivation were recently developed, but there is a lack of protocols for the majority of Adriatic Cystoseira species.
Significance for science
We expect that the results of the research project will give concrete answers to open questions about the main pressures that are responsible for the regression of brown algal forests both in the Adriatic Sea and in the Mediterranean basin. Some of these pressures have already been studied in the past, but many pressures and impacts still need to be identified and properly evaluated. Since the search for evidence of the direct impact of human-induced climate change in the coldest part of the Adriatic Sea continues to be a major challenge, we expect within the project to detect and confirm the impacts of climate change by analyzing the trends of the considered abiotic factors (either measured or remotely detected). These results will be of paramount importance for predicting the future potential development of brown algal forests in the whole Mediterranean Sea. For this purpose, the first cartography of brown algal forests along the Slovenian coast will be very important, and in particular, the estimation of change dynamics in brown algal forests covers, which will enable spatial modeling of future potential development of this habitat type. In addition, the results will open new possibilities for the research of habitat and microhabitat use by fish species. Last but not least, we believe that we will also be successful in the preparation of new protocols for the cultivation of Cystoseira spp. in a controlled environment and for the transplantation of cultured juveniles. These results will certainly contribute to a faster reforestation in Adriatic and Mediterranean areas, where Cystoseira spp. are already rare or have already experienced regional extinctions.
Significance for the country
We expect that the results of the research project will give concrete answers to open questions about the main pressures that are responsible for the regression of brown algal forests both in the Adriatic Sea and in the Mediterranean basin. Some of these pressures have already been studied in the past, but many pressures and impacts still need to be identified and properly evaluated. Since the search for evidence of the direct impact of human-induced climate change in the coldest part of the Adriatic Sea continues to be a major challenge, we expect within the project to detect and confirm the impacts of climate change by analyzing the trends of the considered abiotic factors (either measured or remotely detected). These results will be of paramount importance for predicting the future potential development of brown algal forests in the whole Mediterranean Sea. For this purpose, the first cartography of brown algal forests along the Slovenian coast will be very important, and in particular, the estimation of change dynamics in brown algal forests covers, which will enable spatial modeling of future potential development of this habitat type. In addition, the results will open new possibilities for the research of habitat and microhabitat use by fish species. Last but not least, we believe that we will also be successful in the preparation of new protocols for the cultivation of Cystoseira spp. in a controlled environment and for the transplantation of cultured juveniles. These results will certainly contribute to a faster reforestation in Adriatic and Mediterranean areas, where Cystoseira spp. are already rare or have already experienced regional extinctions.
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