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Conservation and restoration of marine forests in the Mediterranean Sea and the potential role of Marine Protected Areas

December 2, 2013

Cystoseira species are some of the most important marine ecosystem-engineers, forming extended canopies comparable to land forests. Such forests are sensitive to human disturbances, like the decrease in water quality, the coastal development and the outbreak of herbivores. Conspicuous historical declines have been reported in many regions and several Cystoseira species are presently protected by European Union (EU) environmental policies. The aim of this work was to synthesize the conservation perspectives of Cystoseira forests in the Mediterranean Sea, focusing on the opportunities offered by artificial restoration and highlighting the potential role of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). MPAs give a better protection to healthy forests than non-managed sites and may be a source of propagules for natural recovery and/or for non-destructive artificial restoration of nearby damaged forests. MPAs lacking Cystoseira forests may also represent preferential sites for reforestation. We proposed a flow-chart for the conservation and a reasoned restoration of Cystoseira in the Mediterranean Sea. The successful conservation of Cystoseira forests is still possible, via raising public awareness on the role of Cystoseira and reducing human impacts on coastal ecosystems. Such actions have to be coupled with more specific large-scale management plans, encompassing restoration actions and enforcement of protection within MPAs.

Gianni F, Bartolini F, Airoldi L, Ballesteros E, Francour P, Guidetti P, Meinesz A, Thibaut T, Manigalajo L, in press. Conservation and restoration of marine forests in the Mediterranean Sea and the potential role of Marine Protected Areas, Advances in Oceanography and Limnology, 4, 2, doi:10.1080/19475721.2013.845604. Article.

 

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