Thanks to several European directives and conventions there is a general increase of awareness regarding the key ecological role of coralligenous habitats in the Mediterranean Sea, addressing several research projects to standardize protocols for the description of its integrity.

In this study, 13 stations along the Italian coasts of the Western Mediterranean Sea were surveyed using video-transects, comparing the biological structure of coralligenous assemblages and testing the importance of their three-dimensional complexity as a proxy to define their health conditions. The gradient of health conditions was evidenced considering the diversity of taxa, fishing impacts and the entity of damage in gorgonian’s choenenchyme due to thermal stress.

A method was developed to evaluate coralligenous complexity, selecting categories of taxa particularly sensitive to multiple stressors. Additionally, descriptors were developed as well to describe the three-dimensional structure of the bioconcretions and to assess a unique index of 3D-sturtural complexity.

The authors highlight that there is an urgent necessity of conservation measures and the fast assessment techniques could provide an effective method to identify the priority areas were restoration is required. And state that, in the meanwhile, it is imperative to continue with detailed biodiversity assessment involving taxonomists, because the level of biodiversity of coralligenous habitats is still far from a good picture.

Valisano et al. (2019) Characterization of North-Western Mediterranean coralligenous assemblages by video surveys and evaluation of their structural complexity. Marine Pollution Bulletin 148:134-148.