Bioconstructions by Sabellaria worms play a key functional role in the coastal ecosystems being an engineer organism and for this reason are object of protection.
This study constitutes the first detailed description of unusual large S. spinulosa reefs in the Mediterranean Sea (southern Adriatic Sea), including the assessment of temporal changes in reef structure and associated fauna.
The obtained results show that the cycle of S. spinulosa reefs shows a spawning event in winter-early spring, a period of growth and tubes aggregation from spring-early summer to autumn and a degeneration phase in winter. The authors highlight the ecological role of S. spinulosa reefs in providing microhabitats hosting hard and sandy bottom species, sheltering rare species, additionally providing biogenic structures able to provide coastal protection.
The authors state that this paper represents a starting point for investigating the persistence of such reefs and temporal stability for conservation of these important habitats which are still listed as “data deficient” in the Mediterranean Sea. It is pointed out that further long-term studies are required to analyse the longevity and stability of this biogenic habitat over time.
The authors conclude that this work paves the way for further studies necessary for assessing the reef’s state of health and evaluating policies based on its conservation status, these aspects being highly relevant to the aims of the Habitat Directive.
Gravina et al. (2018) Sabellaria spinulosa (Polychaeta, Annelida) reefs in the Mediterranean Sea: Habitat mapping, dynamics and associated fauna for conservation management. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 200:248-257