Coralligenous reefs represent one of the most important coastal ecosystems of the Mediterranean Sea, and their ecological quality must be assessed under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive to evaluate seafloor integrity.

This study reviewed existing methods used to study shallow coralligenous reefs to propose a method able to optimize sampling effort, selected the most effective ecological descriptors to evaluate the responses of coralligenous assemblages to anthropogenic stress; and synthesized available information in an integrated and standardized procedure (named STAR).

The proposed STAR procedure combines photographic and in situ visual approaches and, according to the study, successfully integrates and standardizes monitoring methods to assess the ecological quality of shallow coralligenous reefs, needed to develop an effective network for their conservation.

The authors tested STAR on 12 coralligenous sites, subjected to different levels of human pressure and note that significant differences between the different conditions were detected for all the ecological descriptors selected, thus confirming the effectiveness of the procedure in the assessment of ecological quality of coralligenous reefs.

The authors underpin that the use of such a standardized procedure will ease and make more effective the comparison among data obtained throughout the Mediterranean Sea.

Piazzi et al. (2019) STAR: An integrated and standardized procedure to evaluate the ecological status of coralligenous reefs. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 29:189-201.