Among Mediterranean habitat-forming alcyonaceans, the sea fan Eunicella verrucosa is known to form dense forests at circalittoral depths, providing seascape complexity and sustaining a rich associated fauna. Its occurrence in the Tavolara-Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Protected Area (NE Sardinia) has never been deeply investigated despite this area being well known from a biocoenotic point of view.
This study provides new information on the size of the colonies settled between 35 and 59 m depth on granitic outcrops and represents a contribution to highlighting the hotspot of megabenthic diversity enclosed in the protected area.
The obtained results show a persistently isolated population probably derived from a stochastic event of settling of larvae presumably coming from the Tuscany Archipelago. The authors highlight that the associated epibiotic community found on the colonies’ branches suggest a putative anthropogenic impact related to fishing activity.
It is concluded that proper protection and management strategies are mandatory for the Marine Protected Area, in order to conserve this unique population and the whole associated benthic assemblage.
Canessa et al. (2022) Filling a gap: a population of Eunicella verrucosa (Pallas, 1766) (Anthozoa, Alcyonacea) in the Tavolara-Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Protected Area (NE Sardinia, Italy). Diversity 14:405.