Scleractinian cold-water corals (CWCs) are among the main habitat engineers of the deep Mediterranean Sea, hosting a high diversity and playing a significant ecological role. In the last two decades, many new living scleractinian CWC sites throughout the Mediterranean Basin have been recorded and their distribution has been updated.

This paper describes new scleractinian CWC assemblages that were discovered by means of remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and multibeam echosounder (MBES) surveys on the Aceste-Tiberio seamount and Marettimo bank in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea, at depths ranging from 240 to 310 m.

The study shows that in the explored areas, megabenthic communities were dominated by habitat-forming species, some of which have never been reported before on these submarine structures. Healthy patches of Madrepora oculata and Desmophyllum pertusum, together with the solitary coral D. dianthus, were found on rocky pinnacles between inclined silted bottoms, as well as on a wreck. It is highlighted that fishing activities, mainly longline fishing, negatively affected these communities, particularly coral species.

The authors state that the discovery of these new sites adds new knowledge about the distribution of scleractinian CWCs in the Mediterranean Sea, and stress that the documented negative effect of fishing activities on CWC species further stresses the need for urgent and specific conservation measures. In this regard, it is stated that the co-occurrence of several long-lived, slow-growing, and vulnerable species on these seamounts and banks supports the establishment of specific marine protected areas.

Angiolillo et al. (2021) New records of scleractinian cold-water corals (CWC) assemblages in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea (western Mediterranean Sea): Human impacts and conservation prospects. Progress in Oceanography 197: 102656.