Easy to reach and rich in biodiversity, shallow waters not only provide a wide range of ecosystem services to citizens but they are also particularly suitable as open-air laboratories to study how biological diversity is affected by changing environmental conditions.

This study was carried out in the “Stagnone di Marsala e Saline di Trapani e Paceco” (Italy), the largest coastal lagoon system in the central Mediterranean Sea. This location was selected as a model ecosystem to investigate the seasonal variations in biodiversity indices and dominance-diversity relationships in phytobenthos, macro-zoobenthos and fishes, and how seasonal variations in environmental conditions affect the abundance of the species constituting these communities. Additionally, models of ecosystem structure, describing the interactions among functional groups and environmental variables, were also developed.

The results show the occurrence of wide seasonal variations in biodiversity indices and dominance-diversity relationships across the communities of the coastal lagoon system, driven by the dynamics in climate and resource availability. It was found that the effects of the environmental variables on taxon abundances varied in relation to the community, with the widest responses elicited in phytobenthos and fishes. Temperature was the main variable affecting taxon abundances in macro-zoobenthos and was also the major driver of shallow water ecosystem structure.

The authors highlight that this research sheds light on the seasonal variations in biodiversity of Mediterranean coastal lagoons, elucidating also the tight dependence of phytobenthos, macro-zoobenthos and fish diversity upon environmental factors. It is concluded that the findings and the methodological approach proposed may be crucial in developing models able to predict future climate-driven alterations in communities inhabiting these important and threatened ecosystems.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ddi.12942

Bellino et al. (2019) Seasonal patterns of biodiversity in Mediterranean coastal lagoons. Diversity and Distributions 00:1-15.