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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 402:69-79 (2010)  -  DOI:

Marine Protected Areas and the conservation of long-lived marine invertebrates: the Mediterranean red coral

Cristina Linares1,4,*, Olivier Bianchimani1, Oriol Torrents1, Christian Marschal1, Pierre Drap2, Joaquim Garrabou3

1UMR 6540-DIMAR, CNRS-Université de la Méditerranée, Centre d’Océanologie de Marseille, Station Marine d’Endoume, rue Batterie des Lions, 13007 Marseille, France
2Laboratoire LSISL UMR 6168, CNRS, 13288 Marseille, France
3Institut de Ciencies del Mar, CSIC, Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
4Present address: Departament d’Ecologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Avda Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain

ABSTRACT: Intensive harvesting has caused important shifts in the size structure of the Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum, and continues to hinder the total recovery of exploited populations. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) offer an excellent opportunity to observe their recovery in the absence of fishing pressures. In this study, we analysed the demographic structure of red coral populations from 3 of the oldest Mediterranean MPAs. The population structures at the beginning of each reserve and after 30 yr of similar management efforts were also forecasted. The 3 MPAs displayed higher size values than those reported for most of the shallow populations and deep-dwelling populations. Differences in the observed size distributions were more closely related to the structure at the beginning of the reserve than to the number of years of protection. The estimated future size distributions showed a significant increase in large colonies; however, the maximum values predicted are far from those measured in pristine populations. Comparisons of harvested and protected populations using different parameters allowed us to identify the percentages of colonies with basal diameter greater than 7 mm or colony height greater than 100 mm as the most useful descriptors for evaluating the conservation status of each population. The vulnerability of long-lived marine invertebrates to disturbances is due to their slow population dynamics, hence the importance of active management within MPAs to promote delayed but long-term positive effects on these species. This study provides helpful information for the evaluation of the effectiveness of management measures for coral populations.

KEY WORDS: Corallium rubrum · Coral fisheries · Marine Reserves · Size frequency distributions · NW Mediterranean Sea

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Cite this article as: Linares C, Bianchimani O, Torrents O, Marschal C, Drap P, Garrabou J (2010) Marine Protected Areas and the conservation of long-lived marine invertebrates: the Mediterranean red coral. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 402:69-79.

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