Spatial and temporal variability and ecological processes in the epibenthic assemblages of the northern Adriatic Sea

Fava, Federica (2011) Spatial and temporal variability and ecological processes in the epibenthic assemblages of the northern Adriatic Sea, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Scienze ambientali: tutela e gestione delle risorse naturali, 23 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/3677.
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Several coralligenous reefs occur in the soft bottoms of the northern Adriatic continental shelf. Mediterranean coralligenous habitats are characterised by high species diversity and are intrinsically valuable for their biological diversity and for the ecological processes they support. The conservation and management of these habitats require quantifying spatial and temporal variability of their benthic assemblages. This PhD thesis aims to give a relevant contribution to the knowledge of the structure and dynamics of the epibenthic assemblages on the coralligenous subtidal reefs occurring in the northern Adriatic Sea. The epibenthic assemblages showed a spatial variation larger compared to temporal changes, with a temporal persistence of reef-forming organisms. Assemblages spatial heterogeneity has been related to morphological features and geographical location of the reefs, together with variation in the hydrological conditions. Manipulative experiments help to understand the ecological processes structuring the benthic assemblages and maintaining their diversity. In this regards a short and long term experiment on colonization patterns of artificial substrata over a 3-year period has been performed in three reefs, corresponding to the three main types of assemblages detected in the previous study. The first colonisers, largely depending by the different larval supply, played a key role in determining the heterogeneity of the assemblages in the early stage of colonisation. Lateral invasion, from the surrounding assemblages, was the driver in structuring the mature assemblages. These complex colonisation dynamics explained the high heterogeneity of the assemblages dwelling on the northern Adriatic biogenic reefs. The buildup of these coralligenous reefs mainly depends by the bioconstruction-erosion processes that has been analysed through a field experiment. Bioconstruction, largely due to serpulid polychaetes, prevailed on erosion processes and occurred at similar rates in all sites. Similarly, the total energy contents in the benthic communities do not differ among sites, despite being provided by different species. Therefore, we can hypothesise that both bioconstruction processes and energetic storage may be limited by the availability of resources. Finally the major contribution of the zoobenthos compared to the phytobenthos to the total energetic content of assemblages suggests that the energy flow in these benthic habitats is primarily supported by planktonic food web trough the filter feeding invertebrates.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Fava, Federica
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze della terra e dell'ambiente
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Data di discussione
9 Maggio 2011

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