Restoring Cold-Water Coral Gardens on the Mediterranean Continental Shelf

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Maria Montseny, Cristina Linares, Nuria Viladrich, Stefano Ambroso, Pol Capdevila, Jordi Grinyo, Andreu Santin, Marina Biel, Patricia Baena, Elena Quintanilla, Janire Salaza, Alejandro Olariaga, David Diaz, Marc Carreras, Nuno Gracias, Narcis Palomeras, Klemen Istenic, Lluis Magi, Guillem Vallicrosa, Rafael Garcia, JosepÔÇÉMaria Gili, Andrea Gori

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Cold-water coral (CWC) gardens, dominated by the gorgonian Eunicella cavolini dwell on the continental shelf of the Cap de Creus marine area (northwestern Mediterranean Sea), providing heterogenous habitats supporting a diverse associated fauna., Life-history traits of CWC (long lifespans, slow growth and limited recruitment) make them very vulnerable to threats, mainly coming from fishing activities. Given their limited recovery capacity, interest to preserve and restore CWC ecosystem is steadily growing. To date, only few restoration actions at local scales have been carried out with these species, mainly due to technical and economic limitations driven by their depth distribution. The general aim of this study was to explore the feasibility of novel active ecological restoration techniques for CWC gardens. In a first pilot study, gorgonians recovered from bycatch of local artisanal fishers, were transplanted to artificial structures deployed at 85 m depth. The results demonstrated a high survival of the transplants. Following, field experiments and modelling approaches were combined to develop and technically validate an innovative large-scale and cost-effective restoration method. Finally, in a large-scale restoration action, 460 gorgonians were successfully reintroduced at 80-100 m depth. The results showed the establishment of a new gorgonian population, which will potentially evolve toward a comparable natural population in terms of size and spatial structure, if natural recruitment will occur. Moreover, an economic evaluation was performed, also confirming the cost efficiency of this method aimed at enhancing the recovery of impacted CWC gardens.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program