FS SMLeuca Lophelia reef

World Wide Fund for Nature – WWF
Mediterranean Programme Office
Tel .+34 933056252
Deep-sea sites of particular ecological interest in the Mediterranean
(to be filled by an academic expert team)
Contributing scientific team
1) Name of the person filling this form: Prof. Angelo Tursi (University of Bari - Italy)
2) Name of the scientific team: “White coral reef Santa Maria Di Leuca”
3) Other relevant experts within the team:
Prof. Cesare Corselli (University of Milano Bicocca - Italy)
Dr Alessandra Savini (University of Milano Bicocca – Italy)
Dr Marco Taviani (CNR Bologna- Italy)
Prof. Italo Di Geronimo (University of Catania- Italy)
Dr Giuseppe Etiope (INGV Roma- Italy)
Prof. Antonietta Rosso (University of Catania- Italy)
Dr Francesco Mastrototaro (University of Bari- Italy)
Prof. Gianfranco D’Onghia (University of Bari – Italy)
4) Institution (name, address, etc.): CoNISMa - Consorsio Nazionale Interuniversitario
per le Scienze del Mare – Via Isonzo, 32 – 00198 - Roma- Italy
5) Other experts consulted:
Dr André Freiwald (University of Erlangen – Germany)
Information on the site (ecological features incl. biodiversity)
5) Name of the site & short description:
The site is located off Cape of Santa Maria di Leuca (Southern Italy, Ionian Sea). The
interested area is about 500 km2. The depth ranges from 350 to 1100 m.
6) Type of ecosystem/community (choose one: brine pool, submarine canyon,
seamount, etc.):
Mediterranean deep-water white coral reef ecosystem
7) Summary of ecological information available (please elaborate on sensitive habitats
or species) (maximum 500 words):
The deep-water coral reefs rediscovered off Cape of Santa Maria di Leuca is dominated
by two colonial scleractinians, Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata, and by two
solitary coral Desmophyllum cristagalli and Stenocyathus vermiformis. The living
branches of the colonies are white with yellowish polyps while the dead branches varied
in colour from yellow to black, often covered with Fe – Mn oxides and different
epibiotic species (Mastrototaro et al., 2002). The coral colonies consist of bioconstructed buildups mostly located on muddy mounds widespread in the study area. A
World Wide Fund for Nature – WWF
Mediterranean Programme Office
Tel .+34 933056252
total of 58 taxa (1 Foraminifera, 4 Porifera, 9 Cnidaria, 1 Brachiopoda, 5 Mollusca, 7
Anellida, 12 Crustacea, 2 Echinodermata, 5 Chondroichthyes and 12 Osteichthyes) were
identified and classed as characteristic species, associated species, accompanying
species and co-occurent species (Tursi et al., 2004). Further species, belonging to
Porifera and Briozoa were successively identified (Rosso, 2003; Longo et al., in press).
The complexity of the coral community, with the presence of many suspension feeders,
is most probably linked to the energetic trophic system regarding the study area. An
important coupling between the water column production process and the transfer of
suspended matter to the depth was recorded barely northwards (De Lazzari et al., 1999).
Most of the accompanying and co-occurrent species are typical of the bathyal muddy
bottoms of the northern Ionian Sea (D’Onghia et al., 1998; 2003).
The biocoenosis of deep-water corals in the Mediterranean Sea is like an oasis in the
desert, in fact, the complex three-dimensional structure build by the corals provide
several ecological niches for a great number of the species (Rogers, 1999), including
crustacea and fish species of economic interest, such as Aristeus antennatus and
Helicolenus dactylopterus (Tursi et al. 2004). The white coral reefs may function as
nurseries for many deep-water species and centres of spreading for the associated fauna
having positive “spill-over” effects on the deep-water demersal resources (Fossa et al.,
8) Relevant scientific missions sampling and studying the site (name, period of study,
institutions involved, funding agencies):
The site was casually discovered during a trawl survey carried out during August 2000
as part of the project INTERREG II Italy-Greece involving the Department of Zoology
(University of Bari, Italy) and Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (Athens, Greece),
financed by EC and Italian and Greek Governments.
Further ad hoc scientific missions sampling and studying the site were carried out
- August 2002 by means of “R/V Urania” of CNR as part of CORAL project;
- June 2004 and June 2005 by means of “R/V Universitatis” of CoNISMa as part of
APLABES (Apulian Plateau Bank Ecosystem Study).
9) Relevant projects studying or having studied the site (name, period of study,
institutions involved, funding agencies):
- CORAL, funded by CNR-ISMAR of Bologna with additional support provided by the
University of Milano-Bicocca, Bari, Bologna, Trieste and Erlangen (Germany);
- APLABES (Apulian Plateau Bank Ecosystem Study) funded by the FIRB programs of
the Italian Ministry of Research (MIUR), involving researchers from 4 different
Universities (Milano-Bicocca, Bari, Catania, Napoli-Partenope), the National Institute
of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV, Roma) and CNR-ISMAR of Bologna (Italy).
10) Relevant papers and other scientific contributions (including grey literature):
D’Onghia G., Politou Ch., Mastrototaro F., Mytilineou Ch., Matarrese, A. – 2003 Biodiversity from the upper slope demersal community of the eastern Mediterranean:
World Wide Fund for Nature – WWF
Mediterranean Programme Office
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preliminary comparison between two areas with and without trawl fishing. Journal of
Northwest Atlantic Fishery Science, 31: 263-273.
D’Onghia G., Tursi A., Maiorano P., Matarrese A., Panza M. – 1998 – Demersal fish
assemblages from the bathyal ground of the Ionian Sea (middle-eastern
Mediterranean). Ital. J. Zool., 65 (Suppl.): 287-292.
De Lazzari A., Boldrin A., Rabitti S., Turchetto M. M. – 1999 - Variability and
downward fluxes of particulate matter in the Otranto Strait area. Journal of Marine
Systems, 20, 399-413.
Fosså J. H., Mortensen P. B., Furevik D. M. – 2002 - The deep-water coral Lophelia
pertusa in Norwegian waters: distribution and fishery impacts. Hydrobiologia, 471, 112.
Hall-Spencer J., Allain V., Fosså J. H. – 2001 - Trawling damage to Northeast Atlantic
ancient coral reefs. Proceedings Royal Society of London. B. 01PB0637.1. The Royal
Society. DOI 10.1098/rspb.2001.1910.
Longo C., Mastrototaro F., Corriero G. (in press) Sponge fauna associated with a
Mediterranean white coral bank. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. U.K.
Mastrototaro F., Matarrese A., Tursi A. – 2002 - Un Mare Di Coralli In Mar Ionio. Biol.
Mar. Medit. 9 (1): 616-619.
Rogers A. D. – 1999 - The Biology of Lophelia pertusa (Linnaeus 1758) and other
Deep-Water Reef-Forming Corals and Impacts from Human Activities. International
Review Hydrobiology: a journal covering all aspects of limnology and marine
biology, 84 (4), 315-406.
Rosso A. – 2003 – Bryozoans on deep-water scleractinians from the Mediterranean: a
first sight. 2nd International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals, September 9-12,
Erlangen geol Abh Sonder 4: 73.
Taviani M., Remia A., Corselli C., Freiwald A., Malinverno E., Mastrototaro F., Savini
A., Tursi A. (2005) First geo-marine survey of living cold-water Lophelia reefs in the
Ionian Sea (Mediterranean basin). Facies, 50: 409-417.
Tursi A., Mastrototaro F., Matarrese A., Maiorano P., D’Onghia G. – 2004 Biodiversity of the white coral reefs in the Ionian Sea (central Mediterranean).
Chemistry & Ecology 20 (suppl.1): S107-S116.
Location of the site
11) Depth range: 350-1100 m.
12) Precise location of the core area (provide geographical coordinates for the vertex of
a polygonal area):
A: N39°27.72’/E18°10.74’
C: N39°11.16’/E18°04.28’
B: N39°27.80’/E18°26.68’
D: N39°11.16’/E18°32.58’
13) Suggested buffer area (provide geographical coordinates for the vertex of a
polygonal area):
About 3 miles north of the core area
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14) Estimated % of the core area in the High Seas (beyond 12-m territorial waters):
15) Estimated % of the suggested buffer areas in the High Seas:
16) Description of fisheries currently impacting the site (if any) (whenever possible
include description of fishing gears, size of the fleet, main base ports, catches of target
species, etc.):
The main fishery operating around the study area is that of Gallipoli. In this fishery
most of the vessel fish by means of trawling targetting deep-water shrimps (Aristeus
antennatus and Aristaeomorpha foliacea), deep-water rose shrimp (Parapenaeus
longirostris), Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus), hake (Meluccius merluccius),
greater forkbeard (Phycis blennoides), rockfish (Helicolenus dactylopterus). Some
vessels fish with bottom longlines targetting hake, greater forkbeard, bluntnose sixgill
shark (Hexanchus griseus), european conger (Conger conger), silver scabbardfish
(Lepidopus caudatus), blackspot seabream (Pagellus bogaraveo). Moreover, a small
number of trawlers and longliners operate in the base port of Santa Maria di Leuca.
17) Other current anthropogenic threats (drilling, waste dumping, etc.):
Wastes and garbages from naval traffic
18) Current “natural” threats (i.e. global warming, etc.):
19) Other threats envisaged in the near future:
Mostly linked to the fishing activities and waste dumping
20) Conservation importance and priority (scientific reasons justifying conservation
The white coral reef ecosystem discovered in the Ionian Sea is made up of living
colonies of deep-water coral species (mostly L. pertusa and M. oculata) with an high
level of biodiversity. This ecosystem is of great relevance in the Mediterranean Sea due
to its biogeographic rarity. It is an irreplaceable ecosysetm since it includes unique and
rare natural features. Thus, conservation measure are required in order to protect coral
species and deep-water biodiversity. Furthermore, conservation measure can provide
positive return in the fishery management to the deep-water demersal resources
exploited in the neighbouring areas. In fact, the institution of a MPA or a no-take zone
World Wide Fund for Nature – WWF
Mediterranean Programme Office
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(or FPZ = fishing protection zone) in the white coral area, would favour the protection
of the nurseries and the “spill-over” effects of the deep-water demersal species.
21) Are there any conservation measures in place? (if so, are they effective?):
Other relevant information/comments
The impact of trawling on the coral banks is due either for the obvious mechanical
damage, caused by otter boards and nets, or for the suspension of sediments that
damage the suspension feeders like the corals (Rogers, 1999, Hall-Spencer, 2001). Also
longlines often damage white corals since the lines entangle in the coral branches.
World Wide Fund for Nature – WWF
Mediterranean Programme Office
Tel .+34 933056252
Annex: Map of the site (please include polygons encompassing core and buffer
areas, as well as some informative isobaths)