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Re-shifting the ecological baseline for the overexploited Mediterranean red coral

Overexploitation leads to the ecological extinction of many oceanic species. The depletion of historical abundances of large animals, such as whales and sea turtles, is well known. However, the magnitude of the historical overfishing of exploited invertebrates is unclear. The lack of rigorous baseline data limits the implementation of efficient management and conservation plans in the marine realm. The precious Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum has been intensively exploited since antiquity for its use in jewellery. It shows dramatic signs of overexploitation, with no untouched populations known in shallow waters. Here, we report the discovery of an exceptional red coral population from a previously unexplored shallow underwater cave in Corsica (France) harbouring the largest biomass (by more than 100-fold) reported to date in the Mediterranean. Our findings challenge current assumptions on the pristine state of this emblematic species. Our results suggest that, before intense exploitation, red coral lived in relatively high-density populations with a large proportion of centuries-old colonies, even at very shallow depths. We call for the re-evaluation of the baseline for red coral and question the sustainability of the exploitation of a species that is still common but ecologically (functionally) extinct and in a trajectory of further decline

Scientific Reports, 2017, vol.7, art. n煤m. 42404

Nature Publishing Group

Author: Garrabou, Joaquim
Sala, E.
Linares, Cristina
Ledoux, Jean-Baptiste
Montero Serra, I.
Dominici, J.M.
Kipson, Silvija
Teixid贸, N煤ria
Cebrian Pujol, Emma
Kersting, D.K.
Harmelin, J.G.
Date: 2017 February 15
Abstract: Overexploitation leads to the ecological extinction of many oceanic species. The depletion of historical abundances of large animals, such as whales and sea turtles, is well known. However, the magnitude of the historical overfishing of exploited invertebrates is unclear. The lack of rigorous baseline data limits the implementation of efficient management and conservation plans in the marine realm. The precious Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum has been intensively exploited since antiquity for its use in jewellery. It shows dramatic signs of overexploitation, with no untouched populations known in shallow waters. Here, we report the discovery of an exceptional red coral population from a previously unexplored shallow underwater cave in Corsica (France) harbouring the largest biomass (by more than 100-fold) reported to date in the Mediterranean. Our findings challenge current assumptions on the pristine state of this emblematic species. Our results suggest that, before intense exploitation, red coral lived in relatively high-density populations with a large proportion of centuries-old colonies, even at very shallow depths. We call for the re-evaluation of the baseline for red coral and question the sustainability of the exploitation of a species that is still common but ecologically (functionally) extinct and in a trajectory of further decline
Format: application/pdf
Citation: https://doi.org/10.1038/srep42404
ISSN: 2045-2322
Document access: http://hdl.handle.net/10256/14263
Language: eng
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Collection: Reproducci贸 digital del document publicat a: https://doi.org/10.1038/srep42404
Articles publicats (D-CCAA)
Is part of: Scientific Reports, 2017, vol.7, art. n煤m. 42404
Rights: Attribution 3.0 Spain
Rights URI: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/es/
Subject: Biologia de la conservaci贸
Conservation biology
Biologia de poblacions
Population biology
Title: Re-shifting the ecological baseline for the overexploited Mediterranean red coral
Type: info:eu-repo/semantics/article
Repository: DUGiDocs

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