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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 historicalabundances of large animals, such as whales and sea turtles, is well known. However, the magnitudeof the historical overfishing of exploited invertebrates is unclear. The lack of rigorous baseline datalimits the implementation of efficient management and conservation plans in the marine realm. Theprecious Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum has been intensively exploited since antiquityfor its use in jewellery. It shows dramatic signs of overexploitation, with no untouched populationsknown in shallow waters. Here, we report the discovery of an exceptional red coral population from apreviously unexplored shallow underwater cave in Corsica (France) harbouring the largest biomass (bymore than 100-fold) reported to date in the Mediterranean. Our findings challenge current assumptionson 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 thesustainability of the exploitation of a species that is still common but ecologically (functionally) extinctand in a trajectory of further decline

Nature Publishing Group

Author: Garrabou, Joaquim
Sala, E.
Linares, Cristina
Ledoux, Jean-Baptiste
Montero Serra, I.
Dominici, J.M.
Kipson, Silvija
Teixidó, Núria
Cebrian Pujol, Emma
Kersting, D.K.
Harmelin, J.G.
Abstract: Overexploitation leads to the ecological extinction of many oceanic species. The depletion of historicalabundances of large animals, such as whales and sea turtles, is well known. However, the magnitudeof the historical overfishing of exploited invertebrates is unclear. The lack of rigorous baseline datalimits the implementation of efficient management and conservation plans in the marine realm. Theprecious Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum has been intensively exploited since antiquityfor its use in jewellery. It shows dramatic signs of overexploitation, with no untouched populationsknown in shallow waters. Here, we report the discovery of an exceptional red coral population from apreviously unexplored shallow underwater cave in Corsica (France) harbouring the largest biomass (bymore than 100-fold) reported to date in the Mediterranean. Our findings challenge current assumptionson 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 thesustainability of the exploitation of a species that is still common but ecologically (functionally) extinctand in a trajectory of further decline
Document access: http://hdl.handle.net/2072/289385
Language: eng
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Rights: Attribution 3.0 Spain
Rights URI: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/es/
Subject: Biologia de la conservació
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: Recercat

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