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Mitigating human disturbance: can protection influence trajectories of recovery in benthic assemblages?
Bevilacqua, S.; Terlizzi, A.; Fraschetti, S.; Russo, G.F.; Boero, F. (2006). Mitigating human disturbance: can protection influence trajectories of recovery in benthic assemblages? J. Anim. Ecol. 75(4): 908-920
In: Journal of Animal Ecology. Blackwell Science/British Ecological Society: Oxford. ISSN 0021-8790, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 

Keywords
    Coastal zone management; Ecosystem resilience; Lithophaga lithophaga (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Bevilacqua, S., more
  • Terlizzi, A., more
  • Fraschetti, S., more
  • Russo, G.F.
  • Boero, F., more

Abstract
    1. Understanding whether Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can be considered as a suitable tool for restoring the structure and function of populations and assemblages is urgently needed to achieve an effective policy of mitigation of human impact in coastal management. However, to date, the role played by MPAs in enhancing ecosystems resilience has been more advocated than unambiguously documented. 2. This study was designed to test whether full protection in marine reserves facilitates recovery of benthos impacted by the date mussel Lithophaga lithophaga fishery, one of the most harmful human activities affecting subtidal rocky habitats in the Mediterranean Sea.3. The effects of this destructive fishery were reproduced at one fully protected location ( P ) and at two unprotected control locations ( Cs ) in the SW Mediterranean Sea. At each location, three plots (4 m 2 ) of rocky surface at 4-6 m depth were disturbed experimentally, while another three plots served as reference. In each plot, the species composition and relative cover of the sessile benthic assemblages were sampled photographically on each of five occasions during a period of 20 months.4. Over and above variation in habitat features among locations, multivariate and univariate analyses revealed significant differences between P -vs.- Cs in patterns of assemblage recovery and showed that, at the fully protected location, recovery was faster than at the unprotected control locations.5. Our results suggest that MPAs have the potential to change the trajectories of recovery of disturbed assemblages by accelerating the processes of recolonization and call for further investigation to identify the specific mechanisms underlying increased resilience.

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