Fabrizio Gianni has recently defended his PhD thesis "Conservation and ecological restoration of Mediterranean marine forests” in front of an international committee composed of Dr. Enrique Ballesteros (reviewer, Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes), Pr. Ester Serrão (reviewer, University of Algarve), Pr. Alexandre Meinesz (jury president, Université Nice-Sophia Antipolis), Pr. Nick Shears (University of Auckland), Dr. Rodolphe Lemée (Université Paris 6-Observatoire Océanologique de Villefranche sur Mer), Pr. Airoldi Laura (co-supervisor, University of Bologna) and Dr. Luisa Mangialajo (supervisor, University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis).

This thesis was founded by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) [grant number 290056] within the project MMMPA-Training Network for Monitoring Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas.


Several important marine habitats exist worldwide, both in tropical and in temperate waters, and many of them are already suffering the effects of multiple human impacts. A widespread loss of marine forests of large brown seaweeds has been observed in the recent decades. Their loss leads to an ecosystem-shift towards less complex turf beds or sea urchin barren grounds, devoid of any erect vegetation. A wide arrays of human activities are causing this regression: eutrophication, coastal urbanisation, high sedimentation rates, destructive fishing and overfishing of sea urchins predators.
In the framework of the MMMPA project, this PhD work aimed to address some important topics related to the conservation and restoration of algal forests, with a particular attention to the role of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and fish herbivory. Multiple complementary approaches were used: macroalgae surveys, literature reviews, manipulative experiments in the field, tank-based experiments and GIS habitat mapping.
Results from field experiments showed that native herbivorous fish, likely Sarpa salpa (salemas), can be the most effective herbivore of intertidal Cystoseira belts both on natural and artificial substrates. Indeed, salemas strongly affected Cystoseira stricta fitness, being able to decrease the growth, biomass and reproductive output of natural forests and limit restoration success on artificial substrates. Likely, the role of the herbivorous fish in structuring macroalgal communities has been overlooked in the Mediterranean Sea so far.
A review of the existing literature showed that knowledge on marine forests forming species has improved in recent decades. However, most of the research is not in relation to MPAs, likely due to the fact that marine forests are not always included in MPAs planning and management plans. Studies on marine forests are not homogeneously distributed in the world, being concentrated in the developed countries where marine forests sustain industrial activities or where their importance is recognised. Interestingly, an increase of the awareness of marine forests importance and of the scientific interest (published papers) was observed. Nowadays, marine forests are under continuous threats and especially sensitive to multiple impacts. Hence, conservation measures and recovery strategies should be urgently set up. Degraded/lost forests should be restored according to the guidelines and suggestions discussed in this PhD work, keeping in mind that the conservation of the existing forests in MPAs has always to be considered as a priority.

Marine forests, marine protected areas, herbivorous fishes, conservation, restoration, seaweeds, macroalgae, Mediterranean Sea, artificial structures, herbivory, monitoring, management, temperate seas


The ECOMERS laboratory (FRE 3729 UNS-CNRS) University of Nice Sophia Antipolis (UNS) held from June 14 to 16 a conference on marine protected areas (MPAs). Approximately 40 scientists, managers, financial officers and distinguished guests participated with the main objective to improve the effectiveness of MPAs in the Mediterranean and to sensitize to policy makers and the general public of the importance of these areas. HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco was the guest of honor on Thursday June 16th, and spoke on the support provided by the Foundation Albert II of Monaco to the protection of the oceans and seas.


In the framework of a research project funded by the Total Foundation (see 'Research' section), an exploration of a spectacular submerged marine cave has been conducted on 5th May, 2016. This cave, called 'La Cattedrale', is located at Marettimo Island, in Sicily (Italy), within the buffer zone of the Egadi Islands Marine Protected Area. Two scientists of the Ecomers Lab (P. Guidetti, A. Di Franco), accompanied by F. Tedone (Marettimo Diving Center), have explored this magnificient cave (see picture here below) to get data on the fish fauna living inside.

The entrance is located at about 30 m depth. The cave is formed by a tunnel approx. 50 m long, followed by a large chamber about 50 m long and 70 m wide, ending at about 100 m distance from the entrance. Inside some typical cave fishes have been recorded, like Grammonus ater and Thorogobius ephippiatus, along with the most abundant fish in Mediterranean marine caves, Apogon imberbis, which is the main subject of this research.


Picture taken inside the submerged marine cave 'La Cattedrale', Marettimo Island, Sicily (Italy). Photo: Sergio Riccardo.

The MMMPA final guidelines address some of the complex needs of Marine Protected Areas management Banc de Poissons 004

The ‘Monitoring Mediterranean Marine Protected Area’ (MMMPA) project (January 1st 2012 – December 31st 2015) has been financed by the European Commission within the 7th Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013). The main aim was to train the next generation of MPA scientists and managers, equipping them with a flexible set of scientific and management skills essential within a wide range of professional environments.
ECOMERS has hosted two PhD students. The first PhD research focus on the conservation and restoration of marine forests, in particular, on the relationships between seaweeds and herbivorous fish, the prospects for artificial structures forestation and the evolution of Fucales in MPAs. The objectives of the second PhD research is to understand the trophic relationships and the energy flows in coastal rocky ecosystems, in order to feed some models (ECOPATH, ECOTROPH) that allow simulations of fishing impacts on the trophic web.
With the aim to address some of the complex needs of Marine Protected Areas management, the results of the “MMMPA project have been synthesized in a series of timely and original guidelines you can download here.

Read more: MMMPA Final Guidelines

Merou scandola tete Giulia Prato has recently defended her PhD "Field monitoring and trophic modelling as management tools to assess ecosystem functioning and the status of high trophic level predators in Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas" in front of an international jury composed of Dr Marta Coll (reviewer), Pr. José Garcia-Charton (reviewer), Dr Giuseppe Di Carlo, Pr Paolo Guidetti (President), Pr Didier Gascuel (co-supervisor) and Pr Patrice Francour (supervisor).

This thesis has been granted by the MMMPA program, supported by the EU. This is the first thesis defended among all the MMMPA's students.

You can download this PhD thesis here.


Read more: Giulia Prato's PhD: 2016 01 29
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