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Coexistence of the reef-building coral Cladocora caespitosa and the canopy-forming alga Treptacantha ballesterosii: Description of a new Mediterranean habitat

Alèssia Pons-Fita
Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes-CSIC, Spain

Jana Verdura
GRMAR, Institut d’Ecologia Aquàtica, Departament de Ciències Ambientals, Universitat de Girona, Spain

Jorge Santamaría
GRMAR, Institut d’Ecologia Aquàtica, Departament de Ciències Ambientals, Universitat de Girona, Spain

Diego K. Kersting
Departament de Biologia Evolutiva, Ecologia i Ciències Ambientals, Facultat de Biologia, Institut de Recerca de la Biodiversitat (IRBIO), Universitat de Barcelona, Spain

Enric Ballesteros
Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes-CSIC, Spain


Shallow Mediterranean rocky environments are usually dominated by macroalgae, but the stony colonial zooxan­thellate coral Cladocora caespitosa is able to build extensive banks in some particular areas. Although zooxanthellate corals and benthic macroalgae are expected to compete for light and space when overlapping in the same habitat, there is previous evidence that C. Caespitosa and Mediterranean macroalgae do not suffer from competitive exclusion when living together. Here we characterize a new and unique Mediterranean habitat where the reef-building coral C. Caespitosa and erect seaweeds of the order Fucales (Cystoseira s.l.) coexist. In this new habitat C. Caespitosa reaches 34% cover and densities of Cystoseira s.l. (mainly Treptacantha ballesterosii) are much higher than values reported from other sites. Interestingly, abundances of T. Ballesterosii and C. Caespitosa show a positive relationship, suggesting that some kind of facilitation mechanism is taking place. These findings challenge the theory of competitive exclusion between corals and macroalgae and launch a wide array of possible open discussions on coral-macroalgae interactions.


Cladocora caespitosa; Treptacantha; Cystoseira; habitat; coral-algal interactions; Mediterranean Sea

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