Scientia Marina, Vol 71, No 2 (2007)

Low crested coastal defence structures on the Catalan coast of the Mediterranean Sea: how they compare with natural rocky shores

Esperança Gacia
Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes-CSIC., Spain

María Paola Satta
Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes-CSIC., Spain

Daniel Martín
Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes-CSIC., Spain


Erosion problems in coastal zones are increasingly threatening Mediterranean shores. In tourist areas such as the Catalan coast, there has been an increasing demand for the construction of low crested structures (LCS) to maintain beaches for recreational purposes. We studied the composition of the biota from three LCS and compared it with that of nearby natural rocky shores. Our purpose was to assess the composition of the communities growing on the LCS at a regional scale and to explore potential patterns of community composition in LCS in relation to the nature of the surrounding coast (i.e. sand or rocky shore), distance from natural hard-bottom communities and orientation of the blocks within the structure. The communities growing on the LCS were similar to those from nearby natural shores but the diversity and the number of taxa was always lower. Sixty to 95% of the species present on natural rocky shores grew on LCS, and differences in the number of taxa between the natural and the artificial substrates increased with increasing distances between them. On the Catalan coast, LCS act as impoverished rocky shores that never become natural ‘climax’ communities.


Mediterranean; low-crested coastal defence structures; epibiota; community composition

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