Overview on the distribution of gorgonian species in Tunisian marine coastal waters (central Mediterranean)





sea fans, coralligenous, octocorals, scientific diving, Tunisia, local ecological knowledge, conservation


Gorgonian species play an important ecological role in the structure and function of marine communities. Human activities are negatively affecting the conservation status of gorgonian populations in the Mediterranean. Acquiring knowledge of gorgonian distribution is therefore a key step required to promote efficient management and conservation actions. However, information on the distribution of gorgonian species is lacking in many Mediterranean areas. This study aimed to provide an overview of the geographic and bathymetric distributions of gorgonians in the coastal waters of the Tunisian coast (1136 km). The sampling design encompassed three sectors, 27 localities and 87 sites. Information was collected from scuba diving (26 sites) and local ecological knowledge surveys of fishermen and divers (132 interviews), as well as from a literature review. Overall, the occurrence of eight gorgonians was confirmed at 54 out of the 87 sites surveyed in Tunisian coastal waters (7-120 m depth). The species that were found were Eunicella singularis, Eunicella cavolini, Paramuricea clavata, Paramuricea macrospina, Leptogorgia sarmentosa, Eunicella verrucosa, Corallium rubrum and Ellisella paraplexauroides. The highest gorgonian species richness and abundance was recorded in northern, followed by eastern Tunisian waters. In the southern areas only one species was recorded. This pattern was related to the rocky substrate that characterizes the northern and eastern coasts of Tunisia. This study is the first to report the occurrence of E. singularis, E. cavolini, E. verrucosa and Leptogorgia sarmentosa in northern and eastern Tunisian waters. The results are discussed in the hope of guiding future conservation and management actions for gorgonian assemblages in Tunisia.


Download data is not yet available.


Aguilar R. 2004. The corals of the Mediterranean. Oceana, Fundación Biodiversidad, Madrid, 86 pp.

Aguilar C., Sànchez J.A. 2007. Phylogenetic hypotheses of gorgoniid octocorals according to ITS2 and their predicted RNA secondary structures. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 43: 774-786. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2006.11.005 PMid:17254805

Aguilar R., Goffredo S., Garcia S., et al. 2015. Paramuricea macrospina. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Andromède. 2010a. Etude et cartographie des biocénoses marines de l'archipel de la Galite, Tunisie. Initiative pour les petites îles de Méditerranée. Contrat OEil d'Andromède/Agence de l'eau. 132 pp.

Andromède. 2010b. Etude et cartographie des biocénoses marines de l'île de Zembra, Tunisie. Initiative pour les petites îles de Méditerranée. Contrat OEil d'Andromède/Agence de l'eau. 122 pp.

Anonyme. 2002. Rapport national sur la biodiversité marine et côtière en Tunisie programme d'action stratégique pour la conservation de la biodiversité en méditerranée (PAS/BIO). Centre d'Activites Régionales pour les Aires Spécialement Protégées CAR/ASP Boulevard de l'Environnement - Tunisie

Anonyme. 2011. Etude pour la réalisation du diagnostic et définition des mesures de protection, d'aménagement et de gestion pourles sites marins des Tunnels et du Rocher aux Mérous à Tabarka. 80 pp.

Anonyme. 2016a. Commissariat Régional de Développement Agricole (CRDA) de Jendouba, arrondissement de pêche de Tabarka, données sur la pêche dans la région Nord de la Tunisie.

Anonyme. 2016b. Commissariat Régional de Développement Agricole (CRDA) de Bizerte, arrondissement de pêche de Bizerte, données sur la pêche dans la région Nord de la Tunisie.

Azouz A. 1973. Les fonds chalutables de la région Nord de la Tunisie. 1: Cadre physique des côtes Nord de la Tunisie. Bull. Inst. Océanogr. Pêche. Salammbô 2: 473-564.

Azouz A., Ben Othman S. 1975. Les fonds chalutables de la région est de la Tunisie (de Kélibia à Mahdia). Bull. Inst. Natl. Sci. Tech. Océanog. Pêche Salammbô 4: 49-59.

Azzurro E., Moschella P., Maynou F. 2011. Tracking signals of change in Mediterranean fish diversity based on local ecological knowledge. PLoS ONE 6: e24885. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0024885 PMid:21966376 PMCid:PMC3178559

Ballesteros E. 2006. Mediterranean coralligenous assemblages: a synthesis of present knowledge. Oceanogr. Mar. Biol. Ann. Rev. 44: 123-195. https://doi.org/10.1201/9781420006391.ch4

Bavestrello G., Cerrano C., Zanzi D., et al. 1997. Damage by fishing activities to the Gorgonian coral Paramuricea clavata in the Ligurian Sea. Aquat. Conserv. Mar. Freshw. Ecosyst. 7: 253-262. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1099-0755(199709)7:3<253::AID-AQC243>3.0.CO;2-1

Bayer F.M., Grasshoff M., Verseveldt J. 1983. Illustrated trilingual glossary of morphological terms applied to Octocorallia. E.J. Brill, Leiden, 74 pp.

Ben Ismail S., Schroeder K., Sammari C., et al. 2014. Interannual variability of water mass properties in the Tunisia-Sicily Channel. J. Mar. Syst. 135: 14-28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmarsys.2013.06.010

Ben Mustapha K., Afli A. 2007. Quelques traits de la biodiversité marine de Tunisie: Proposition d'aires de conservation et de gestion. Report of the MedSudMed Expert Consultation on Marine Protected Areas and Fisheries Management. MedSudMed Technical Documents. Rome (Italy), pp. 32-55.

Ben Mustapha K.B., Afli A., Hattour A., et al. 2004. Sessile megabenthic species from Tunisian littoral sites. MedSudMed Technical Documents, pp. 1-16.

Bo M., Bava S., Canese S., et al. 2014. Fishing impact on deep Mediterranean rocky habitats as revealed by ROV investigation. Biol. Conserv. 171: 167-176. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2014.01.011

Bouafif C., Langar H., Ouerghi A. 2014. Proceedings of the 2nd Mediterranean Symposium on the conservation of coralligenous and other calcareous bio-concretions (Portoro?, Slovenia, October 29-30). UNEP-MAP-RAC/SPA, pp. 235-236.

Boughedir W., Rifi M., Shakman E., et al. 2015. Tracking the invasion of Hemiramphus far and Saurida undosquami along the southern Mediterranean coasts: a local ecological knowledge study. Med. Mar. Sci. 16: 628-635. https://doi.org/10.12681/mms.1179

Bradai M.N., Quignard J.P., Bouain A., et al. 2004. Ichtyofaune autochtone et exotique des côtes tunisiennes: recensement et biogeography. Cybium 28: 315-328.

Carpine C., Grasshoff M. 1975. Les gorgonaires de la Méditerranée. Bull. Inst. Océanogr. Monaco 71: 1-140.

Cerrano C., Bavestrello G. 2008. Medium-term effects of die-off of rocky benthos in the Ligurian Sea. What can we learn from gorgonians? Chemistry and Ecology 24: 73-82. https://doi.org/10.1080/02757540801979648

Cerrano C., Bavestrello G., Bianchi C.N., et al. 2000. A catastrophic mass-mortality episode of gorgonians and other organisms in the Ligurian Sea (North-western Mediterranean), summer 1999. Ecol. Lett. 3: 284-293. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1461-0248.2000.00152.x

Cerrano C., Cardini U., Bianchelli S., et al. 2013. Red coral extinction risk enhanced by ocean acidification. Sci. Rep. 3: 1457. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep01457 PMid:23492780 PMCid:PMC3597996

Direction Générale de la Pêche et de l'Aquaculture (DGPA). 2016. Rapport Technique, Tunis: Minist. Agric. Ressour. Hydraul. Pêche. 26 pp.

El Abed A., Hattour A. 1997. Le Golfe de Gabès: une préoccupation méditerranéenne. Environnement littoral, Atelier CIESM, Marseille, France, 3 pp. PMid:9216871

Fabria M.C., Pedela L., Beuckb L., et al. 2014. Megafauna of vulnerable marine ecosystems in French Mediterranean submarine canyons: Spatial distribution and anthropogenic impacts. Deep- Sea Res. Pt II 104: 184-207. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr2.2013.06.016

Garrabou J., Harmelin J.G. 2002. A 20-year study on life-history traits of a harvested long-lived temperate coral in the NW Mediterranean: insights into conservation and management needs. J. Anim. Ecol. 71: 966-978. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2656.2002.00661.x

Garrabou J., Coma R., Benssoussan N., et al. 2009. Mass mortality in NW Mediterranean rocky benthic communities: effects of the 2003 heat wave. Glob. Change Biol. 15: 1090-1103. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2008.01823.x

Garrabou J., Linares C., Montero-Serra I., et al. 2017. Informe sobre el estado de las poblaciones de coral rojo (Corallium rubrum) en las aguas de Catalu-a. Departament d'Agricultura, Ramaderia, Pesca i Alimentació, Generalitat de Catalunya. 39 pp. http://agricultura.gencat.cat/web/.content/de_departament/de10_publicacions_dar/de10_a02_01_monografies_altres/documents/fitxers_estatics/2017_Informe-estado-poblaciones-coral-costa-catalana-20170117.pdf

Giusti M., Cerrano C., Angiolillo M., et al. 2015. An updated overview of the geographic and bathymetric distribution of Savalia savaglia. Mediterr. Mar. Sci. 16: 128-135. https://doi.org/10.12681/mms.890

Grinyó J., Gori A., Ambroso S., et al. 2016. Diversity, distribution and population size structure of deep Mediterranean gorgonian assemblages (Menorca Channel, Western Mediterranean Sea). Prog. Oceanogr. 145: 42-56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2016.05.001

Hattour A. 1991. Le chalutage dans les eaux tunisiennes, réalités et considérations législatives particulièrement dans les golfes de Tunis et de Gabès. Notes. Inst. Natn. Scient. Tech. Océanogr. Pêches Salammbô 1: 1-28.

Harmelin J.G., Marinopoulos J. 1994. Population structure and partial mortality of the gorgonian Paramuricea clavata (Risso) in the North-Western Mediterranean (France, Port-Cros Island). Mar Life. 4: 5-13.

Jaziri S. 2017. Le corail rouge Corallium rubrum (Linnaeus, 1758) en Tunisie: discrimination des populations, structures démographiques et aménagement des pêcheries. Ph. D. thesis. 209 pp.

Jaziri S., Costantini F., Rugiu L., et al. 2016. Does historical harvesting affect colony size distributionand genetic diversity in Corallium rubrum (Linnaeus, 1758)? Evidences from the Southern Mediterranean commercial banks. Hydrobiologia 784: 211-224. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-016-2875-7

Ktari-Chakroun F., Azouz A. 1971. Les fonds chalutables de la région sud-est de la Tunisie (golfe de Gabès). Bull. Inst. Océanogr. Pêche Salammbô 2: 5-47.

Kipson S., Linares C., ?i?mek H., et al. 2014. Population structure and conservation status of the red gorgonian Paramuricea clavata (Risso, 1826) in the Eastern Adriatic Sea. Mar. Ecol. 36: 982-993. https://doi.org/10.1111/maec.12195

Linares C., Coma R., Zabala M. 2008. Restoration of threatened red gorgonian populations: An experimental and modelling approach. Biol. Conserv. 141: 427-437. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2007.10.012

Lubet P., Azouz A. 1969. Etude des fonds chalutables du golfe de Tunis. Bull. Inst. Océanogr. Pêche Salammbô 1: 87-111.

Marbà N., Jordà G., Agustí S., et al. 2015. Footprints of climate change on Mediterranean Sea biota. Front. Mar. Sci. 2: 56. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2015.00056

Maurin C. 1962. Etude des fonds chalutables de la Méditerranée occidentale (Ecologie et Pèche). Résultats des campagnes des navires océanographiques «Président-Théodore-Tissier» 1957 et 1960 et «Thalassa» 1960 et 1961. Rev. Trav. Inst. Pêches marit. 26: 163-218.

Molina A.C., Montefalcone M., Vassallo P., et al. 2016. Combining literature review, acoustic mapping and in situ observations: an overview of coralligenous assemblages in Liguria (NW Mediterranean Sea). Sci. Mar. 80: 7-16.

Otero M.M., Numa C., Bo M., et al. 2017. Overview of the conservation status of Mediterranean anthozoans. IUCN, Malaga, Spain.x + 73 pp.

Ponti M., Perlini R.A., Ventra V., et al. 2014. Ecological shifts in Mediterranean coralligenous assemblages related to gorgonian forest loss. PLoS ONE 9: e102782. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0102782 PMid:25054286 PMCid:PMC4108394

Sammari C., Millot C., Taupier-Letage I., et al. 1999. Hydrological characteristics in the Tunisia-Sardinia-Sicily area. Deep-Sea Res. I 46: 1671-1703. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0967-0637(99)00026-6

Rivetti I., Fraschetti S., Lionello P., et al. 2014. Global warming and mass mortalities of benthic invertebrates in the Mediterranean Sea. PLoS ONE 9: e115655. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0115655 PMid:25535973 PMCid:PMC4275269

Sini M., Kipson S., Linares C., et al. 2015. The yellow gorgonian Eunicella cavolini: demography and disturbance levels across the Mediterranean Sea. PLoS ONE 10: e0126253. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0126253 PMid:25942319 PMCid:PMC4420262

Teixido N., Casas E., Cebrian E., et al. 2013. Impacts on coralligenous outcrop biodiversity of a dramatic coastal storm. PLoS ONE 8: e53742. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0053742 PMid:23326496 PMCid:PMC3542355

Topçu E.N., Öztürk B. 2015. Composition and abundance of octocorals in the Sea of Marmara, where the Mediterranean meets the Black Sea. Sci. Mar. 79: 125-135. https://doi.org/10.3989/scimar.04120.09A

UN Environment/MAP. 2017. Action Plan for the Conservation of the coralligenous and other calcareous bio-concretions in the Mediterranean Sea. United Nations Environment Programme / Mediterranean Action Plan, Athens, Greece.

Weinberg S. 1976. Revision of the common Octocorallia of the Mediterranean circalittoral. I. Gorgonacea. Beaufortia 24: 63-104.

Weinberg S. 1978. Revision of the common Octocorallia of the Mediterranean circalittoral. III. Stolonifera. Beaufortia 27: 139-176.

Weinberg S. 1979. Autoecology of shallow-water Octocorallia from Mediterranean rocky substrata. I. The Banyuls area. Bijdragen Tot de Dierkunde 49: 1-15.

Weinberg S. 1980. Autoecology of shallow-water octocorallia from Mediterranean rocky substrata. II. Marseille, Cote d'Azur and Corsica. Bijdragen Tot de Dierkunde, 50: 73-86.

Zabala M., Ballesteros E. 1989. Surface-dependent strategies and energy flux in benthic marine communities or, why corals do not exist in the Mediterranean. Sci. Mar. 53: 3-17.



How to Cite

Ghanem R, Soufi Kechaou E, Ben Souissi J, Garrabou J. Overview on the distribution of gorgonian species in Tunisian marine coastal waters (central Mediterranean). scimar [Internet]. 2018Mar.30 [cited 2022May28];82(1):55-66. Available from: https://scientiamarina.revistas.csic.es/index.php/scientiamarina/article/view/1748




Most read articles by the same author(s)