Stressors affecting the macrobenthic community in Rapallo Harbour (Ligurian Sea, Italy)


  • Anabella Covazzi Harriague DIP.TE.RIS. Dipartimento per lo Studio del Territorio e delle sue Risorse, Università di Genova
  • Cristina Misic DIP.TE.RIS. Dipartimento per lo Studio del Territorio e delle sue Risorse, Università di Genova
  • Mario Petrillo DIP.TE.RIS. Dipartimento per lo Studio del Territorio e delle sue Risorse, Università di Genova
  • Giancarlo Albertelli DIP.TE.RIS. Dipartimento per lo Studio del Territorio e delle sue Risorse, Università di Genova



macrofauna, harbour, organic enrichment, trophic quality, stress indices, NW Mediterranean


An annual survey was carried out in Rapallo Harbour (Ligurian Sea, NW Mediterranean) to study the main stressors affecting the macrobenthic communities. The harbour was characterised by a relevant organic enrichment (between 51.9 mg g–1 and 109.6 mg g–1), which did not affect the water column oxygenation, and low but detectable heavy-metal contamination (on average Cu=135.0 µg g–1 and V=23.8 µg g–1). The seasonal changes in the heavy metal concentrations suggested a significant increase in tourist activities (i.e. boat movements) during summer and autumn. In the inner, more protected sampling site, the harbour structures and the vessel movements increased both organic enrichment and sediment instability, resulting in macrobenthic communities dominated by indicator species associated with these stressors. In addition, during summer and autumn, despite a relevant chlorophyll-a flux to the sediment, the settling material was dominated by phaeopigments and refractory proteins, which reduced its trophic value for benthic consumers. In the outer part of the harbour the main stressor was a polluted freshwater inflow, as indicated by the dominance of indicator species such as Capitella spp. (on average 79.5%), Neanthes caudata, Malacoceros girardi and Diopatra neapolitana.


Download data is not yet available.


Albertelli, G., A. Covazzi Harriague, R. Danovaro, M. Fabiano, S. Fraschetti and A. Pusceddu. – 1999. Differential responses of bacteria, meiofauna and macrofauna in a shelf area (Ligurian Sea, NW Mediterranean): role of food availability. J. Sea Res., 42: 11-26. doi:10.1016/S1385-1101(99)00012-X

Belan, T.A. – 2003. Benthos abundance pattern and species composition in conditions of pollution in Amursky Bay (the Peter the Great Bay, the Sea of Japan). Mar. Pollut. Bull., 46: 1111-1119. doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(03)00242-X PMid:12932492

Blanchard, A.L., H.M. Feder and D.G. Shaw. – 2002. Long-term investigation of benthic fauna and the influence of treated ballast water disposal in Port Valdez, Alaska. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 44: 367-382. doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(01)00246-6 PMid:12146819

Blanchard, A.L., H.M. Feder and D.G. Shaw. – 2003. Variations in benthic fauna underneath an effluent mixing zone at a marine oil terminal in Port Valdez, Alaska. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 46: 1583-1589. doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(03)00324-2 PMid:14643785

Borja, A., J. Franco and V. Pérez. – 2000. A marine biotic index to establish the ecological quality of soft-bottom benthos within European estuarine and coastal environments. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 40: 1100-1114. doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(00)00061-8

Caplat, C., H. Texier, D. Barillier and C. Lelievre. – 2005. Heavy metals mobility in harbour contaminated sediments: the case of Port-en-Bessin. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 50: 504-511. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2004.08.004 PMid:15907492

Carpenter, J.H. – 1965. The Chesapeake Bay Institute technique for the Winkler dissolved oxygen method. Limnol. Oceanogr., 10: 141-143.

Censi, P., S.E. Spoto, F. Saiano, M. Sprovieri, S. Mazzola, G. Nardone, S.I. Di Geronimo, R. Punturo and D. Ottonello. – 2006. Heavy metals in coastal water systems. A case study from the northwestern Gulf of Thailand. Chemosphere, 64: 1167-1176. doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2005.11.008 PMid:16403556

Clarke, K.R. – 1990. Comparison of dominance curves. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol., 138: 143-157. doi:10.1016/0022-0981(90)90181-B

Clarke, K.R. and R.M Warwick. – 1994. Changes in marine benthic communities an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation. Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth, UK (unpublished document).

Covazzi Harriague, A., C.N. Bianchi and G. Albertelli. – 2006. Soft-bottom macrobenthic community composition and biomass in a Posidonia oceanica meadow in the Ligurian Sea (NW Mediterranean). Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci., 70: 251-258. doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2005.10.017

Danulat, E., P. Muñiz, J. García-Alonso and B. Yannicelli. – 2002. First assessment of the highly contaminated harbour of Montevideo, Uruguay. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 44: 554-565. doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(02)00086-3 PMid:12146839

Dauer, D.M., M.W. Luckenbach and A.J. Rodi. – 1993. Abundance biomass comparison (ABC method): effects of an estuarine gradient, anoxic/hypoxic events and contaminated sediments. Mar. Biol., 16: 507-518. doi:10.1007/BF00350068

Dell’Anno, A., M.L. Mei, A. Pusceddu and R. Danovaro. – 2002. Assessing the trophic state and eutrophication of coastal marine systems: a new approach based on the biochemical composition of sediment organic matter. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 44: 611-622. doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(01)00302-2 PMid:12222884

Dubois, M., K. Gilles, J.K. Hamilton, P.A. Rebers and F. Smith. – 1956. Colorimetric method for determination of sugars and related substances. Anal. Chem., 28: 350-356. doi:10.1021/ac60111a017

Estacio, F.J., E.M. García-Adiego, D.A. Fa, J.C. García-Gómez, J.L. Daza, F. Hortasand, J.L. Gómez-Ariza. – 1997. Ecological analysis in a polluted area of Algeciras Bay (Southern Spain): external « versus » internal outfalls and environmental implications. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 34: 780-793. doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(97)00046-5

Feder, H.M. and D.C. Burrell. – 1982. Impact of seafood cannery waste on the benthic biota and adjacent waters at Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Report R82-1, Inst. Mar. Sci., Univ. Alaska, Fairbanks.

Gray, J.S. and T.H. Pearson. – 1982. Objective selection of sensitive species indicative of pollution-induced changes in benthic communities. I. Comparative methodology. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 9: 111119. doi:10.3354/meps009111

Guerra-García, J.M. and J.C. García-Gómez. – 2005. Oxygen levels versus chemical pollutants: do they have similar influence on macrofaunal assemblages? A case study in a harbour with two opposing entrances. Environ. Pollut., 135: 281-291. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2004.10.004 PMid:15734588

Hartree, E.F. – 1972. Determination of proteins: a modification of the Lowry method that gives a linear photometric response. Analytical Biochemistry, 48: 422-427. doi:10.1016/0003-2697(72)90094-2 PMid:4115981

Je, J.G., T. Belan, C. Levings and B.J. Koo. – 2003. Changes in benthic communities along a presumed pollution gradient in Vancouver Harbour. Mar. Environ. Res., 57: 121-135. doi:10.1016/S0141-1136(03)00064-3 PMid:12962650

Keil, R.G. and D.L. Kirchman. – 1994. Abiotic transformation of labile protein to refractory protein in seawater. Mar. Chem., 45: 187-196. doi:10.1016/0304-4203(94)90002-7

Lorentzen, C.J. – 1967. Determination of chlorophyll and phaeopigments spectrophotometric equations. Limnol. Oceanogr., 12: 343-346.

Morrisey, D.J., S.J. Turner, G.N. Mills, R.B. Williamson and B.E. Wise. – 2003. Factors affecting the distribution of benthic macrofauna in estuaries contaminated by urban runoff. Mar. Environ. Res., 55: 113-136. doi:10.1016/S0141-1136(02)00211-8 PMid:12502034

Province of Genoa – 1996. Monitoraggio dello stato dei corsi d’acqua della provincia basato su metodi biologici. Indagini fino al 1996. Report of the Province of Genoa, 154 pp.

Rygg, B. – 1985. Distribution of species along pollution-induced diversity gradient in benthic communities in Norwegian Fjords. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 16: 469-474. doi:10.1016/0025-326X(85)90378-9

Schiff, K., D. Diehl and A. Valkirs. - 2004. Copper emissions from antifouling paint on recreational vessels. Mar. Poll. Bulletin, 48: 371-377. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2003.08.016 PMid:14972590

Tamelander, T. and A.S. Heiskanen. – 2004. Effects of spring bloom phytoplankton dynamics and hydrography on the composition of settling material in the coastal northern Baltic Sea. J. Marine Syst., 52: 217-234. doi:10.1016/j.jmarsys.2004.02.001

Varela, M. and R. Prego. – 2003. Hydrography and phytoplankton in an isolated and non-pristine ria area: the A Coruña Harbour (NW Spain). Acta Oecol., 24: 113-124. doi:10.1016/S1146-609X(03)00048-1

Warwick, R.M., H.M. Platt, K.R. Clarke, J. Agard and J. Gobin. – 1990. Analysis of macrobenthic and meiobenthic community structure in relation to pollution and disturbance in Hamilton Harbour, Bermuda. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol., 138: 119-142. doi:10.1016/0022-0981(90)90180-K

Yamaguchi, H., S. Montani, H. Tsutsumi, K. Hamada and N. Ueda. – 2003. Estimation of particulate organic carbon flux in relation to photosynthetic production in a shallow coastal area in the Seto Inland Sea. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 47: 18-24. doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(02)00414-9 PMid:12787592




How to Cite

Covazzi Harriague A, Misic C, Petrillo M, Albertelli G. Stressors affecting the macrobenthic community in Rapallo Harbour (Ligurian Sea, Italy). scimar [Internet]. 2007Dec.31 [cited 2022Oct.4];71(4):705-14. Available from:




Most read articles by the same author(s)