Macroalgal biomass and species variations in the Lagoon of Venice (Northern Adriatic Sea, Italy): 1981-1998
Keywords:Lagoon of Venice, macroalgal distribution, Ulva
Over the past hundred years, the composition of the submerged aquatic vegetation of the Lagoon of Venice has changed considerably, due to increased anthropic activities and large-scale industrialisation. Seagrasses have gradually been reduced, whereas macroalgae (Ulva rigida, Enteromorpha spp., Cladophora spp., Chaetomorpha spp.) have increased. Macroalgal overgrowths peaked between 1970 and 1990 to the extent that, in order to estimate macroalgal biomass and coverage, the Venice Magistrato alle Acque (the Lagoon water management authority) started a series of investigations including monthly in situ measurements and aerial photo surveys. In the present paper these data are compared with available information on the Lagoon of Venice, and the widespread phenomenon of macroalgal proliferation is described. At the end of the 1980s, in our study area (78 km2 in the central part of the Lagoon) biomass values ranged from 10 to 25 kg wet weight (w.w.) m-2 (sub-areas of Lido and Sacca Sessola), with a total mean biomass of 392,000 t w.w. A slight reduction took place in 1992 and at the end of the 1990s the highest biomass values were relatively low, 5 kg w.w. m-2, with a total mean biomass of 1,600 t w.w. Our qualitative research carried out in 1991 on 130 sampling stations in the study area showed that soft substrates had a greatly reduced floristic composition in the five sub-areas in comparison with the control area (from 18 to 6 taxa), with Chlorophyta (50-80%) prevailing over both Rhodophyta (14-38%) and Phaeophyta (0-14%), and a slight or reduced distribution of seagrasses. The trend in macroalgal reduction during the 1990s corresponded to seagrass recolonisation, mainly of Zostera marina, taking advantage of new, compacted, oxidised and stabilised sediments that were no longer covered by extensive Ulva beds.
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