Long-term changes in hydroid (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa) assemblages: effect of Mediterranean warming?


Dr Stefania Puce, DiSMar, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Via Brecce Bianche, 60131 Ancona, Italy.
E-mail: s.puce@univpm.it


Marine hydroids are markedly seasonal in temperate seas, being extremely sensitive to climatic changes disrupting seasonal patterns. Modifications in the composition, seasonality, bathymetric distribution and reproductive period of hydroid assemblages are useful to evaluate the influence of global warming on the marine ecosystem. The hydroids on the rocky cliff of the Portofino Promontory (Ligurian Sea, Italy) were carefully studied between 1976 and 1983; in particular, in 1980 the study was carried out along a vertical transect. The hydroids were sampled again throughout 2004, with the same techniques and along the same transect. Species diversity decreased slightly in the 2004 survey. Some species present in 1980 had disappeared in 2004, but other species with southern affinity, never recorded from the area, became abundant in 2004. Species that were present in summer in the first period were also present in winter in the second one. Furthermore, shallow summer species widened their bathymetric distribution, reaching deeper levels. These data strongly suggest that the Portofino hydroid assemblage reacted to the water temperature increase found in the Mediterranean Sea.