Relict sand dredging for beach nourishment in the central Tyrrhenian Sea (Italy): effects on benthic assemblages


  • Conflicts of interest
    All authors declare no conflicts of interest.

B. La Porta, ISPRA formerly ICRAM, Central Institute for Marine Research, via di Casolotti 300, 00166 Rome, Italy.


The aim of this study is to analyse the effects in space and time of relict sand-dredging activities on macrobenthic assemblages, in an area situated offshore Montalto di Castro (central Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy), and to analyse the recolonisation processes of macrobenthos in the dredged areas. The area in question is characterised by relict sand deposits (Holocenic paleo-beaches), used for beach nourishment along the Latium coast. The effects of sand extraction on benthic assemblages were investigated before, during and after three dredging operations. The sites analysed are located within the dredged areas (inside stations) and in neighbouring, not dredged, areas (outside stations). The results showed that the impact of sand extraction was confined to the dredged stations and to the areas in proximity to the dredged areas. During dredging activities, the structure of benthic assemblages within the impacted stations was characterised by low species richness and diversity. Both the direct removal of sediment and the re-suspension and consequent deposition of fine sediment affected benthic assemblages of the impacted stations. A few months after the dredgings, a recolonisation process was still observed at all the impacted stations. A gradual recolonisation process was observed at those stations affected by only one dredging, whereas a different recolonisation was observed at those stations affected by two dredgings over time. This study suggests that differences of re-colonisation processes of benthic assemblages are related to the intensity of dredging operations in terms of dredging frequency.