The Coastal Ecosystems research group is made up of associate researchers, post-doctorates and doctoral candidates dedicated to the evaluation of the characteristic structure and variety of the benthic ecosystems and their relative ecological processes. Coastal ecosystems are areas of significant biological productivity and have therefore been subjected to pressure by humans for thousands of years. Conservation, as well as sustainable use of the coastal ecosystems, represents a crucial challenge, and it is becoming increasingly urgent to convert activities and human interests in an efficient social system.
Our scientific research is aimed at managing marine resources in order to guarantee the future sustainability of the coastal ecosystems. Our research concerns the dynamics of population, the structure of the trophic network in benthic communities, and the spatial distribution of the resources and individuals who compete for their use. By direct observation, sampling, experiments in the lab and statistical models, we study ecological processes and their effects in a large range of benthic habitats (fields of seagrasses, macroalgal communities and coralligenous populations) both in Sardinia and in other regions of the Mediterranean Sea.
A large part of our activities are carried out inside the Protected Marine Areas (AMP). This allows us to compare the ecological processes that regulate the benthic communities in the protected areas to those of environments which are affected by humans to varying degrees. Many studies are done in the AMP in order to verify the effectiveness of the measures taken in priority habitats and for protected species, or for those of particular ecological or commercial interest.Through the development and application of ecological indicators, we monitor the state of health of the ecosystems and the ecological processes that regulate them. We identify potential areas to protect as well as the monitoring protocols for their conservation.
- Demographic aspects of the key species Paracentrotus lividus
- Estimates of the variabilities of recruiting process as a function of elective habitat and of larval availability
- Estimates of survival rates during growth phase based on the composition of local predator communities and on available shelter
- Evaluation of the probability of success of repopulation efforts aimed at resetting the density to original levels in areas which have been heavily fished.
- Identification and application of ecological indicators aimed at evaluating the ecological status of the marine environment, through various elements of ecological quality (seagrasses, macroalgae, coralligens)
- Development of protocols for monitoring habitats and protected species
- Estimates of the level of fragmentation of habitats, and the consequent ecological effect on the community through landscapes indices