Worth a Thousand Words

A photographic series covering 5, 15 and 25 years of sessile structural species dwelling on Mediterranean coralligenous outcrops is  this week’s featured image.

This brilliant figure contains frames with sponge and anthozoan species used in the paper, Low Dynamics, High Longevity and Persistence of Sessile Structural Species Dwelling on Mediterranean Coralligenous Outcrops.

In the Abstract the authors write:

Background:

There is still limited understanding of the processes underlying benthic species dynamics in marine coastal habitats, which are of disproportionate importance in terms of productivity and biodiversity. The life-history traits of long-lived benthic species in these habitats are particularly poorly documented. In this study, we assessed decadal patterns of population dynamics for ten sponge and anthozoan species that play key structural roles in coralligenous outcrops (~25 m depth) in two areas of the NW Mediterranean Sea.

Methodology/Principle Findings:

This study was based on examination of a unique long-term photographic series, which allowed analysis of population dynamics over extensive spatial and time spans for the very first time. Specifically, 671 individuals were censused annually over periods of 25-, 15-, and 5-years. This long-term study quantitatively revealed a common life-history pattern among the ten studied species, despite the fact they present different growth forms. Low mortality rates (3.4% yr−1 for all species combined) and infrequent recruitment events (mean value of 3.1±0.5 SE recruits yr−1) provided only a very small fraction of the new colonies required to maintain population sizes.

Conclusions:

Overall, annual mortality and recruitment rates did not differ significantly among years; however, some species displayed important mortality events and recruitment pulses, indicating variability among species. Based on the growth rates of these 10 species, we projected their longevity and, obtained a mean estimated age of 25–200 years. Finally, the low to moderate turnover rates (mean value 0.80% yr−1) observed among the coralligenous species were in agreement with their low dynamics and persistence. These results offer solid baseline data and reveal that these habitats are among the most vulnerable to the current increases of anthropogenic disturbances.

This post was written by Raquel Iglesias, a publications assistant at PLoS ONE .  Raquel has been assisting authors, reviewers and academic editors since April of last year.  She also helps ensure our clinical trial submissions move through the review process smoothly.

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