MPA Effects on Gorgonian Comunities: The demographic evolution of the gorgonian populations of Luiz Saldanha Marine Park over the last 12 years

Diogo Brito

Gorgonians are ecosystem engineers that often play an key ecological roles as they establish multiple assemblages with other species. Along the last decades mass mortality events had come to reinforce the need to protect the organisms. 

Luiz Saldanha Marine park, it’s a Portuguese MPA located in the south coast of the Setubal Peninsula. Its implementation started in 2005 and ended in 2009. Meanwhile in 2007 the gorgonian populations present in the park were accessed for the first time in an attempt to characterizes the impacts of recreational diving over these communities. Later on, In 2009, the populations were reassessed to describe the effects that the MPA brought to these soft corals. In these 12year period it was expected the populations to achieve a good ecological a conservation status.

It was observed an overall decline of the populations demographic indicators with a simultaneously increase of the disturbance parameters.