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Alien biodiversity in Mediterranean marine caves
Gerovasileiou, V.; Voultsiadou, E.; Issaris, Y.; Zenetos, A. (2016). Alien biodiversity in Mediterranean marine caves. Mar. Ecol. (Berl.) 37(2): 239-256.
In: Marine Ecology (Berlin). Blackwell: Berlin. ISSN 0173-9565; e-ISSN 1439-0485, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Biodiversity; invasions; marine aliens; marine caves; Mediterranean Sea

Authors  Top 
  • Gerovasileiou, V., more
  • Voultsiadou, E., more
  • Issaris, Y.
  • Zenetos, A., more

    The number of alien species in the Mediterranean Sea is increasing rapidly, but few attempts have been made to evaluate impacts on specific habitat types. The present study investigated alien biodiversity in Mediterranean marine caves, both by contributing new records of Eastern Mediterranean cave aliens, and by reviewing the scattered existing literature; the main goals were to highlight potential impacts and investigate the importance of cave environments for the expansion of alien species. Seven new alien species were found in marine caves of the Aegean and Ionian seas, raising the total number of aliens reported from Mediterranean marine caves to 56 species, classified as molluscs, cnidarians, bryozoans, polychaetes, crustaceans, macroalgae, fishes and tunicates. Most cave aliens (66%) were recorded from the Southeastern Levantine coasts, specifically from Lebanese caves. Shipping and Lessepsian migration have been suggested as the main pathways of alien introduction into caves of the Mediterranean Sea. The comparison of alien cave biodiversity with the updated Mediterranean alien inventory (32 species added to the latest inventory) showed similar patterns and trends for species richness, biogeographical origin and major introduction pathways, corroborating previous findings on the high local representativeness of Mediterranean cave biodiversity. Alien species seem to have invaded mostly the entrance and semi-dark zones of shallow and/or semi-submerged caves and tunnels, whereas only a few have reached the dark inner sectors or caves of the anchialine type; thus, the unfavourable cave environment seems to be naturally protected from impacts related to opportunistic invasive species, at least to a certain point. Currently there is no research confirming any direct impacts of alien biota on the native cavernicolous one. However, some issues have emerged, implying potential threats that need to be further explored: (i) the presence of a considerable proportion of aliens in most studied marine caves of the Southeastern Mediterranean basin, (ii) the recently observed population explosion of alien cave-dwelling fishes in the same area, (iii) several indications that alien diversity in marine caves is much higher than we know today. Quantitative surveys and monitoring schemes are needed in order to evaluate potential effects of alien diversity on cave community structure and the role of marine caves as stepping stones for its expansion in the Mediterranean.

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