Bridging the knowledge gap on the distribution and typology of vermetid bioconstructions along the Maltese coastline: an updated assessment

Published: Oct 6, 2022
vermetid trottoirs coastal ecology ICZM Maltese Islands central Mediterranean

In the Maltese Islands, insufficient attention has been paid to vermetid reefs, endemic Mediterranean bioconstructions widely distributed along the southern part of the basin. As a result, this is a largely-overlooked coastal ecosystem despite the multitude of
ecosystem services it provides. The perennial urban development in the Maltese Islands calls for the adoption of urgent action to protect coastal habitats, in particular bioconstructions that increase biodiversity and contribute to mitigating the effects of climate
change. The objective of our study was to extensively document the presence and typology of the vermetid reef ecosystems along
the coast of Malta and Gozo, assessing the occurrence of putative anthropogenic threats on the same ecosystem. Quantitative measurements were additionally taken to morphologically characterize the recorded bioconstructions. Furthermore, we tested the
human pressure effect on the density of vermetid individuals and associated biodiversity. “True” trottoirs were only documented
along the south-east coast of Malta, where unfortunately land reclamation projects are expected to be implemented. Although no direct relation between a number of assessed human activities and the density of vermetid individuals was reported in the current study, we suggest the conduction of further studies to investigate the influence of specific disturbances on the conservation status of this ecosystem. This study expands the existing knowledge on the status of vermetid reefs in the Maltese Islands and calls for management and conservation actions to preserve this bioconstruction.

Article Details
  • Section
  • Research Article
Download data is not yet available.
Anderson, M.J., Gorley, R.N., Clarke, K.R., 2008. PERMANOVA+ for PRIMER: Guide to Software and Statistical Methods. PRIMER-E Ltd., Plymouth, 214 pp.
Antonioli, F., Chemello, R., Improta, S., Riggio S., 1999. Dendropoma lower intertidal reef formations and their palaeoclimatological significance, NW Sicily. Marine Geology, 161, 155-170.
Ape, F., Gristina, M., Chemello, R., Sara, G., Mirto, S., 2018. Meiofauna associated with vermetid reefs: the role of macroalgae in increasing habitat size and complexity. Coral Reefs, 37, 875-889.
Azzopardi, L., Schembri, P.J., 1997. Vermetid crusts from the Maltese Islands (Central Mediterranean). Marine Life, 7-16.
Badreddine, A., Milazzo, M., Abboud-Abi Saab, M., Bitar, G., Mangialajo, L., 2019. Threatened biogenic formations of the Mediterranean: current status and assessment of the vermetid reefs along the Lebanese coastline (Levant basin). Ocean & Coastal Management, 169, 137-146.
Ben-Eliahu, M.N., Safriel, U.N., 1982. A comparison between species diversities of polychaetes from tropical and temperate structurally similar rocky intertidal habitats. Journal of Biogeography, 9, 371-390.
Biolchi, S., Furlani, S., Devoto, S., Gauci, R., Castaldini, D. et al., 2016. Geomorphological identification, classification and spatial distribution of coastal landforms of Malta (Mediterranean Sea). Journal of Maps, 12 (1), 87-99.
Calvo, M., Templado, J., Penchaszadeh, P.E., 1998. Reproductive biology of the gregarious Mediterranean vermetid gastropod Dendropoma petraeum. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 78, 525-549.
Calvo, M., Templado, J., Oliverio, M., Machordom, A., 2009. Hidden Mediterranean biodiversity: molecular evidence for a cryptic species complex within the reef building vermetid gastropod Dendropoma petraeum (Mollusca: Caenogastropoda). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 96 (4), 898-912.
Chemello, R., 2009. Le biocostruzioni marine in Mediterraneo. Lo stato delle conoscenze sui reef a vermeti. Biologia Marina Mediterranea, 16, 2-18.
Chemello, R., Ciuna, I., Pandolfo, A., Riggio, S., 1998. Molluscan assemblages associated with intertidal vermetid formations: a morpho-functional approach. Bollettino Malacologico, 33, 105-114.
Chemello, R., Dieli T., Antonioli, F., 2000. Il ruolo dei “reef” a Molluschi vermetidi nella valutazione della biodiversità. p 105-118. In: Mare e Cambiamenti Globali, 2009, Rome. ICRAM, Quaderni.
Chemello, R., Milazzo, M., 2002. Effect of algal architecture on associated fauna: some evidence from phytal molluscs. Marine Biology, 140 (5), 981-990.
Chemello, R, Silenzi, S., 2011. Vermetid reefs in the Mediterranean Sea as archives of sea-level and surface temperature changes. Chemistry and Ecology, 27, 121-127.
Chemello, R., Giacalone, A., La Marca, E.C., Templado, J., Milazzo, M., 2014. Distribution and conservation needs of a neglected ecosystem: the Mediterranean Vermetid Reef. In: 2nd Mediterranean Symposium on the Conservation of Coralligenous & Other Calcareous Bio-Concretions, Portorož.
Clarke, K.R., Gorley, R.N., 2006. PRIMER v6: User manual/ tutorial (Plymouth routines in multivariate ecological research). PRIMER-E, Plymouth.
Cilia, D.P., Deidun, A., 2012. Branching out: mapping the spatial expansion of the Lessepsian invader mytilid Brachidontes pharaonis around the Maltese Islands. Marine Biodiversity Records, 5, e28.
Consoli, P., Romeo, T., Giongrandi, U., Andaloro, F., 2008. Differences among fish assemblages associated with a nearshore vermetid reef and two other rocky habitats along the shores of Cape Milazzo (northern Sicily, central Mediterranean Sea). Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 88, 401-10.
Dethier, M.N., Graham, E.S., Cohen, S., Tear, L.M., 1993. Visual versus random-point percent cover estimations: ‘objective’ is not always better. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 96, 93-100.
Di Franco, A., Graziano, M., Franzitta, G., Felline, S., Chemello, R. et al., 2011. Do small marinas drive habitat specific impacts? A case study from Mediterranean Sea. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 62, 926-933.
Donnarumma, L., Sandulli, R., Appolloni, L., Di Stefano, F., Russo, G.F., 2018. Morpho-structural and ecological features of a shallow vermetid bioconstruction in the Tyrrhenian Sea (Mediterranean Sea, Italy). Journal of Sea Research, 31, 61-68.
Donnarumma, L., D’Argenio A., Sandulli, R., Russo, G.F., Chemello, R., 2021. Unmanned aerial vehicle technology to assess the state of threatened biogenic formations: The vermetid reefs of Mediterranean intertidal rocky coasts. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 251, 107228.
Fine, M., Tsadok, R., Meron, D., Cohen, S., Milazzo, M., 2017. Environmental sensitivity of Neogoniolithon brassica- Florida associated with vermetid reefs in the Mediterranean Sea. ICES Journal of Marine Science.
Flo, E., Camp, J., Garcés, E., 2011. Appendix B. BQE phytoplankton – assessment pressure methodology: land uses simplified index (LUSI). UNEP(DEPI)/MED, Review of the Methods, Criteria and Limit Values for the Assessment of Eutrophication (Biological Quality Element Phytoplankton) as Developed in the Framework of the Intercalibration Exercise of the MED GIG (Mediterranean Eco-region) Water Framework Directive 2000/60 EC, WG.365/Inf.7.
Galil, B.S., 2013. Going going gone: the loss of a reef building gastropod Mollusca: caenogastropoda: Vermetidae. in the southeast Mediterranean Sea. Zoology in the Middle East, 59, 179-182.
Gordo-Vilaseca, C., Templado, J., Coll, M., 2021. The need for protection of Mediterranean vermetid reefs. In: Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. Elsevier.
Graziano, M., Di Franco, A., Franzitta, G., Milazzo, M., Chemello, R., 2007. Effetti di differenti tipologie di impatto antropico sui reef a vermeti. Biologia Marina Mediterranea, 14, 306-7.
Ingrosso, G., Abbiati, M., Badalamenti, F., Bavestrello, G., Belmonte, G. et al., 2018. Mediterranean bioconstructions along the Italian coast. Advances in Marine Biology, 79, 61- 136.
Mannino, A.M., Balistreri, P., 2021. Invasive alien species in Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas: the Egadi Islands (Italy) case study. Biodiversity, 1-11.
Milazzo, M., Chemello, R., Badalamenti, F., Riggio, S., 2002. Short-term effect of human trampling on the upper infralittoral macroalgae of Ustica Island MPA (western Mediterranean, Italy). Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 82, 745-748.
Milazzo, M., Quattrocchi, F., Graziano, M., Badalamenti, F., Sarà, G. et al., 2009. Invasive mussels directly threaten intertidal vermetid reef: some evidences from a Sicilian MPA. In: International InterMED Workshop, Palermo.
Milazzo, M., Rodolfo-Metalpa, R., San Chan, V.B., Fine, M., Alessi, C. et al., 2014. Ocean acidification impairs vermetid reef recruitment. Scientific Reports, 4 (1), 1-7.
Milazzo, M., Fine, M., La Marca, E.C., Alessi, C., Chemello, R., 2016. Drawing the line at neglected marine ecosystems: ecology of vermetid reefs in a changing ocean. In: Marine Animal Forest. Rossi, S., Bramanti, L., Gori, A., Orejas Saco del Valle, C. (Eds). Springer, Cham.
Relini, G., 2000. Nuovi contributi per la conservazione della biodiversità marina in Mediterraneo. Biologia Marina Mediterranea, 7 (3), 173-211.
Richards, G.W. 1983. Molluscan zonation on rocky shores in Malta. Journal of Conchology, 31 (4), 207-224.
Rilov, G., Peleg, O., Guy-Haim, T., Yeruham, E., 2020. Community dynamics and ecological shifts on Mediterranean vermetid reefs. Marine Environmental Research, 160, 105045.
Safriel, U.N., Ben-Eliahu, M.N., 1991. The influence of habitat structure and environmental stability on the species diversity of polychaetes in vermetid reefs. p. 349-369. In: Habitat Structure. Bell, S.S., McCoy, E.D., Mushinsky, H.R. (Eds.). Springer.
Sarà, G., Romano, C., Mazzola, A., 2008. A new Lessepsian species in the western Mediterranean (Brachidontes pharaonis Bivalvia: Mytilidae): density, resource allocation and biomass. Marine Biodiversity Records, 1, E8.
Sarà, G. Palmeri, V., Rinaldi, A., Montalto, V., Helmuth, B., 2013. Predicting biological invasions in marine habitats through eco-physiological mechanistic models: a study case with the bivalve Brachidontes pharaonis. Diversity and Distribution, 19, 1235-1247.
Sarà, G., Porporato, E.M.D., Mangano, M.C., Mieszkowska, N., 2018. Multiple stressors facilitate the spread of a non-indigenous bivalve in the Mediterranean Sea. Journal of Biogeography, 45, 1090-1103.
Sarà, G., Milisenda, G., Mangano, M.C., Bosch-Belmar, M., 2021. The buffer effect of canopy-forming algae on vermetid reefs’ functioning: A multiple stressor case study. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 171, 112713.
Schembri, P.J., 1990. The Maltese coastal environment and its protection. p. 107-112. In: VII International Conference: Mare e Territorio, La protezione dell’ambiente Mediterraneo ed il piano della Commissione delle Comunità Europee. Università degli Studi di Palermo, Palermo.
Schembri, P.J., Deidun, A., Mallia A., Mercieca, L., 2005. Rocky shore biotic assemblages of the Maltese Islands (central Mediterranean): a conservation perspective. Journal of Coastal Research, 21, 157-166.
Schiaparelli, S., Guidetti, P., Cattaneo-Vietti, R., 2003. Can mineralogical features affect the distribution patterns of sessile gastropods? The Vermetidae case in the Mediterranean Sea. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 83 (6), 1267-1268.
Templado, J., Richter, A., Calvo, M., 2016. Reef building Mediterranean vermetid gastropods: Disentangling the Dendropoma petraeum species complex. Mediterranean Marine Science, 17 (1), 13-31.
Most read articles by the same author(s)