Study: Algae mats as a haven for many animals in the Mediterranean

University of Bremen

Study: Algae mats as a haven for many animals in the Mediterranean

Marine ecosystems are changing due to climate change, including in the Mediterranean. There, mats of red algae that have hardly been studied so far seem to play a special role as sanctuaries for many different animals. The Department of Marine Ecology at the University of Bremen has now published surprising results in the famous journal Communication biology Posted. It is based on the summarized results of six undergraduate theses undertaken by students at the University of Bremen.

Almost all marine ecosystems around the world are under threat from human-caused climate change. Ocean warming caused by climate change, often combined with overfishing and excessive fertilization, is transforming these ecosystems. Changes in seafloor communities can be observed all over the world: invertebrates such as corals or plants such as seagrass, which make up the habitat, are often replaced by algae.

These changes are often accompanied by a loss of characteristic ecosystem functions such as structural complexity and biodiversity, that is, the diversity of organisms. In the Mediterranean, classic habitats with high biodiversity, such as seagrass meadows or horny coral reef forests on subsoil rocky soils, are currently amplified by mats of red algae in many locations. However, little is known about these changes and their consequences.

Scientists from an international research project led by the Department of Marine Ecology at the University of Bremen in partnership with the Institute of Marine Biology on the island of Giglio, Tuscany, Italy, investigated species composition and diversity within red algae mats in several places. Sites around Giglio and with comparison to neighboring seagrass meadows.

Understanding emerging ecosystems

“Our knowledge of red algae mats, which appear to be becoming more common, is very limited. Research projects that shed light on this are therefore essential in order to be able to understand these new ecosystems,” explains Professor Christian Wilde, Head of Marine Ecology at University of Bremen. Research assistant Dr. Yousef Khaled Al-Khaled is the lead author of the study, which was recently published in the journal Communication biology has been published.

A total of six undergraduate dissertations of students at the University of Bremen who examined red algae mats, the results of which are summarized in aggregate in this article, yielded interesting results. All six undergraduate students are also co-authors of the publication. “We have shown that the typical picture of species-poor, algae-dominated ecosystems does not correspond to reality in this case. On the contrary, these red algae mats are full of small invertebrates such as starfish, mussels, tube worms, bryozoans and sea squirts,” says AlKhaled. The number of species and number of individuals significantly outnumbers neighboring seaweeds.” “All common indicators that are commonly used to compare biodiversity have shown that these red algae are not only comparable to seagrass beds in terms of invertebrate community, but that their biodiversity is similar or even greater than their biodiversity habitats. Others are known as coral reefs or mangrove forests.

Assumption: red algae have a major function

“We suspect that long-lived red algae beds could play a major role, because not only are seagrass meadows and coral horn forests threatened – but also – in the Mediterranean region, their distribution is declining,” explains Professor Wilde. “So these red algae mats could act as a sanctuary for invertebrates in difficult times. If conservation measures for seagrass beds and coral horn forests are successful and current declines are halted or reversed, recolonization of red algae mats could occur – as many animals are no longer found in any Elsewhere. ”

original post:

Al-Khalid YC, Daraghmeh N, Telstra A, Roth F, Oetel M, Rosbach VI, Cassoli E, Quester A, Beck M, Meyer R, Beliuka G, Schmidt N, Winkelground L, Merck B, Wild C, 2022, works Mats of red fleshy algae as temporary reservoirs for invertebrate and invertebrate biodiversity, Biology Communication (5),

More information:

Questions have been answered:

Dr. Youssef Al-Khaled

Tel: +49 421218-63454


Mr. Dr. Christian Wild

marine ecology

Department of Biology and Chemistry

University of Bremen

Tel: +49 421218-63367


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