Megabenthic soft bottom communities of trawlable grounds have been studied since the first few decades of the last century, thanks to trawl fishing technologies. Despite providing an extensive amount of presence data, trawling cannot be considered reliable from a quantitative point of view, frequently giving only weak information about sessile species density, large and small-scale distribution and main habitat features. The recent development of visual technologies on remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) can give a more accurate approach for the study of mega-epibenthic communities. The present study reports the application of both ROV imaging and trawling approaches for the study of a large aggregation (i.e. field) of the red sea pen Pennatula rubra in the Ionian Sea. Density, biomass and population structure were studied in the same population of P. rubra. The density assessed by ROV was significantly higher than that estimated with a three-year series of trawling surveys. Trawling gear efficiency in the removal of P. rubra was low overall. Incidental mortality can be very high due to damage to those specimens that encounter the trawl net but are not directly captured. However, sampling of several colonies by trawling was necessary to establish biometric correlations to estimates of size and biomass from ROV imaging. Trawling catch abundance/biomass data could be useful to identify areas of higher concentration of sea pens, while ROV imaging can be used to monitor these fields in a non-destructive manner that would be consistent with protection measures.

ROV vs trawling approaches in the study of benthic communities: The case of Pennatula rubra (Cnidaria: Pennatulacea)

Chimienti, Giovanni;Tursi, Angelo;Mastrototaro, Francesco
2018

Abstract

Megabenthic soft bottom communities of trawlable grounds have been studied since the first few decades of the last century, thanks to trawl fishing technologies. Despite providing an extensive amount of presence data, trawling cannot be considered reliable from a quantitative point of view, frequently giving only weak information about sessile species density, large and small-scale distribution and main habitat features. The recent development of visual technologies on remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) can give a more accurate approach for the study of mega-epibenthic communities. The present study reports the application of both ROV imaging and trawling approaches for the study of a large aggregation (i.e. field) of the red sea pen Pennatula rubra in the Ionian Sea. Density, biomass and population structure were studied in the same population of P. rubra. The density assessed by ROV was significantly higher than that estimated with a three-year series of trawling surveys. Trawling gear efficiency in the removal of P. rubra was low overall. Incidental mortality can be very high due to damage to those specimens that encounter the trawl net but are not directly captured. However, sampling of several colonies by trawling was necessary to establish biometric correlations to estimates of size and biomass from ROV imaging. Trawling catch abundance/biomass data could be useful to identify areas of higher concentration of sea pens, while ROV imaging can be used to monitor these fields in a non-destructive manner that would be consistent with protection measures.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11586/227167
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