Published May 24, 2017 | Version v1
Journal article Open

Local Ecological Knowledge Indicates Temporal Trends of Benthic Invertebrates Species of the Adriatic Sea

  • 1. Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e dell'Ambiente, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy
  • 2. Biology Department and Woods Institute for the Environment, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, Pacific Grove, CA, United States


In the Adriatic Sea, shifts in benthic community structure have been attributed to multiple stressors, from the effects of climate change to the impacts of commercial fishing. Some fishing practices, such as bottom trawling, have caused a widespread decline in exploited fish stocks. Bottom trawling is also expected to have negative impacts on benthic habitats, usually structured by and hosting a large array of invertebrate species, which provide important ecological services to fish and commercial invertebrate stocks. However, in contrast to commercial species for which long-term time series of the abundance exist, data on these habitat-forming invertebrates are scarce, as they are usually caught as bycatch and discarded. Therefore, there is great uncertainty about their long-term trends, and if these populations are stable or declining. Here we used interview surveys conducted with bottom-trawling fishers of the central Adriatic Sea to gather local ecological knowledge on megabenthos abundance occurring in their fishing domain, as an alternative source of information to conventional fisheries data. We interviewed 44 fishers, from the most important ports of the Marche region of Italy, to understand how megabenthic species have changed in abundance within the area since the 1980s. Specifically, we asked fishers to provide qualitative abundance scores for 18 invertebrate species in five phyla (Porifera, Cnidaria, Bryozoa, Mollusca, and Echinodermata) based on their recollection of these species’ presence in bycatch. We stratified responses in homogeneous temporal periods and geographic sectors of the study area, and analyzed their response with mixed effect ordered logistic regression models in order to evaluate spatiotemporal changes in the perceived abundance of each species. Our analysis suggests that the abundance of the sponge Geodia cydonium, the molluscs Pecten jacobaeus, Atrina fragilis, Neopycnodonte cochlear, and the group of holothurians, have declined. From fishers’ perceptions, only the bryozoan Amathia semiconvoluta has increased. Local ecological knowledge can provide important information on environmental change and can highlight species and ecosystems at risk when conventional scientific data are scarce or absent. This approach can be expanded to other regions of the Adriatic and broader Mediterranean Sea to reconstruct change of this heavily exploited marine region.


This document is the accepted Authors' Copy of the paper published in Marine Fisheries, Aquaculture and Living Resources, a section of the journal Frontiers in Marine Science 4, 157; doi: 10.3389/fmars.2017.00157 . The original manuscript was received on 31 January 2017, accepted on 09 May 2017and published on 24 May 2017. CC and AB were supported by a grant from the Polytechnic University of Marche (AMER project) and by European Union (EU) project MERCES (689518). FM and FF were supported by a grant from Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment (Environmental Venture Projects). This paper reflects only the authors' views and the funders cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained there in. Copyright © 2017. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license. The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


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MERCES – Marine Ecosystem Restoration in Changing European Seas 689518
European Commission