According to the methodological standards established by Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the assessment for the pelagic habitat under the Biodiversity Descriptor should be carried out at the regional or sub-regional level. In the case of Mediterranean Sea, the sub-regional assessment seems optimal to take into account biogeographic differences in species composition and functional characteristics. Previous research has shown that phytoplankton diversity indicators are efficient for reliable environmental assessments, although more effort has been recommended to test these indicators on a wide spatial scale to cover wider gradients of natural and anthropogenic pressures. In this work, a set of eight diversity indices was tested against the pressure levels within a common data set of the structure and abundance of phytoplankton communities from the Adriatic, Ionian and Aegean Seas. Expert knowledge was used to define four categories of impacts that take into account partial pressures, such as point and non-point pollution, industry, ports and fisheries. At the level of the common data set, most of the diversity, evenness and dominance indices could only distinguish between the highest level of impact and the rest of impact categories. These indices maintained the distinction between two levels of subsequently dichotomised impacts (no to low impact vs. high impact) across latitudinal and longitudinal gradients. On average, the indices were less sensitive to impacts in the northernmost and westernmost areas than in the southernmost and easternmost areas, although they still showed a significant response. The results also suggest that phytoplankton communities become more uniform and less dominated by a single taxon as sampling depth increases at sites with low impact, while evenness and dominance at impacted sites remain similar at all depths. In order to establish meaningful definitions of good environmental status and targets for pelagic habitats in the Mediterranean Sea, it is necessary to establish spatially specific thresholds by additional examination of indices of good performance.
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.