Increasing interest for recreational SCUBA diving worldwide is raising the concern about its potential effects on marine ecosystems. Available literature is still much focused either on impacts on coral reefs of tropical regions or on diver’s behaviour underwater. In this study we analysed, through photo-quadrats, the benthic community composition in a section of a decommissioned Portuguese navy ship that was sunk for touristic purposes. The ship broke down and became separated in two sections enabling a Control versus Impact sampling design, as one section is less attractive for diving. Gorgonians (mainly belonging to the species Leptogorgia sarmentosa and Eunicella verrucosa) were the taxa more negatively affected in the dived ship section, with smaller coverage and size. More resilient species such as the acorn barnacle Amphibalanus amphitrite were positively correlated with the Impact samples. In the case of the study area, according to the available data, 70% or more of the total amount of dives are now on the sunken ships. From these results, lessons can be taken to apply on natural reefs and related management plans.
Journal of Coastal Conservation – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 3, 2018
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