Effectiveness of protection of seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) populations in Cabrera National Park (Spain)

Núria Marbà*, Carlos M. Duarte, Marianne Holmer, Regino Martínez, Gotzon Basterretxea, Alejandro Orfila, Antoni Jordi, Joaquín Tintoré

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Posidonia oceanica, the dominant seagrass species in the Mediterranean, appears to be experiencing widespread loss. Efforts to conserve Posidonia oceanica are increasing, as reflected in the increase in the number of marine protected areas in the Mediterranean. However, the effectiveness of these measures to conserve seagrass meadows is unknown. In this study, the present status of the Posidonia oceanica meadows in the Cabrera National Park (Mediterranean), the only marine national park in Spain, was assessed, and the effectiveness of the conservation measures adopted was tested. This was done by reconstruction of past and present growth, quantification of the demographic status of the established meadows, and quantification of patch formation and growth rates in areas where recolonization is occurring. The meadows extended from 1-43 m deep at Santa Maria bay and from 1-33 m at Es Port. Leaf production rate of the stands examined ranged between 6.5 and 7.8 leaves shoot-1 yr-1, with higher rates in Santa Maria than in Es Port. Vertical rhizomes elongated at rates ranging from 5.39-10.12mmyr-1, annual vertical growth in Santa Maria stands being larger than that in the stands developing at Es Port. Horizontal rhizomes elongated slowly (from 2.6-6.1 cm yr-1), and branching was sparse (<0.25 branches yr-1 axis-1), with maximum elongation and branching rates in areas where patches were actively colonizing. Flowering was a rare event in all the stands (<0.015 flowers shoot-1 yr-1). Patch formation and patch growth rates in active colonizing areas were slow, but they increased after implementation of mooring regulations in the Park. Similarly, the leaf production tended to increase, and vertical rhizome growth to decrease, in both bays following the onset of regulation measures. However, the decrease in vertical growth detected was greater at Santa Maria, where access is prohibited to visitors, than at Es Port, where boats are allowed to moor, attached to permanent weights. Shoot mortality rate was generally low (mean 0.10 ± 0.02 In units yr-1) but exceeded the recruitment rate (<0.009 and 0.17 In units yr-1) in 55% of the meadows examined, indicative of negative net population growth rates. Regulation of mooring activities has improved the status of the P. oceanica meadows at Cabrera National Park. The demographic analysis, however, indicated that while P. oceanica meadows at Santa Maria are in good shape, those at Es Port seem to be compromised. The observed differences in meadow status reflect the large differences in circulation inside the bays (water residence time at Santa Maria = 4 days, water residence time at Es Port = 11 days) and the anthropogenic pressure both bays support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-518
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Conservation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Colonization
  • Demography
  • Flowering
  • Growth
  • Posidonia oceanica
  • Water residence time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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