The Mediterranean pillow coral: many threats impacting its survival

The Mediterranean pillow coral: many threats impacting its survival

The Mediterranean pillow coral – Cladocora caespitosa (Linnaeus, 1767), is the only native colonial and obligate zooxanthellate coral in the Mediterranean Sea, listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List. The Mediterranean coral is widespread in the Mediterranean Sea and lives in shallow photophilic algal communities down to deeper circalittoral zones of up to 30 metres, with several sites also recorded in the Adriatic Sea, including the northernmost parts of the Gulf of Trieste.

Due to environmental changes and anthropogenic influences such as discharges of industrial and urban effluents, trawling and fish farming, population declines have been recorded in many areas of the Mediterranean. In addition, climate warming is having a significant impact on the growth and survival of this endemic coral.

The Mediterranean pillow coral can tolerate low water temperatures down to 6°C in the northern Adriatic, but an increase in seawater temperature leads to growth inhibition, polyp necrosis and bleaching (loss of symbiotic zooxanthellae). The increase in seawater temperatures is most likely the cause of the bleaching of polyp corals in the Gulf of Trieste. If the stress is not too great, the corals can replenish themselves with zooxanthellae and recover. One of the most common symbionts of the pillow coral is Philozoon medusarum, which is also found in the symbiotic jellyfish Cotylorhiza tuberculata in the Gulf of Trieste.

Beds of pillow coral are important biogenic formations in the Mediterranean Sea; they are important for maintaining a great diversity of the associated biotic community. Habitat loss and climate change in the shallow ecosystems of the Mediterranean Sea make their protection urgent.

Share this post:


Latest Updates

Our Action has been selected and invited to this unique event of experts for the UN Science Summit, organised by the European COST Assocaition and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in New York.
On 25-27th September 2023, SEA-UNICORN COST Action organises a Case Study Workshop on “Marine functional connectivity (MFC) and ecological coherence between the protected areas of the Adriatic and eastern Mediterranean”.
The upcoming edition will be led by Dr. Davide Seveso (University Milano-Bicocca), Prof. Giovanni Strona (Joint Research Center, European Commission, Ispra, Italy) and Prof. Valeriano Parravicini (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and CRIOBE, Perpignan, France).
It has been a great beginning for our MAF-WORLD COST Action. After a successful year, we are ready for the second, with some exciting COST Action activity set. 
Branching MAFs are the key building units in marine ecosystems, including the coral reefs. Branching corals exhibit taxon-specific canopy structures and are crowned by morphometric modifications within their canopies, habitats that are under the control of biological and environmental drivers