Project

Restauro Ambientale e Balneabilità del SIN Bagnoli-Coroglio (ABBaCo)

Goal: Dismissed industrial activities are responsible for persistent environmental degradation, mainly due to long-term accumulation of xenobitic contaminants in the environment. Such a chronic form of pollution represents a major threat for human health, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Necessary environmental remediation practices should however be coupled to restoration plans aiming at revert the degradation trend and give back healthy areas able to provide valuable ecosystem goods and services. Albeit fully integrated into the EU Restoration Agenda, marine environmental restoration is a new challenging issue in ecology, with Italy coordinating MERCES, the first European project in this field. The environmental restoration of Bagnoli-Coroglio Bay is a unique challenge at European level. ABBACO will develop new approaches for the removal and remediation of contaminated sediments and restoration of marine habitats. Actions include: i) identifying the environmental benchmark of the area; ii) assessing its present health status, iii) studying the effects of contaminated sediments on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (MSFD), iv) assessing the combined effects of multiple stress at a hierarchical level; (v) experimenting innovative methods of transplantation and restoration of key species and habitats, and new biotechnological instruments for the remediation of sediments (bioremediation, bioaugmentation) in degraded habitats. ABBACO will provide novel expertise and stimulate new initiatives within the Blue Economy Agenda. The project results will be achieved by the actions of 6 intermingled work packages (WPs): WP1 Historic overview of the environmental status; WP2 Assessment of contamination and multiple environmental impact; WP3 Effects on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning; WP4 Holistic approach to the study of multiple stress and risk reduction; WP5 Pilot studies of restoration and rehabilitation; WP6 Evaluating the effects of restoration and rehabilitation procedures

Date: 2 January 2018

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Filippo Dell' Anno
added 2 research items
This research presents the results obtained using a bioremediation approach aiming to enhance natural remediation of the Bagnoli-Coroglio area, a post industrial site in the Gulf of Naples, Italy, characterized by the presence of several pollutants released in almost a century by the ILVA steel plant. In particular, the thesis evaluates the benthic microbial taxonomic composition of this area after ten decades of pollution. Results indicate the prevalence of the Phyla Proteobacteria, (36.7%), Planctomycetes (20.5%) and Bacteroidetes (9.6%) and the presence of a core microbiome suggesting that pollutants and other abiotic factors may have contributed to shape benthic prokaryotic communities. The thesis also evaluates the biotechnological potential of single isolates bacteria (Halomonas sp., Alcanivorax sp., Epibacterium sp., Pseudoalteromonas sp., and Virgibacillus sp.) and mixtures of these species isolated from polluted sediments collected from Bagnoli-Coroglio area and the Sarno river mouth, another polluted site in the Gulf of Naples. Laboratory tests highlighted the ability of mixed cultures and single taxa to degrade PAHs (Polyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) and precipitate heavy metals from culture media. Results of Sequential Selective Extraction (SSE) analysis emphasized the ability of mixed cultures to reduce the mobility of As, Cd and Zn by changing their partitioning in the geochemical fractions. Full genome sequencing of isolated strains has allowed for the genetic and molecular characterization of mechanisms underlying processes of degradation and detoxification of xenobiotics. In particular, many genes involved in hydrocarbon degradation pathways and in heavy metal detoxification systems have been identified. My results suggest a potential biotechnological 4 application of these strains in waste-water treatment as well as decontamination of polluted sediments.
Oceanicaulis alexandrii strain NP7 is a marine bacterium which belongs to the Hyphomonadaceae family and was isolated from sediments highly contaminated with metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons released for decades by industrial activities in the Gulf of Naples (Mediterranean Sea). Here, we report the partial genome sequence and annotation of Oceanicaulis alexandrii strain NP7 that contains a chromosome of 2,954,327 bp and encodes for 2914 predicted coding sequences and 44 RNA- encoding genes. Although the presence of some coding sequences for genes involved in hydrocarbon degradation processes (e.g., alkB) have already been described in the literature associated with the Oceanicaulis, this is the first time that more than 100 genes involved in metal detoxification processes and hydrocarbon degradation are reported belonging to this genus. The presence of a heterogeneous set of genes involved in stress response, hydrocarbon degradation, heavy metal resistance and detoxification suggests a possible role for Oceanicaulis alexandrii NP7 in the bioremediation of these highly contaminated marine sediments.
Renato Somma
added a research item
The Bagnoli Bay (Napoli, Southern Italy) has been long subjected to environmental contamination, due to a large steel plant, which occupied a significant part of its territory for nearly one century. However, it is also part of a wide volcanic area, where an active caldera exists. An environmental survey of nearshore and offshore marine sediments carried out in 2017, revealed concentrations of Arsenic nearly seven times higher than those permitted by law. These concentrations showed not necessarily correlated with the anthropogenic sources, thereby requiring supplementary analyses. Via multidisciplinary numerical tests conducted with the software package Delft-3D, this paper investigates the role of a creek that has been long used to convey thermal water from the upstream volcanic area to the coast. The model results compare reasonably well with the marine sediment survey.
Mariano Buccino
added a research item
Bagnoli Coroglio is an urban district of the City of Naples (South Italy), which fronts the Tyrrhenian Sea for nearly 3Km. It is part of the Campi Flegrei caldera, one of the most explosive volcanic areas in Europe. The need for redeveloping the site after the intense industrial activities of the twentieth century has prompted a remarkable research effort to investigate the pollution's degree, nature, and extent at both the land and seafloor. This article focuses on releasing thermal waters from a natural channel as a source of arsenic contamination in the Bagnoli marine sediments; the thermal waters originate from the nearby Agnano hot-springs and have been conveying artificially to the track since the mid-XIX century. As a first part of the outcomes, the work describes the flow regime that characterizes the marine area. The analysis has been conducted via numerical simulations carried out with the software package Delft3D, developed by Deltares, which employs dynamically interfacing modules to account for wave propagation, generation of currents, and presence of coastal structures. Climatic inputs to the software (waves, winds, and tide) have specifically been gathered and analyzed within this research. The numerical study has permitted to furnish, for the first time, a clear and systematic view of the hydrodynamic forcings that characterize the area under investigation. In particular, a leading role in the transport of pollutants could be played by rip current systems, whose characteristics vary with climate intensity (waves and wind) and coastal structures characteristics. Due to its inherently dynamic nature, the proposed approach seems especially desirable in situations where different contamination sources are compared. As such, it could be successfully applied to other sites also.
Filippo Dell' Anno
added a research item
Here, we report the draft genome sequence of a metagenome-assembled genome (MAG) of a new Alkaliphilus bacterium, NP8, of the Clostridiaceae family. This bacterium was isolated from polluted sediment collected from an abandoned industrial site located in the Gulf of Naples (Mediterranean Sea) as part of a microbial consortium.
Filippo Dell' Anno
added a research item
Coastal areas impacted by high anthropogenic pressures typically display sediment contamination by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals (HMs). Microbial-based bioremediation represents a promising strategy for sediment reclamation, yet it frequently fails due to poor knowledge of the diversity and dynamics of the autochthonous microbial assemblages and to the inhibition of the target microbes in the contaminated matrix. In the present study, we used an integrated approach including a detailed environmental characterization, high-throughput sequencing and culturing to identify autochthonous bacteria with bioremediation potential in the sediments of Bagnoli-Coroglio (Gulf of Naples, Mediterranean Sea), a coastal area highly contaminated by PAHs, aliphatic hydrocarbons and HMs. The analysis of the benthic prokaryotic diversity showed that the distribution of the dominant taxon (Gammaproteobacteria) was mainly influenced by PAHs, As, and Cd concentrations. The other abundant taxa (including Alphaproteobacteria, Deltaproteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, NB1-j, Desulfobacterota, and Myxococcota) were mainly driven by sediment grain size and by Cu and Cr concentrations, while the rare taxa (i.e., each contributing <1%) by As and aliphatic hydrocarbons concentrations and by sediment redox potential. These results suggest a differential response of bacterial taxa to environmental features and chemical contamination and those different bacterial groups may be inhibited or promoted by different contaminants. This hypothesis was confirmed by culturing and isolating 80 bacterial strains using media highly enriched in PAHs, only nine of which were contextually resistant to high HM concentrations. Such resistant isolates represented novel Gammaproteobacteria strains affiliated to Vibrio, Pseudoalteromonas, and Agarivorans, which were only scarcely represented in their original assemblages. These findings suggest that rare but culturable bacterial strains resistant/tolerant to high levels of mixed contaminants can be promising candidates useful for the reclamation by bioaugmentation strategies of marine sediments that are highly contaminated with PAHs and HMs.
Renato Somma
added a research item
In the last decades, investigating geochemistry of sea sediments has been challenging in the eastern sector of Pozzuoli Bay, source of the metal(loid)s has been a matter of debate and the proposed origin of potentially toxic elements (PTEs) has been occasionally inconsistent. In this study, compositional data analysis (CoDA) was used because the results are independent of the measurement unit, the selected subgroup of elements and the order of chemicals in the dataset. The robust variant of principal component analysis (PCA) indicated that Hg, Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn were positively correlated with mud and organic matter in the sediments deposited in front of the former industrial site. Concentrations of these metals decrease along the cores and in the distal zone. Nevertheless, Al, As, V, Fe, Cr, Ni and sand form an association along the coast which strengthens with increasing distance from fumaroles in the proximal zone. It suggests that arsenic was mainly originated from the pyroclastic deposits of Campi Flegrei and some of the seepages with hydrothermal component, supported by low contribution of variables in robust PCA of the sediments from distal zone. Therefore, this pioneering article suggests CoDA as a powerful tool for answering the long-lasting questions over sediment geochemistry in polluted areas.
Lucia Rizzo
added a research item
Anthropogenic litter negatively impacts the marine environment and threatens biodiversity. At the same time, it represents a suitable substrate for the settlement of sessile species, thus potentially altering composition and structure of soft bottom benthic assemblages. By using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), we hereby investigated patterns of abundance, distribution, and origin of benthic litter in three subtidal habitats of a heavily urbanized area and tested whether litter distribution related to patterns of fish and mega- and macro-benthic diversity. Litter accumulation mostly occurred on soft bottoms, while rocky substrata were the least affected, albeit being particularly threatened by sea-based pollution. As expected, the highest biodiversity was observed on rocky bottoms, hosting notable biogenic formations (Cladocora caespitosa, Leptogorgia sarmentosa) despite the area is historically affected by anthropogenic activities. No correlation was found between biota and marine litter, suggesting that litter does not apparently influence biodiversity and distribution of the investigated assemblages.
Martina Gaglioti
added a research item
WP1 ABBACO- Habitat mapping and historical reconstruction of benthic ecosystems of Bagnoli and surrounding area. Final report The study was supported by the project ABBaCo funded by the Italian Ministry for Education, University and Research (grant number C62F16000170001)
Giovanna Armiento
added a research item
The area of Bagnoli (Gulf of Naples, central Tyrrhenian Sea) has been heavily exposed to pollution for over a century due to the presence of industrial sites along its coastline. The aim of this study is to analyze contaminant concentrations (i.e., heavy metals and hydrocarbons) in seabed sediments through a statistical multivariate approach. Multivariate methods permit us to describe the pollution dynamics affecting the area and distinguish between anthropogenic and natural pollution sources. Additionally, the association between contamination patterns and the wave climate characteristics of the gulf (i.e., wave period, direction, height, power, and energy) is investigated. The study confirms that the main contamination source in the Bagnoli bay is anthropogenic activities (i.e., former steel plant and sewage discharges) for the majority of investigated pollutants. It also provides evidence, however, for the potential coexistence of multiple anthropogenic and geogenic sources of arsenic and other metals that may be originating also from the water-rock interaction and submarine volcanic emissions in the Phlegraean area.
Luigi Musco
added a research item
In this paper, the advantages of shaping a non-conventional triple collocation-based calibration of a wave propagation model is pointed out. Illustrated through a case study in the Bagnoli-Coroglio Bay (central Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy), a multi-comparison between numerical data and direct measurements have been carried out. The nearshore wave propagation model output has been compared with measurements from an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) and an innovative low-cost drifter-derived GPS-based wave buoy located outside the bay. The triple collocation—buoy, ADCP and virtual numerical point—make possible an implicit validation between instrumentations and between instrumentation and numerical model. The procedure presented here advocates for an alternative “two-step” strategy. Indeed, the triple collocation technique has been used solely to provide a first “rough” calibration of one numerical domain in which the input open boundary has been placed, so that the main wave direction is orthogonally aligned. The need for a fast and sufficiently accurate estimation of wave model parameters (first step) and then an ensemble of five different offshore boundary orientations have been considered, referencing for a more detailed calibration to a short time series of a GPS-buoy installed in the study area (second step). Such a stage involves the introduction of an enhancement factor for the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) dataset, used as input for the model. Finally, validation of the final model’s predictions has been carried out by comparing ADCP measurements in the bay. Despite some limitations, the results reveal that the approach is promising and an excellent correlation can be found, especially in terms of significant wave height.
Luigi Musco
added 3 research items
The effects of contaminants on marine organisms have been documented since decades, but the long-term responses and recovery rates of benthic communities to mixtures of contaminants, several years after the cessation of industrial activities, need to be further investigated. Bagnoli-Coroglio Bay (Gulf of Naples, Tyrrhenian Sea) is a typical example of historically contaminated coastal area due to industrial activities stopped at the beginning of nineties. In the present study we carried out a fine spatial scale analysis of the distribution of meiofaunal (and nematodes) assemblages along five bathymetric transects located at increasing distance from the historical source of contamination in relation with the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and heavy metal concentrations present in the sediment. Meiofaunal abundance and biomass changed widely along transects but independent from the distance from the source of contamination. Even when the contamination levels were expected to induce significant detrimental biological consequences, meiofaunal abundance and biomass were similar to those reported in unpolluted benthic coastal areas worldwide. Conversely, biodiversity in terms of meiofaunal taxa richness was generally low (range: 5-8 taxa in 12 of the overall 15 stations investigated). This was explained by the lack of sensitive groups such as ostracods, gastrotrichs and tardigrades commonly encountered in benthic coastal ecosystems, thus reflecting an overall poor/moderate environmental quality of the investigated area. Nematode (structural and functional) diversity was also low, particularly at stations characterized by higher contamination levels. At the same time, nematode species composition did not change significantly among stations suggesting a widespread effect of contaminants able to reduce the variability (i.e., turnover diversity) within the assemblages of the whole study area. Overall, our results indicate that even decades after the cessation of contaminant emissions, benthic biodiversity was affected in terms of both meiofaunal taxa and nematode species. These findings strongly reinforce the call for reducing sources of chronic pollution in marine ecosystems and provide new insights for a better understanding of the ecological recovery of historically contaminated marine environments.
Natural storms are able to determine reworking of seabed up to considerable depths and favour suspension of sediment-associated chemicals. Yet, a direct link between exposure to resuspended contaminants and the biological effects on marine organisms have to be fully established. We exposed adults of a suspension feeder, the ascidian Ciona robusta, to polluted sediment (e.g., containing mixtures of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals) from the industrial area of Bagnoli-Coroglio under two temporal patterns (‘aggregated’ vs. ‘spaced’) of turbulence events. Then, we assessed the impact of resuspended pollutants on the ascidian gut environment via four broad categories: oxidative stress, innate immunity, host-microbiota interactions, and epithelium. An early oxidative stress response was seen after a week of exposure to static sediment. Instead, water turbulence had no effect on the antioxidant defence. The first episode of turbulent suspension induced a minimal pro-inflammatory response in the ‘spaced’ pattern. Mucus overproduction and a complete occlusion of the crypt lumen were found following sediment reworking. This study suggests a protective response of the gut environment in marine invertebrates exposed to environmental extremes, leading to increased susceptibility to disease and to concerns on the combined effects of chronic environmental contamination and acute disturbance events possibly associated with climate change.
The aim of the present work is to demonstrate the practical importance of a multidisciplinary approach and weighted criteria to synthesize and integrate different typologies of data (or lines of evidence, LOEs), including chemical levels in marine sediments, their bioavailability to specific indicator species, ecotoxicological effects measured through subcellular biomarkers and batteries of bioassays, and potential impacts of pollution on local benthic communities. The area of Bagnoli (Gulf of Naples, Southern Italy) was selected as a model case-study, as it is a coastal area chronically impacted by massive industrial contamination (trace metals and hydrocarbons), and dismissed decades ago without any subsequent remediation or habitat restoration. The results of each LOE were elaborated to provide specific hazard indices before their overall integration in a weight of evidence (WOE) evaluation. Levels of some trace metals and PAHs revealed a severe contamination in the entire study area. Bioavailability of hydrocarbons was evident particularly for high molecular weight PAHs, which also caused significant variations of cellular biomarkers, such as cytochrome P450 metabolization in fish, lysosomal membrane destabilization in mussels, genotoxic effects both in fish and molluscs. The results of a battery of bioassays indicated less marked responses compared to those obtained from chemical and biomarkers analyses, with acute toxicity still present in sediments close to the source of contamination. The analysis of benthic assemblages showed limited evidence of impact in the whole area, indicating a good functioning of local ecosystems at chronic contamination. Overall, the results of this study confirm the need of combining chemical and biological data, the quantitative characterization of various typologies of hazard and the importance of assessing an integrated environmental WOE risk, to orientate specific and scientifically-supported management options in industrialized areas.
Marco Munari
added a research item
In marinas and harbours, the accumulation of pollutants in sediments, combined with poor exchange of water with the open sea, poses a major environmental threat. The presence of photosynthetic organisms and the related oxygen production, however, may alleviate the negative effects of environmental contamination on heterotrophic organisms, enhancing their physiological defences. Furthermore, possible transgenerational buffer effects may increase the ability of natural populations to face environmental stress. Here we tested the occurrence of transgenerational effects on larvae of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus, whose parents were exposed, during the gametogenesis, to contaminated sediments subject to two temporal patterns of water re-suspension events and normal- (90%) vs. super-saturated (200%) levels of O2. The study site was Bagnoli-Coroglio (Gulf of Naples, southern Tyrrhenian Sea), a historically polluted brownfield and Site of National Interest for which environmental restoration options are currently under exploration. Larvae from different adult populations were significantly, although not linearly, affected by the interaction of all factors to which parents were exposed, at both 24h and 48h post fertilization. Specifically, the exposure of larvae to elutriates from contaminated sediments determined a developmental delay, a reduction in size and an increased percentage of abnormalities in all larval populations independently of their parental exposure. On the contrary, larvae from parents exposed to contaminated sediments, when reared in clean filtered sea water, succeeded in developing until the echinopluteus stage after 48h, with size and abundance comparable to those of larvae from control parents. Pre-exposure of parents to contaminated sediments did not successfully buffer the negative effects of elutriates on their offspring, and no positive effects of ‘super-saturated’ levels of O2 in response to contaminants were observed, suggesting that the Bagnoli-Coroglio area is currently not suitable for the re-stocking or re-introduction of this species.
Giovanna Armiento
added a research item
The purpose of this study is to investigate the current status of contamination due to the heavy metal and organic substances (PAHs, HC >12, organotin compounds, PCB, DDD, DDE, DDT) pollution of the sediments from the coastal area of the Bagnoli brownfield (Naples, Italy) and draw some hypotheses on the origin and trends of industrial and also geogenic contamination. Surface sediments and cores were collected and analysed. The results showed remarkable concentrations of heavy metals, PAHs, and other substances that are significantly higher than the national guideline values of sea sediment quality. Correlation analyses and spatial distribution analyses showed that generally the inorganic and organic pollutants have similar patterns, confirming the common origin from the industrial activity, but also that some of the studied metals have some natural contribution originated from the geologic setting of the area. The distribution of most of the heavy metals (especially Cd, Hg, Pb, Cu, Zn, partially Cr and Ni) and PAHs are similar, and the highest concentrations were recognised between and just off the piers, but a diffuse contamination is widespread up to the external areas of the site perimeter, rising concern on the diffusion of contaminants to the whole Gulf of Pozzuoli.
Marco Munari
added a research item
Dismissed industrial plants with chronic environmental contamination globally affect all levels of biological organization in concert with other natural and anthropogenic perturbations. Assessing the impact of such perturbations and finding effective ways to mitigate them have clear ecological and societal implications. Through indoor manipulative experiments, we assessed here the effects of the temporal regime of reworking of contaminated sediment from the Bagnoli-Coroglio brownfield (Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy) on the fertilization process in Paracentrotus lividus. Adult sea urchins were kept for one month in tanks containing contaminated sediment that was re-suspended according to two temporal patterns of water turbulence differing in the time intervals between consecutive events of agitation (mimicking the storms naturally occurring in the study area) in seawater with natural vs. supersaturated oxygenation levels. At the end of the treatment, gametes were collected and used to test the hypothesis that the regime of contaminated sediment reworking negatively but reversibly affects morphological and physiological traits of the fertilized eggs. We found that aggregated events of sediment re-suspension had profound negative effects on gamete interactions and Ca²⁺ signaling at fertilization. The same experimental condition also inflicted marked ultrastructural changes in eggs. Importantly, however, such detrimental effects were inhibited by increased oxygenation. By contrast, the regime of sediment re-working with a longer interval between consecutive turbulent events had only marginal effects. Thus, the current and predicted changes of climate-related disturbance appear to modulate the biological effects of chronic contamination in post-industrial areas, suggesting that environmental rehabilitation via restoration of habitat-forming primary producers such as seagrasses or algal canopies could alleviate the pollutants’ effects on resident biota.
Martina Gaglioti
added a research item
The aim of the study is to provide a synthesis on the biodiversity of zoobenthic species diversity and benthic habitat distribution of Site of National Interest (SNI) of Bagnoli-Coroglio (Gulf of Naples, Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy), which represents one of the priority areas selected at National level for habitat restoration, and is located within the Gulf of Pozzuoli (a large Bay at the northern part of the Gulf of Naples) (Tyrrhenian Sea). The work provides a dataset, covering the entire Gulf of Pozzuoli, and obtained consulting several sources of information, from historical to recent publications, and grey literature, aimed at the production of a check-list of species, and reconstruction map of the main marine habitats, in order to achieve a synoptic overview of the historical and recent zoobenthic fauna, as well as distribution of habitats, in order to serve as reference point for any future restoration plan in the area. Relevant information regarding the study area was found in 64 out of more than 250 sources consulted. Overall, 813 species of benthic organisms were recorded, summing up a total of 1006 records. Among them, 148 species were reported in the pre-industrial period (prior to 1911), 361 species during the industrial period (from 1911to 1991), and 381 species in the course of the post-industrial period (from 1992 up to the present day). No differences in biodiversity or distribution of individual species were directly attributable to the industrial activities in the study area. Such a finding is possibly due to different sampling effort among periods and lack of quantitative data for the majority of the recorded taxa. A mosaic of various habitat and biocoenoses were documented in the zones (shallow and deep hard bottoms, soft-bottoms with different sediment types, seagrass meadows). An overall reduction of the cover and a higher habitat fragmentation was documented for seagrass meadows (mainly Posidonia oceanica) over time. Given that regression of this seagrass species is common in a much wider extent that covered by the study area, the trend here observed is probably due to multiple impacts from different human activities, including the industrial one at the Bagnoli SNI. The present study highlights that the SNI area is placed in a wider area representing a mosaic of different habitat types, which can provide donor populations of both habitat formers like (sponges, gorgonians, scleractinians, bryozoans and mollusks, and the seagrasses). These organisms are potentially relevant in implementing restoration measures aimed to improve the ecological status of this post–industrial area.
Luigi Musco
added a research item
The impact of plastic debris, and in particular of microplastics (here referred as particles smaller than 5 mm) on aquatic environments has now become a topic of raising concern. Microplastics are particularly abundant in the Mediterranean Sea, potentially exerting substantial pressures on marine organisms at different levels of organization. Ingestion of microplastics has been observed in a large number of marine species. The aim of this work is to test if microplastics produce a feeding impairment in Astroides calycularis, a shallow water, habitat-forming coral endemic to the Mediterranean Sea. Our findings suggest a lack of any avoidance mechanism allowing the polyps to discern between food items and microplastics when occurring simultaneously. Moreover, polyps spend a considerable amount of time on handling microplastic particles. As a consequence, microplastics impair the feeding efficiency in A. calycularis, since polyps may not be fully able to profit from the drifting plankton aggregations. Therefore, we suggest that microplastics can cause a reduction of fitness in A. calycularis, and presumably also in other species characterized by suspension feeding strategy.
Adriana Alagna
added a research item
The use of sexual propagules to restore seagrass meadows has raised increasing attention in the last years as seedbased strategies avoid impacts on donor beds while preserving genetic diversity in restored populations. However, the availability of suitable microsites for seedling establishment at transplantation locations is crucial in order to achieve positive outcome of restoration actions. In this study we develop ad-hoc holders that act as optimal microsites for Posidonia oceanica seedling establishment. Holders are intended to be transferred in the field for restoration purposes after few months of indoor seedling culture. Seedling ability to self-anchor to rocky substrates via adhesive root hairs was exploited. We tested rocky holders with different designs in order to maximize seedling survival and settlement. The effect of the holder design on seedling anchorage performances was evaluated. Holders were provided with different topographical complexity and substrate slope. Topographical complexity significantly influenced settlement success, as seedlings did not attach to flat holders, while anchorage reached 100% on holders provided with complexity at seed and the root scales. Substrate slope did not affect the percentage of anchored seedlings, conversely it influenced root growth pattern and thus anchorage stability. This study shows how ecological knowledge of species’ life history strategies and associated critical traits provides valuable hints to develop alternative approaches to seagrass restoration tailored to the biology of the system under study.
Luigi Musco
added a research item
Marine sediments store complex mixtures of compounds, including heavy metals, organotins and a large array of other contaminants. Sediment quality monitoring, characterization and management are priorities, due to potential impacts of the above compounds on coastal waters and their biota, especially in cases of pollutants released during dredging activities. Harbours and marinas, as well as estuaries and bays, where limited exchanges of water occurr, the accumulation of toxic compounds poses major concerns for human and environmental health. Here we report the effects of highly contaminated sediments from the site of national interest Bagnoli-Coroglio (Tyrrhenian Sea, Western Mediterranean) on the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus, considered a good model for ecotoxicological studies. Adult sea urchins were reared one month in aquaria in the presence of contaminated sediment that was experimentally subject to different patterns of re-suspension events (mimicking the effect of natural storms occurring in the field), crossed with O2 enrichment versus natural gas exchanges in the water. The development of embryos deriving from adult urchins exposed to such experimental conditions was followed until the pluteus stage, checking the power of contaminated sediment to induce morphological malformations and its eventual buffering by high oxygenation. Real-Time qPCR analysis revealed that the expression of several genes (among the fifty analyzed, involved in different functional processes) was targeted by contaminated sediments more than those exposed in oxygen-enriched condition. Our findings have biological and ecological relevance in terms of assessing the actual impact on local organisms of chronic environmental contamination by heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons affecting the Bagnoli-Coroglio area, and of exploring enhanced sediment and water oxygenation as a promising tool to mitigate the effects of contamination in future environmental restoration actions.
Iacopo Bertocci
added a research item
The inheritance of environmental contamination left by abandoned industrial plants is widespread globally. Here we compared the patterns of recovery of lowshore algal and invertebrate assemblages between the post-industrial site of Bagnoli-Coroglio and four reference sites distributed along the coast in the Gulf of Naples, southern Tyrrhenian Sea. The structure of whole assemblages, richness of taxa and abundance of individual taxa were followed during one year since an event of experimental disturbance consisting in the removal of all erect organisms from the rocky substrate. Our main findings suggest that the examined benthic assemblages recovered effectively and quickly after a pulse disturbance and, contrarily to initial expectations, that this ability was comparable between the post-industrial site and the reference sites. This result is discussed in terms of several plausible processes and mechanisms, including the general capability of intertidal organisms to recover from physical disturbance, the potential high level of environmental stress affecting the reference sites too, the chance that the most intense impacts of contamination remained restricted to the sediments of the post-industrial site without propagating to adjacent rocky habitats, and the large natural variability of reference sites that may have masked weak effects of the historical contamination. Irrespective of the actual causes, we emphasize the need for including natural variability of the examined system in any future restoration interventions, to guarantee representation of the range of variation of target organisms and of their underlying processes, and to avoid confounding the intended post-industrial impact with the effects of other natural and anthropogenic processes.
Domenico D'Alelio
added a research item
Integrated coastal management (ICM) relies on the inclusion of economic issues within marine ecology. To assess the progress of this integration, we applied topic modelling and network analysis to explore the pertinent literature (583 Isi-WoS, and 5459 Scopus papers). We classified the topics of interest (i.e., concepts, approaches, and sectors) that combined ecological and economic issues within marine science, we aggregated these topics in fields pertinent to ICM, and tracked the knowledge-exchange between these fields by using an information-flow network. Main findings were: (i) the high trans-disciplinary fashion of studies about marine protection and of those about commercial fisheries, (ii) the weak interaction between studies focusing on potential biohazards and those about environmental management, (iii) the isolation, in the overall information-flow, of studies about ecotourism and aquaculture. We included in a roadmap all the integration routes we detected within ICM, based on the combination of ecological and economic issues. We conclude that, to improve integration, ICM should: (i) Exploit marine protection as a bridge between ecological and economic concepts and approaches, and between maritime economy sectors, (ii) employ systems ecology to pursue trans-disciplinary investigations, (iii) complement systems ecology with citizen science by means of inclusive economic initiatives, such as ecotourism.
Luigi Musco
added a research item
Abstract Shallow-water marine organisms are among the first to suffer from combined effects of natural and anthropogenic drivers. The orange coral Astroides calycularis is a shallow-water bioconstructor species endemic to the Mediterranean Sea. Although raising conservation interest, also given its special position within the Dendrophylliidae, information about the threats to its health is scant. We investigated the health status of A. calycularis at five locations in northwestern Sicily along a gradient of cumulative human impact and the most probable origin of the threats to this species, including anthropogenic land-based and sea-based threats. Cumulative human impact appeared inversely related to the performance of A. calycularis at population, colony, and polyp levels. Sea-based human impacts appeared among the most likely causes of the variation observed. The reduction in polyp length can limit the reproductive performance of A. calycularis, while the decrease of percent cover and colony area is expected to impair its peculiar feeding behaviour by limiting the exploitable dimensional range of prey and, ultimately, reef functioning. This endangered habitat-forming species appeared susceptible to anthropogenic pressures, suggesting the need to re-assess its vulnerability status. Creating microprotected areas with specific restrictions to sea-based human impacts could be the best practice preserve these bioconstructions.
Iacopo Bertocci
added a research item
Marine ecosystems are globally threatened by human activities, but some areas, such as those affected by abandoned industrial plants, show an overlap of acute and chronic impacts, which determine a considerable deterioration of their health status. Here we report the results of a research conducted on coastal sewers that discharge their loads in the highly contaminated area of Bagnoli-Coroglio (Tyrrhenian Sea, Western Mediterranean). The sampling area is characterised by heavy industrial activities (a steel plant using coal, iron and limestone) started in 1905 and ceased in 1990, which left widespread heavy metals and hydrocarbon contamination. After taking into account the potential influence of sediment grain size ranges through their inclusion as covariates in the analysis, we tested the potential impact of sewage discharge on the total abundance and multivariate structure of meiofaunal assemblages, as well as on the abundance of single taxa. The organic matter was analysed in terms of total phytopigment and biopolymeric carbon concentrations. Nematoda, Copepoda (including their nauplii), and Tardigrada were the most abundant meiofaunal taxa at all sites, but nematodes did not show a consistent pattern relative to the sewage outfalls. However, the sewer located in the historically most contaminated area showed a minimal abundance of all taxa, including nematodes, while copepods were relatively less abundant at the two southernmost sewers. Comparing the north vs. south site of the sewers, higher meiofaunal abundances were observed in the southward part, likely as a result of the local circulation. The results of this study indicate the general adaptation of meiofauna to multiple stressors (sewage discharge, superimposed to chronic industrial contamination) and its likely modulation by other local processes. They also provide relevant baseline information for future restoration interventions that would take into account the spatial variation of target organisms as needed.
Clementina Sansone
added 2 research items
The contamination of marine sediments is widespread in coastal regions of the world and represents a major concern for the potential detrimental consequences on ecosystems' health and provision of goods and services for human wellbeing. Thus, there is an urgent need to find sustainable and eco-compatible solutions for the remediation of contaminated sediments. Bioremediation is a low cost and environmental-friendly strategy with a high potential for the remediation of contaminated marine sediments. Here we review the potential application of biosurfactants produced by microbial taxa for the remediation of contaminated marine sediments and we discuss future research needs to develop efficient and eco-sustainable biosurfactant-based strategies for the recovery of contaminated marine sediments, in view of large-scale applications.
Luigi Musco
added 2 research items
Biogenic reefs, such as those produced by tube-dwelling polychaetes of the genus Sabellaria, are valuable marine habitats which are a focus of protection according to European legislation. The achievement of this goal is potentially hindered by the lack of essential empirical data, especially in the Mediterranean Sea. This study addresses some of the current knowledge gaps by quantifying and comparing multi-scale patterns of abundance and distribution of two habitat-forming species (Sabellaria alveolata and S. spinulosa) and their associated fauna along 190 km of coast on the Italian side of the Sicily Channel. While the abundance of the two sabellariids and the total number of associated taxa did not differ at any of the examined scales (from tens of centimetres to tens-100 of kilometres), the structure (composition in terms of both the identity and the relative abundance of constituting taxa) of the associated fauna and the abundance of several taxa (the polychaetes Eulalia ornata, Syllis pulvinata, S. garciai, Nereis splendida and Arabella iricolor, and the amphipods Apolochus neapolitanus, Tethylembos viguieri and Caprella acanthifera) varied among locations established ∼50-100 km apart. Syllis pulvinata also showed significant variation between sites (hundreds of metres apart), analogously to the other syllid polychaetes S. armillaris and S. gracilis, the nereidid polychaete Nereis rava, and the amphipod Gammaropsis ulrici. The largest variance of S. spinulosa, of the structure of the whole associated fauna and of 56% of taxa analysed individually occurred at the scale of replicates (metres apart), while that of the dominant bio-constructor S. alveolata and of 25% of taxa occurred at the scale of sites. The remaining 19% and the total richness of taxa showed the largest variance at the scale of locations. Present findings contribute to meet a crucial requirement of any future effective protection strategy, i.e., identifying relevant scales of variation to be included in protection schemes aiming at preserving representative samples not only of target habitats and organisms, but also of the processes driving such variability.
Luigi Musco
added a project goal
Dismissed industrial activities are responsible for persistent environmental degradation, mainly due to long-term accumulation of xenobitic contaminants in the environment. Such a chronic form of pollution represents a major threat for human health, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Necessary environmental remediation practices should however be coupled to restoration plans aiming at revert the degradation trend and give back healthy areas able to provide valuable ecosystem goods and services. Albeit fully integrated into the EU Restoration Agenda, marine environmental restoration is a new challenging issue in ecology, with Italy coordinating MERCES, the first European project in this field. The environmental restoration of Bagnoli-Coroglio Bay is a unique challenge at European level. ABBACO will develop new approaches for the removal and remediation of contaminated sediments and restoration of marine habitats. Actions include: i) identifying the environmental benchmark of the area; ii) assessing its present health status, iii) studying the effects of contaminated sediments on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (MSFD), iv) assessing the combined effects of multiple stress at a hierarchical level; (v) experimenting innovative methods of transplantation and restoration of key species and habitats, and new biotechnological instruments for the remediation of sediments (bioremediation, bioaugmentation) in degraded habitats. ABBACO will provide novel expertise and stimulate new initiatives within the Blue Economy Agenda. The project results will be achieved by the actions of 6 intermingled work packages (WPs): WP1 Historic overview of the environmental status; WP2 Assessment of contamination and multiple environmental impact; WP3 Effects on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning; WP4 Holistic approach to the study of multiple stress and risk reduction; WP5 Pilot studies of restoration and rehabilitation; WP6 Evaluating the effects of restoration and rehabilitation procedures