, Volume 699, Issue 1, pp 21–33 | Cite as

Sea urchin–seagrasses interactions: trophic links in a benthic ecosystem from a coastal lagoon

  • Catherine Fernandez
  • Lila Ferrat
  • Gérard Pergent
  • Vanina Pasqualini


Seagrasses could constitute a major component of lagunal ecosystems. Generally, in seagrass beds, consumer control is strong. In coastal lagoons, where seagrass beds are particularly extensive, there is only scarce data on seagrass herbivory. In Mediterranean coastal lagoons, Paracentrotus lividus populations are extensive and consume Cymodocea nodosa beds. In this study, we monitored a P. lividus population during 18 months in order to analyse changes in population density and structure. On the basis of results of previous studies (i.e. biomass, density, production and nutrition parameters), we assessed the importance of P. lividus with respect to C. nodosa herbivory in a Mediterranean coastal lagoon. The results show that this sea urchin, when its density is low, is estimated to consume about 0.6–18.9% of the seagrass production. However, active movement of consumers among adjacent habitats influences nutrient fluxes. During sea urchin migration, when densities of 10–98 ind. m² were observed, the consumption rates in sea urchin feeding fronts temporarily exceeded seagrass production rates. The overgrazing of the C. nodosa results in patches where leaves of this plant are completely consumed, and this phenomenon may explain a part of interannual variations in the distribution pattern of this species.


Seagrass Herbivory Sea urchin Food web grazing Feeding fronts Overgrazing 



The authors wish to thank all those who worked at Urbino lagoon during the last few years and L. Bronzini de Caraffa, who enabled us to work in this lagoon.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Fernandez
    • 1
  • Lila Ferrat
    • 2
  • Gérard Pergent
    • 2
  • Vanina Pasqualini
    • 2
  1. 1.IMBE UMR CNRS 7263, Aix-Marseille UniversitéMarseille Cedex 3France
  2. 2.Faculté de Sciences et TechniquesSPE UMR CNRS 6134, Université de CorseCorteFrance

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