Katerina Achilleos
Advisors: Dr. Carlos Jimenez (The Cyprus Institute), Dr. Spyros Sfendourakis (University of Cyprus).Bryozoans_Enalia

The Eastern Mediterranean has been classified among the most oligotrophic regions of the World’s oceans. Nevertheless, it is well known that the Levantine Basin and especially Cyprus, host high biodiversity at a low biomass. The primary purpose of this study was to provide, for the first time, a check-list regarding bryozoans and scleractinian corals together with their distribution along the southern coast of the island. A secondary aim was to investigate the way by which bryozoans and coral distribution, originating from bottom trawl survey, is affected by abiotic parameters (depth, temperature and salinity) focusing on the role of the Mazotos shipwreck (fourth-century BC) as an artificial reef compared to adjacent regions.

The first part of the sampling was carried out during the ongoing project “International bottom trawl survey in the Mediterranean” in Cyprus (MEDITS 2012-2013), investigating depths of 10–800m around the island. During the second part of the sampling, sediments and live samples were also collected from the Mazotos shipwreck (2011-2012) together with a photographic record that was acquired through systematic transects from the amphorae retrieved from the site (44m depth).

Overall, a total of 84 bryozoan species and six corals were identified, representing four taxonomical orders: Ctenostomata, Cheilostomata, Cyclostomata and Scleractinia. The species composition compared between sampling stations from MEDITS revealed a high spatial heterogeneity. Similarly, the Mazotos shipwreck community was dominated by bryozoans while the total species composition represented not only its’ adjacent areas but a large part of the coastline as well, as resulted after comparisons with MEDITS sampling stations. The structure, composition and number of species from the all sampling stations, were found to be affected by the temperature, mean depth and direct sunlight.

The subsequent step in expanding upon this research would be to examine more in-depth the ecology of selected species of bryozoans and corals, and their interactions with the surrounding environment. Moreover, further investigation is required in order to identify whether the species assemblages found around Cyprus are the same compared to those in other Mediterranean coastlines.

Acknowledgements:  AP Marine Environmental and Consultancy Ltd, Enalia Physis Environmental Research Center and Department of Fisheries and Marine Research for the provision of samples. Likewise, Dr. Stella Demesticha (Mazotos shipwreck Project) and THETIS Foundation,. Finally, Dr. Björn Berning (State Museum of Upper Austria) and Dr. Helmut Zibrowius for their contribution regarding bryozoan and coral taxonomy, respectively.