Soultana Tsioli, Vasillis Papathanasiou, Anastasia Rizouli, Maria Kosmidou, Christos Katsaros, Eva Papastergiadou, Frithjof C. Küpper, Sotiris Orfanidis
March 15, 2021
Cymodocea nodosa , a typical marine angiosperm species in the Mediterranean Sea, hosts a range of epiphytic algae. Epiphyte abundance varies at different spatial scales, yet epiphyte diversity and community composition are poorly understood. This study explores the epiphytes on C. nodosa from two reference meadows (Thasos, Vrasidas) and one anthropogenically stressed meadow (Nea Karvali) in the northern Aegean Sea (Kavala Gulf, Greece). A nested destructive sampling design at three spatial scales (metres, hundreds of metres, kilometres) and stereoscopic/microscopic observations were used. Light microscopy revealed a total of 19 taxa of macroalgae populating the leaves of C. nodosa . The most commonly encountered taxa with highest cover (%) were Hydrolithon cruciatum and Feldmannia mitchelliae . DNA sequencing (18S rDNA) confirms the presence of a number of dinoflagellate and red algal epiphytes, and this represents the first application of DNA metabarcoding to study the diversity of seagrass epiphytes. Epiphytic communities studied at species/taxon and functional (Ecological Status Groups) levels separated the reference low-stressed meadows from the degraded one, with the functional approach having higher success. The ecological evaluation index classified the studied meadows into different Ecological Status Classes according to anthropogenic stress.