The effects of SCUBA diving on the endemic Mediterranean coral Astroides calycularis
Many papers have dealt with the impact of diving activities, although most have been focussed on divers' physical contact and their equipment. Nevertheless, there are more factors that may be affecting the benthic community, for example, environment, diver's behaviour, dive characteristics, or previous knowledge of the diver about the surrounding wildlife. In the present study, several factors have been studied that may affect the orange coral (Astroides calycularis) populations in the North Alborán Sea (Mediterranean Sea). It has been demonstrated that detached colonies are more common in an impacted station than in a controlled station. However, larger sized detached colonies were found in the controlled station, which is probably due to the species growing without impact factors until they reach a size that they become detached naturally. Dimensions studied such as characteristics of dives, diver experience, environmental perception, or previous knowledge of divers are affecting at the endangered orange coral, showing that the characteristics of dives is a more noteworthy dimension. But this, in synergy with other factors, may be the cause of losing colonies. The results of this study are helpful to the managers of marine environment and MPAs, especially where sensitive species are present during diving activities. Therefore, essential diver education programmes must teach the environmental value and the fragility of different species. Protecting these populations should be a high priority of the environment managers to preserve our natural heritage.