Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.

On the endangered limpet Patella ferruginea in the Sinis MPA (Oristano, Italy)

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been established to protect vulnerable species and habitats, to conserve biodiversity, to restore ecosystem integrity, to avoid user conflicts and to enhance the productivity of fish and invertebrate populations in the neighbouring zones1. Often the lack of information on the species ecology can limit or make void existing management measures. One of such case is the Penisola del Sinis - Isola di Mal di Ventre MPA (Sinis MPA), Sardinia (Italy), instituted in 1997 to protect the local marine resources (Fig. 1). In this study, we aimed at assessing the distribution of Patella ferruginea Gmelin, 1791, an endemic limpet of the Mediterranean Sea, listed in the EC Directive 92/43/EEC as the most endangered marine invertebrate on western Mediterranean rocky shores23. The effects of accessibility, wave exposure and slope of the coast on the occurrence P. ferruginea were investigated.


The population of Patella ferruginea in the Sinis MPA is near to extinction due human pressure.

A systematic census of P. ferruginea was carried out along a 8114 m georeferenced perimeter of coast in the no take-no entry zone of the Mal di Ventre Island. The studied population showed the lowest average density (0.02 ind/m) ever reported for this species, with a lack of individuals >80 mm (females) and <30 mm. Accessibility had a major negative effect on the occurrence of P. ferruginea. Exposure was also an important factor in influencing its density, size composition and specimen position within the mesolittoral, while the slope had little influence. This paper provides the first knowledge on the distribution and conservation status of the local population of the limpet P. ferruginea, the most endangered invertebrate in the Mediterranean Sea (Fig. 2).


Our results are in line with previous studies conducted in other MPAs showing that a large proportion of Italian MPAs receive ineffective enforcement.

This study provides scientific-based recommendations to the MPA mangers and regional administrators for the management and conservation of this species and its habitat. A new strategy for the national MPAs, where major efforts are invested in public information and participation promotion on the decision making process, is needed.


Specific awareness campaigns have been conducted on the conservation of P. ferruginea and a regional network, aimed at defining a common conservation strategy for this and other endangered species (e.g. Pinna nobilis), has been established.

The results of this study were discussed within the activities of WP6 and D6.1 - Understanding stakeholder and policymaker needs for successful marine environmental management, with special reference to the interviews conducted for the Oristano case study.

Relevance for Policy:
  • Common Fisheries Policy
  • Convention on Biological Diversity
  • Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management (forthcoming)
  • Environmental Impact Assessment Directive
  • EU Biodiversity Strategy
  • Marine Strategy Framework Directive
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive
  • Water Framework Directive


Lead Author:

Paolo Magni
Institute for Coastal Marine Environment of the National Research Council (IAMC-CNR)
Date of research: April 2012

Related articles:

Could MPAs mitigate the effects of fishing? 

Analysis of changes in species distributions 

Changes in herring larvae and environment 1957-2010

Conflicts of interests in the Sinis MPA (Sardinia)

Connectivity: plaice spawning and nursery areas 

Ecosystem impacts of non-indigenous species

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.