Laura Airoldi, PhD

Date of Birth: 27 February 1967

Current position: Associated Professor

Dipartimento di Biologia Evoluzionistica Sperimentale &
Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerca per le Scienze Ambientali in Ravenna, University of Bologna

Mailing address:

Scienze Ambientali - Università di Bologna

Via S. Alberto 163

I-48100 Ravenna (Italy)


Phone: +39 0544 937 314

Fax: +39 0544 937 303


Research interests

My research focuses primarily on community structure and population dynamics, with an emphasis on field experimentation. I have worked on various aspects of the ecology of coastal assemblages, with particular attention to 1) the interacting roles of natural and anthropogenic perturbations, life-history traits and spatial and temporal heterogeneity in driving shifts in natural communities, and 2) the assessment of environmental consequences of various anthropogenic impacts -emphasizing coastal urbanization, habitat loss and enhanced loads of sediments -finalized to the management and conservation of coastal habitats and assemblages. More recently, I have been interested in human-induced marine space-use and space-cover change due to the recognition that the transformation of seascapes is one of the greatest driver of marine biodiversity loss. This is leading me to an interest in GIS and environmental modelling tools for studying and understanding sustainability and the investigation of social-ecological tipping points and critical thresholds. I have worked in a variety of marine coastal environments, including rocky shores, submarine caves, marine urban habitats, artificial structures, and more recently shallow sedimentary environments and saltmarshes. I also have a strong background in the design and analysis of ecological experiments and monitoring programs.


My major research interests include:


·       Ecology of coastal habitats, including rocky and sandy coasts, submarine caves and human-made structures

·       Algal ecology, emphasis on habitat switch between canopy-forming and turf-forming algae

·       Fluxes of sediments and environmental impact of enhanced sediment loads

·       Marine urban ecology: assessment of environmental consequences of urbanization in coastal areas and ecological planning and design of coastal defence, marine offshore platform and other marine infrastructures

·        Habitat loss, biodiversity and conservation of coastal assemblages

·        Ecology of non-indigenous species


Academic and other qualifications


1996     CMAS Instructor of SCUBA Diving and three star CMAS Scientific SCUBA Diver

1994     Ph.D in Environmental Sciences (Marine Science), University of Genova (Italy)

1990     M.Sc. equivalent in Biological Sciences cum laude, University of Milano (Italy)


Employment & fellowships


2011-          Associated Professor in Ecology for the Faculty of Sciences, University of Bologna, Italy

2011           Visiting Researcher, Wesleyan University and Stanford University, USA (2mo)

2006            Visiting Researcher, University of Adelaide (3mo, MarcoPolo Exchange Fellowship, University of Bologna, Italy)

2005- 2011   Research Fellow and Lecturer in Ecology for the Faculty of Sciences, University of Bologna, Italy

2004            Visiting Researcher, Long Marine Lab, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, USA (1mo)

2002            Visiting Researcher, Marine Biological Association of the UK (5mo, Exchange Visit Grant, European Science Foundation, LINKECOL Programme)

2000-2005    Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Bologna (Post-doctoral Fellowship, University of Bologna, Italy)

1997-1999    Post-doctoral Fellow, Sydney University (Australian Research Council Post-doc Fellowship, Australia)

1996-1997    Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Pisa (Post-doctoral Fellowship, University of Pisa, Italy)

1994-1995    Postdoctoral Fellow, Pisa University (MAST II Post-doctoral Fellowship, EU MAS2-CT93-0058)

1991-1994    Doctoral Fellow, University of Genova and University of Pisa (Doctoral Fellowship, Italian Ministry of the University, Scientific and Technological Research, Italy)


Awards and fellowships


2011     ECCO Exchange Fellowship, Eastern College Consortium, Vassar, Wellesley e Wesleyan University, USA

2006     Marco Polo Exchange Fellowship, University of Bologna

2004     Special S.It.E prize for the paper “Airoldi L. (2003). The effects of sedimentation on rocky coast assemblages. Oceanogr. Mar. Biol. Annu. Rev. 41: 161-236

2002     Exchange Visit Grant, European Science Foundation LINKECOL Programme

2000, 2002, 2005  Post-doctoral Fellowships, University of Bologna

1999     Award "Premio Marchetti" for best oral presentation at S.It.E Conference

1997     Post-doctoral Fellowship, University of Sydney

1996     Post-doctoral Fellowship, University of Pisa.

1994     MAST II Post-doctoral Fellowship, European Union

1991     Doctoral Fellowship, Italian Ministry of the University, Scientific and Technological Research

1990     Award for excellence in university studies, INPDAI


Editorial activity


Contributing Editor for Marine Ecology Progress Series

Editorial Board Member for The Open Oceanography Journal and ISRN Ecology



Italian Ecological Society (S.It.E)

Italian Society of Marine Biology (SIBM)

Ecological Society of Australia (ESA)

Society for Conservation Biology (SCB)

American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS)

Ecological Society of America (ESA)



Recent research projects

2012-2016      MERMAID (Innovative multi-purpose off-shore platforms: planning, design and operation, EU FP7 – Ocean – 2011, grant 288710) - PI

2010–2015 MARES - Doctoral Programme in Marine Ecosystem Health and Conservation (EU- 512002-1-2010-1-BE-EMJD) - local coordinator

2009-2013      “THESEUS -Innovative technologies for safer European coasts in a changing climate” (EU - FP7 - ENV2009-1, grant 244104) - PI

2008-2010      “BIORES -The resistance and resilience of coastal biodiversity to synergic effects of global and local environmental changes” (PRIN 2007, MIUR, Italy, local coordinator)

2008              ISA Topic 2008 “Predicting changes in a changing world” (Institute of Advanced Studies, Italy) - coordinator

2008-2010      MarUrbe - Sustainable Urban Development: solutions to promote the biological and conservation value of marine urban structures” (EU – FP7-PEOPLE-2007-2-1-IEF-219818) - coordinator

2008-2010      “Effects of the Introduction of non-native habitats and species on the functioning of marine coastal ecosystems” (Bologna University, MIUR) - coordinator

2007-2008 The Nature Conservancy Projects in support of the Shellfish at Risk working group (The Nature Conservancy, USA) - PI

2007-2009      AdriaBio - Past, present and future of marine biodiversity in the Adriatic sea” (University of Bologna Strategic Project, University of Bologna, Italy) - coordinator

2007-2008      “ECO GOVERNANCE –Ecological foundations for the governance of the Adriatic coastal space: ecology, monitoring and management of transitional aquatic ecosystems” (EU INTEREG/CARDS-PHARE) – PI

2006 – date    CoML (Census of Marine Life) network “NaGISA – Natural Geography In Shore Areas” (local coordinator)

2006- date      EU Network of Excellence MarBEF - Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning (EU contract GOCE-CT-2003–505446, coord C. Heip) until 2009, and currently MarBEF + Association (local coordinator)


Selected publications


Dugan, J. E., Airoldi, L., Chapman, M. G., Walker, S., and Schlacher, T. 2011. Estuarine and coastal structures: environmental effects. A focus on shore and nearshore structures. In: Wolanski E and McLusky DS (eds.) Treatise on Estuarine and Coastal Science, Vol 8, pp. 17–41. Waltham: Academic Press.

LotzeHK, Coll M, Magera AM, Ward-PaigeC, Airoldi L. 2011. Recovery of marine animal populations and ecosystems. Trends Ecol. Evol., 26: 595-605 (journal cover page, featured by the Faculty of 1000 twice, once as "Recommended" and once as "Must Read", also selected for inclusion in the European Commission's environmental news service for policy makers Science for Environment Policy)

Airoldi L., Bulleri F. (2011) Anthropogenic disturbance can determine the magnitude of opportunistic species responses on marine urban infrastructures. Plos One 6: e22985. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022985. (selected for inclusion in the European Commission's environmental news service for policy makers Science for Environment Policy)

Beck M.W.,  R. Brumbaugh, L. Airoldi, A. Carranza, L. Coen, C. Crawford, O. Defeo, G. Edgar, B. Hancock, M. Kay, H. Lenihan, M. Luckenbach, C. Toropova, G. Zhang. 2011 - Shellfish Reefs at Risk Globally and Recommendations for Ecosystem Revitalization. Bioscience 61: 107-116 (journal cover page)

Iken K, Konar B, Benedetti-Cecchi L, Cruz-Motta JJ, Knowlton A, Pohle G, Mead A,  Miloslavic P, Wong M, Trott T, Mieszkowska N, Riosmena-Rodriguez R, Airoldi L,  Kimani E, Shirayama Y, Fraschetti S, Ortiz Touzet M, Silva A. 2010. Large-scale spatial distribution patterns in echinoderms in nearshore rocky habitats. PLoS ONE, 5(11): e13845

Perkol-Finkel S., Airoldi L., 2010. Loss and recovery potential of marine habitats: an experimental study of factors maintaining resilience in subtidal algal forests at the Adriatic sea. PLoS ONE, 5 (5): e10791.

Airoldi L, Connell SD, Beck MW, 2009 - The loss of natural habitats and the addition of artificial substrata. In Whal M (ed) Hard Bottom Communities: Patterns, Dynamics, Diversity and Change. Ecological Studies 206, Springer Verlag: pp. 269-280

Beck M.W.,  R. Brumbaugh, L. Airoldi, A. Carranza, L. Coen, C. Crawford, O. Defeo, G. Edgar, B. Hancock, M. Kay, H. Lenihan, M. Luckenbach, C. Toropova, G. Zhang. 2009 - Shellfish Reefs at Risk: A Global Analysis of Problems and Solutions.  The Nature Conservancy, Arlington VA. 52 pp

Irving AD, Balata D, Colosio F, Ferrando GE, Airoldi L. 2009 -Light, sediment, temperature, and the early life-history of the habitat-forming alga Cystoseira barbata. Mar. Biol. 156:1223-1231

 Fauvelot C., Bertozzi F, Costantini F, Airoldi L, Abbiati M. 2009 - Lower genetic diversity of populations of the limpet Patella caerulea on urban coastal structures as compared to natural rocky habitats. Mar. Biol. 156: 2313–2323

Airoldi L., Balata D., Beck M.W. 2008 - The Gray Zone: relationships between habitat loss and marine diversity and their applications in conservation. J. Exp. Mar Biol. Ecol. 366: 8-15

Connell S.D., Russell B.D., Turner D.J., Shepherd S.A., Kildea T., Miller D.,  Airoldi L., Cheshire A. 2008 - Recovering a lost baseline: missing kelp forests from a metropolitan coast. Mar Ecol. Prog. Ser. 360: 63-72 (Open Source Access)

Airoldi L., Beck, M.W., 2007 - Loss, status and trends for coastal marine habitats of Europe. ceanogr. Mar. Biol. Annu. Rev.,45: 345-405 ((selected by Essential Science IndicatorsSM  from Thomson Reuters as Fast Moving Fronts paper in the field of Plant & Animal Science, featured at

Bulleri F., Branca M.G., Abbiati M., Airoldi L., 2007 - Development of reproductive structures in the introduced green alga, Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides, in the northern Adriatic Sea. Eur. J. Phycol., 42: 137-144

Colosio F., Abbiati M., Airoldi L., 2007 - Effects of beach nourishments on sediments and benthic assemblages. Mar. Poll. Bull.: 54: 1197-1206

Airoldi L., Hawkins S.J., 2007 - Negative effects of sediments on grazing activity and survival of the limpet Patella vulgata. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 332: 235-240

Bulleri F., Airoldi L., Branca M.G., Abbiati M., 2006 - Positive effects of the introduced green alga Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides on recruitment and survival of mussels. Mar. Biol. 148: 1213-1220

Virgilio M., Airoldi L., Abbiati M., 2006 - Spatial and temporal variations of assemblages in a Mediterranean coralligenous reef and relationships with surface orientation. Coral Reefs 25: 265- 272

Clarke K.R., Somerfield P.J., Airoldi L., Warwick R.M., 2006 - Exploring interactions by second-stage community analyses. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol., 338: 179-192

Airoldi L., Abbiati M., Beck M. W., Hawkins S.J., Jonsson P.R., Martin D., Moschella P. S., Sundelöf A., Thompson R. C., Åberg P., 2005 - An ecological perspective on the deployment and design of low- crested and other hard coastal defence structures. Coast. Eng., 52: 1073-1087

Airoldi L, Bacchiocchi F., Cagliola C., Bulleri F., Abbiati M., 2005 - Impact of recreational harvesting on assemblages in artificial rocky habitats. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 299: 55-66 (PDF file)

Bulleri, F., Airoldi, L., 2005 - Artificial marine structures facilitate the spread of a non-indigenous green alga, Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides, in the north Adriatic Sea. J. Appl. Ecol., 42: 1063-1072

Airoldi L., 2004 - Forecasting the effects of enhanced sediment loads to coastal areas: a plea for long-term monitoring and experiments. Aquatic Conserv: Mar. Freshw. Ecosyst. 14:S115-S117

Airoldi L., 2003 - The effects of sedimentation on rocky coast assemblages. Oceanogr. Mar. Biol. Annu. Rev. 41: 161-236

Airoldi L., 2003 - Effects of patch shape in intertidal mosaics: roles of area, perimeter and distance from edges. Mar. Biol. 143: 639-650 (PDF file: The original publication is available at or at

Bacchiocchi F., L. Airoldi, 2003 - Distribution and dynamics of epibiota on hard structures for coastal protection. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 56: 1157-1166 (PDF file)

Airoldi L., 2001 - Distribution and morphological variation of low-shore algal turfs. Mar. Biol. 138: 1233-1239

Benedetti-Cecchi L., F. Pannacciulli, F.Bulleri, P. S. Moschella, L. Airoldi, G. Relini, F. Cinelli, 2001 - Predicting the consequences of anthropogenic disturbance: large-scale effects of removing dominant species on rocky shores. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser.214: 137-150

Airoldi L., 2000 - Effects of disturbance, life-histories and overgrowth on coexistence of algal crusts and turf. Ecology, 81: 798-814

Airoldi L. 2000 - Responses of algae with different life-histories to temporal and spatial variability of disturbance in subtidal reefs. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser, 195: 81-92

Airoldi L., 1998 - Roles of disturbance, sediment stress, and substratum retention on spatial dominance in algal turf. Ecology, 79: 2759-2770

Airoldi L., M. Virgilio, 1998 - Responses of turf-forming algae to spatial variations in the deposition of sediments. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser 165: 271-282

Airoldi L., F. Cinelli, 1997- Effects of sedimentation on subtidal macroalgal assemblages: an experimental study from a mediterranean rocky shore. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol., 215: 269-288

Airoldi L., A.J. Southward, I. Niccolai, F. Cinelli, 1997 - Sources and pathways of particulate organic carbon in a submarine cave with sulphur water springs. Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 99: 353-362

Airoldi L., F. Cinelli, 1997 - Sources and biochemical composition of suspended particulate material in a submarine cave with sulphur water springs. Mar. Biol., 128: 537-545

Airoldi L., F. Cinelli, 1996 - Variability of fluxes of particulate material in a submarine cave with chemolithoautotrophic inputs of organic carbon. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser., 139: 205-217

Benedetti-Cecchi L., L. Airoldi, M. Abbiati, F. Cinelli, 1996 - Estimating the abundance of benthic invertebrates: a comparison of procedures and variability between observers. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser., 138: 93-101

Airoldi L., M. Fabiano, F. Cinelli, 1996 – Sediment deposition and movement over a turf assemblage in a shallow rocky coastal area of the Ligurian Sea. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser., 133: 241-251

Airoldi L., F. Rindi, F. Cinelli, 1995 - Structure, seasonal dynamics and reproductive phenology of a filamentous turf assemblage on a sediment influenced, rocky subtidal shore. Bot. Mar., 38:227-237



 Resize of Dicembre_2003 024.jpg Resize of Dicembre_2003 081.jpgResize of Gennaio_2004_A1 011.jpg

Last update 24/04/2012