It is no longer possible to question that human activity has accelerated climate change, endangering the ecological balance of hundreds of Earth's ecosystems and, therefore, millions of species that depend on them, including us, humans; according to a recent study carried out by the United Nations, 1 million species are currently in danger of extinction (12.5% of all known animal and plant species). From an environmental point of view, globalisation and an unethical socio-economic system that seeks infinite growth on a planet with finite resources have taken us to a critical point of no return, affecting, especially, the ecosystems in geographically limited areas, as is the case of the Balearic Islands.
Within this new trend, and reinforced by the current crisis, the Arrels Marines marine conservation project was born, since us, islanders, cannot understand islands without a healthy sea. Moreover, the oceans not only act as the planet's lungs, they are the Earth's main carbon sinks and thereby our main allies in the fight against global warming. For this reason, our marine conservation program tries to the preserve and protect the Balearic Sea by developing projects in a wide range of fields, such as environmental studies, monitoring and control of highly anthropized areas or by actively restore and reforest marine phanerogams.
The interior area of the Bay of Pollença is an area in which numerous anthropogenic pressures converge, which come from many different sources and sectors, and have been increased in recent years, directly affecting the underwater habitats and species that they live -or used to- in this area. That's why our team decided to do a series of dives and studies.
At the beginning of 2021 we started mapping the species and habitats present in the inner bay as to understand what their ecological and conservation status was. In total we mapped an area of more than 400,000 m² through a series of dives in the area, where we found specimens of Caulerpa proliferates, Cymodocea nodosa, Posidonia oceanica, Acetabularia acetabulum,S parus aurata, Diplodus sargus sargus, Diplodus vulgaris, Gourmia vulgata, Holothuria farskalior or Anemonia viridis, among others.
At the end of 2021, and by explicit request of the city council, we started a new study, focusing this time on the impacts associated with the nautical industry (boats, anchorages and permanent mooring structures). The study was done during the low season (November-January) and the number of boats moored there illegally were 173. In addition, and to estimate the number of permanent mooring structures, we did a series of transects that allowed us to estimate that there could be more than 1,000 illegal mooring structures in the area. On September 28, 2022, we participated in the II Mesa de Treball coordinated and managed by the General Directorate of Territory and Landscape, where representatives of public and private entities attended and where we presented all the results and proposals of our study .
While public administrations keep debating about aspects of responsibility and competences, we will continue to work to be able to enjoy a healthy, clean and thriving bay.
A report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that Posidonia oceanica meadows may be responsible for sequestering up to 40% of the carbon that is stored by coastal vegetation each year. In addition, one hectare of P. Oceanica can produce more than three times as much oxygen as a hectare of tropical forest yet, regardless, it is estimated that the rate at which P. oceanica is disappearing is up to eight times higher than the loss of these forests. There is no doubt that Posidonia Oceanica is a delicate organism and that if we do not work together to guarantee its future we may soon have lost not only the lungs of the Mediterranean but an indispensable agent in the fight against climate change. The decline of these species is so great that, to recover their services, and especially to contribute to the mitigation of global warming, it is not enough to protect them. We must go a step further and complement these protection and conservation measures using approaches that encourage their regeneration.
Thus, from Arrels Marines we have designed a regeneration program, a community marine restoration project where innovative techniques are applied for the recovery of phanerogams in small plots. The scientific objectives of this project in particular are (1) to provide new tools for the restoration of marine habitats, (2) to regenerate areas degraded by anthropogenic activities, and (3) to regenerate blue carbon sinks. These stations will not only function as part of the regeneration program but also as a means to conduct educational programs, raise awareness and share scientific knowledge. Arrels Marines wants on one hand, to bring science closer to the population and, on the other hand, to bring the population closer to the sea. For this reason, the stations will be placed between 3 and 10 meters deep, making them accessible to everyone, whether snorkeling or scuba diving.
Although Arrels Marines' priority is to consolidate an ambitious program, during the early stages of the project we prefer to go for a simple but effective growth formula with a clear structure. Currently, we have two restoration stations, one in Formentor, Pollença and the other in Alcanada, Alcúdia.
The selected area is located in the north of the island of Mallorca within the MA-07/CW-M3 Badia d'Alcúdia, between the island of Alcanada and the Colonia de Sant Pere, and is included in the LIC Badia de Pollença and Alcúdia (code ES5310005).
During the last year, the characterization study of the area was carried out to understand the reality and, above all, the need or not for a regenerative project. The study area is located in a protected coastal zone between 0 and 8m deep and has a mixed substrate of sand, rock and marine plants. The study carried out on the meadows of Posidonia oceanica indicates that they are in an unfavourable state, which has directly affected the loss of biodiversity. C. nodosa and Z. noltii meadows are not widespread in the area. The main anthropogenic impacts identified are dumping, commercial maritime traffic and habitat destruction caused by human traffic and the anchoring of recreational boats.
Now that we have received all the permits from the pertinent administrations, we plan to start the restoration process in 2023.
Marine macrophytes are a very heterogeneous group of organisms, composed of macroalgae (eg Cystoseira sp. ) and marine phanerogams (eg P. oceanica ). Macrophyte species are considered essential in coastal ecosystems, as they play an essential ecological role, both for the large number of ecological functions they perform and for the services they provide to society with.
In addition to their high productivity and their role in the global carbon cycle and the fight against climate change, they are essentially involved in coastal hydrodynamics and sediment stabilisation, protect the coastline from erosion, improve water quality and provide shelter and food for a large number of species, creating breeding habitats and acting as a center of biodiversity. We are currently working with the following marine macrophytes:
Posidonia Oceanica is a marine plant that belongs to the seagrass family and, as such, is composed of roots, rhizome, leaves, fruit and flower. Furthermore, it is endemic to the Mediterranean Sea and is the oldest living colonial organism in the world, with an estimated age of 100,000 years.
Posidonia oceanica forms the foundations of the Mediterranean marine ecosystem and, as a primary producer, is a basic step in the trophic chain that provides food to countless marine organisms. In addition to being a source of food, many species rely on seagrass meadows for their survival as it provides the perfect setting for reproduction and refuge. We must also remember that it is not only animal species that depend on and benefit from sea grasslands. Rather, the benefits of a healthy seagrass meadow transcends the marine environment to the point of significantly influencing two of the most important industries on our islands; tourism and fishing.
There is no doubt that we are highly dependent on Posidonia Oceanica and that if it continues to suffer, the consequences will be devastating for our islands and the Mediterranean Sea.
of square meters is the total area that Posidonia oceanica covers
species depend directly on the Posidonia oceanica to survive
kilograms of carbon are absorbed annually by Posidonia oceanica
of euros is the socio-economic impact this plant has on the Balearic Islands
OUR MARINE TREASURE
Posidonia oceanica is one of the most extensive and characteristic ecosystems of the Balearic Islands. With an area of about 460.000.000 million square meters, this ancient plant forms grand meadows that dominate the Balearic seabed which gives it its characteristic, magical appearance.
Since its meadows are used as a place of reproduction, spawning or simply as a source of food, fish, epiphytes, mollusks, crustaceans and algae are many of the species that depend directly on Posidonia oceanica meadows. Without them, the ecological balance of the Balearic Sea would disappear.
Posidonia oceanica is a plant and, as such, it photosynthesises; It uses energy from the sun to fix inorganic carbon (CO₂) and produce large amounts of oxygen. As a consequence of this process, Posidonia grasslands act as carbon reservoirs that store thousands of tons of CO₂ per year. This makes Posidonia oceanica an indispensable agent in the fight against global warming.
Apart from sequestering carbon and maintaining ecological balance, the benefits of P. Oceanica go far beyond the realms of marine and environmental science. Its meadows are responsible for the crystal clear waters that our islands have become famous for and they support the marine diversity that attracts millions of people to the Balearics each year. For this reason, the mere presence of P. Oceanica has an estimated value of around 400 million euros a year to the tourism and fishing industries alone.
C. nodosa iZ. noltii
Cymodocea nodosa and Zostera noltii are also plants belonging to marine phanerogams, which are distributed in the Mediterranean and in some parts of the Atlantic.
These species are less known, although they also form extensive grasslands in shallow water, creating habitat for many species, helping to purify water and sequester carbon. These are very similar species to the naked eye, which can also be found forming mixed meadows of both plants.
It should also be noted that, despite the large number of ecosystem services they provide, C. nodosa and Z. noltii do not enjoy the same protection as P. oceanica, and are, in many cases, highly threatened, to the point of being Z. noltii included in the National Catalog of Threatened Species of Spain.