Tuesday, February 7, 2023

El Arca de Noye del Mar Menor: “There is no point in releasing specimens that are going to die every time there is a crisis”

Swimming among seahorses is an afternoon on the beach at Mar Menor that lives in the memory of only a few. After a crisis of nitrates and other harmful nutrients that suffocated the salty lagoon, the Hippocampus Association estimates that barely a thousand survive in this environment. The same has happened with populations of nacra, a species of giant mussel that barely survived the first of a series of episodes of anoxia, which have gradually crept up to the lagoon: in 2016, after the eutrophication event known as the latter. sopa green’, 99 percent of these specimens died. Along with the ferret, a small silverfish, they are in danger of extinction.

Looking back, Emilio Cortés, curator of the Aquarium of the University of Murcia (UMU) and technical director of the Bank of Emblematic Species and Singular Importance of the Mar Menor project, admits that he never thought it would be necessary to create a bank in 2016 The number of species of the lagoon to guarantee its survival until the arrival of Green Soup: “We thought that Mar Menor had enough strength to withstand all the onslaughts of human origin – pollution, nutrients … – that killed it Things got really bad just before 2016, and that year with Green Soup we realized that the problem of nutrient intake can be serious in some situations,” he recalls. The project, which was considered “a bit drastic” at the time, even by the researchers themselves, could have been a safeguard for the survival of the lagoon’s native species. “One of the things we thought was that anoxia episodes were only going to occur in the deepest areas of Mar Menor, we never thought they would reach the shallowest areas,” he says, of the 2019 anoxia episode. Pointing towards



Cortés stressed that the intention of the species bank is not to “re-populate”: “We are quite careful with that word. We are making sure through processes of breeding and maintenance stores In captivity we will always have specimens of these specific species of Mar Menor with a suitable genetic quality ”. If at any time, he explains, one or more of these species enter a process of regression that could lead to their extinction within the lagoon, the researchers have the means to begin a recovery project with their specimens in the environment. Will have the ability to do.

solve mar menor’s problem

The fish bank will be developed in two phases. The first lasts four years – they are already in the third – and in this work is being done to establish maintenance and breeding protocols for all these species, as well as generating specimens for the most endangered species. . The project has chosen species to recover those native to Mar Menor before the opening of the Astacio Channel, which allows the passage of boats to Mar Menor, in addition to shellfish at risk of extinction from its specimens. Is. Among the species chosen are the sea horse symbolizing Mar Menor, the river needle, the mule needle, the ferret, the fox or the sand goby.

“We start with 20 signaditos—a breeding group of seahorses and pipefish; We got this two years back. let’s expand it to increase Puddle There is more genetic variability. Last year we were unable to find juveniles, we never catch adults so as not to interfere with the reproduction processes of the species in the natural environment. We start seeing in March and April, which is the breeding season. Recruiting was difficult because of all the mass of egg-algae—that were in the ocean”, Cortés exemplifies. “We will now have about 600 or 700 syngnathids specimens in total. We will have about 70 or 80 samples of mule needles”, the project director celebrates.



The process is not easy, they have to establish controls and protocols to be able to successfully reproduce each species in captivity: “For the shells, we are fixing their maintenance, we have it practically under control.” We’ve been breeding them for a long time, but we haven’t been able to find juveniles, they die at the larval stage. We’re changing the protocol, hopefully by spring, with new breeding events, we’ll have some Will be able to make progress,” explains Cortes.

The second stage involves setting up groups of specimens in a semi-free position on rafts or in some places. This phase is more transversal and may involve other administrations or working groups that have space and can incorporate these samples, which will be coordinated through the Research Group of the Aquarium of the University of Murcia and the General Directorate of Mar Menor.

Aquarium curators recall that the recovery plan for this project, developed in coordination with the General Directorate of Mar Menor, belonging to the Murcian Ministry of Water, Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Environment, can only be developed if the problem is solved del Mar Menner: “There’s no point in releasing specimens that are going to die every time there’s a crisis.”

looking for teen samples

With the lagoon’s ecological crisis being dealt with, Cortés anticipates that a study should be conducted to look at the population trends of marine species in Mar Menor. “If it’s a recovery trend because it’s growing and has reasonable genetic variability, we don’t have to intervene. If it stays stable, you have to give it time. If it goes into regression, years.” It must be monitored, and if it worsens, we can reinforce it so that the trend reverses. The damage must be so great that the species cannot recover on its own”, he insists.



In the months of March and April next year, with the breeding season approaching, researchers from the Aquarium of the University of Murcia will once again descend on the lagoon in search of new juveniles, sampling between birth or adulthood will not guarantee the species living free in Mar Menor to interfere with reproduction. With them they will increase the population of their genetic selection and species bank. The scenario of Mar Menor with seahorses will take time, but thanks to this project it will always be a possibility.

Nation World News Desk
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