Understanding and protecting marine biodiversity

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The behavior and movements of many marine species in different marine ecosystems are still relatively unknown. On the Catalan coasts, which cover much of the biodiversity of the northwest Mediterranean, knowing the movement patterns and abundance of species such as greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili), gilthead seabream (Sparus aura) and rays, is a strategic tool to improve the conservation and protection of the marine ecosystem.

With this aim, the Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda of the Catalan Government has launched, through the University of Barcelona, ​​the Catalan Monitoring Network, presented today, Friday, as part of the scientific session on recreational sea fishing. The Network, coordinated by lecturer Bernat Hereu, from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) from the University of Barcelona, ​​will apply new acoustic telemetry technologies and tracking and recapture techniques — with the support of a citizen science program — for better scientific knowledge and more sustainable exploitation of marine coastal resources in Catalonia.

Citizen science and participation to protect marine life

The Network team will apply acoustic techniques which will be useful for a better understanding of the movement of certain species – sharks, rays, fish, cephalopods, large crustaceans – and of the use of different marine habitats during the life cycle, the reproduction zones and models, and the biological connectivity between the different zones, habitats and marine reservoirs of the Catalan coasts.

In a first phase, they will install a basic network of hydrophones on the seabed, which will cover strategic areas of the Catalan coasts – including ports and coasts, aquaculture facilities and artificial reefs – to detect the passage species studied. Thanks to acoustic telemetry, they will be able to track individuals of several species over periods of more than five years. The new equipment will join the receivers previously installed by the RESMED project (2019-2021) —co-founded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and including the participation of UB-IRBio— and the OBSEA observatory (UPC).

At the same time, the researchers will mark individuals of different species with acoustic transmitters and external marks. In addition, thanks to the collaboration of recreational and professional fishermen coordinated by the scientific team, they will record the recapture of the marine species caught. This study includes the participation of experts David Casals, Joan Lluís Riera and Eneko Aspillaga, from Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences from UB and IRBio.

A global marine telemetry network

The Catalan Association for Responsible Fisheries (ACPR), the Network of Natural Parks of Catalonia and the spaces of the Natura 2000 network, among other organizations, participate in the Catalan Tracing Network. It will be integrated into a global network that includes other telemetry and species tracking information exchange projects in several marine regions, such as the Ocean Tracking Network, the European Tracking Network, the Balearic Tracking Network and the CEFREM (CNRS /UPVD) and MARBEC (IFREMER) research groups.

The Catalan Tracing Network — an initiative of the Marine Biodiversity Conservation Group (MedRecover) — is a collaborative project with a particular focus on citizen science. It is open to the participation of administrations, associations, companies, diving centers, national and international institutions involved in the conservation of marine biodiversity. There is more information available on the fundraising campaign for this initiative on the website UB sponsors.

“The results of the project have a direct implication in the management of natural resources and the conservation of ecosystems. This is why the task of knowledge transfer is decisive both for the institutions in charge of managing the marine environment and for the various actors in the territory”, notes Bernat Hereu.

“Finally, the Catalan Tracing Network will allow the consolidation of an underwater infrastructure of acoustic receivers that can be exploited in the future within the framework of other projects and initiatives related to the marine environment”, concludes the researcher.

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