Spain loses seagrass prairies worth €60M every year

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Protecting 5,000 hectares of marine ecosystems would be less expensive than restoring 10 damaged hectares


November 17, 2009
Madrid
Contact:
Marta Madina ( mmadina@oceana.org )




Oceana estimates that Spain loses seagrass prairies worth 60 million Euros every year due to trawling, the construction of ports and marinas, and dumping. The conservation organisation and the Banco Santander Foundation made this information public during a press conference to present the results of a joint project to restore seagrass prairies developed in the Spanish region of Almeria last year.

Both organisations have been working to restore seagrass in this region for three years and request protection for Punta Entinas-El Sabinar. In order to achieve their objectives, they have implemented a project to regenerate the damaged areas and promote the creation of a new protected area near Roquetas de Mar. The restoration work in this region has led to the development of a plan to collect and plant seeds of the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa, known as “seahorse meadows”, in order to estimate the success of this project if it were to be implemented.

The result of this work has proven that the regeneration of damaged ecosystems is successful only when carried out as part of a protection plan. If not, the recovery capacity is less than 2.5% of the original surface area, as opposed to 25% if the area were protected.

“Investing in conservation is 500 times cheaper than investing in recovery. Restoring 10 hectares costs roughly 7.2 million Euros, which is what it would cost to monitor and protect 5,000 hectares for seven years,” declared Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “Furthermore, it is impossible to restore a damaged area if the cause of the damage is not eradicated: trawling, sand extraction, drilling for oil and minerals, aquaculture, mass tourism, coastal construction, etc."

It is especially important to take into account that the disappearance of such productive ecosystems as seagrass meadows constitutes a significant economic loss. According to Oceana estimates Spain could have more than 100,000 hectares of these habitats and each year between 3 and 5% of their surface area is lost.

Oceana believes that the Punta Entinas-El Sabinar area, which represents roughly 10,000 hectares, should be designated a protected area to conserve three very sensitive and important habitats for the marine ecosystem, including seagrass prairies, maerl and red algae reefs.

The work completed by Oceana with the help of underwater robots, divers and research vessels will also help to increase the knowledge of the biological richness of this region. “The alternation of habitats including up to three species of seagrass, along with red algae reefs and rhodolithes, make southern Almeria an area of high ecological diversity,” explained Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research and Projects for Oceana in Europe. “They are essential for fishing, protecting the beaches, absorbing CO2 and maintaining biodiversity,” concludes Aguilar.

Manual: Restoring seagrass meadows (in Spanish)

 Oceana TV: Recovering underwater prairies