Author: Natividad Sánchez
Date: October 9, 2012
The Berlengas islands are a nature reserve in front of the town of Peniche, Portugal, and a great example of how much more knowledge of the seabed we need. Though located only a few kilometers from the coast, in just two weeks we no less than 120 species were found whose existence was unknown in the area. Not only that, but four or five of them could be completely new to science. Amazing isn’t it?
Among the new neighbors are great amount of bryozoans, small filter feeders that look like plants, as well as algae, polychaete worms, mollusks and even corals and fish. It’s incredible that nobody knew what lived there, even though the archipelago is a stone's throw from the mainland.
The discovery was made possible by the EMPEC/ M@rBis campaign, a project to document and georeference marine biodiversity so that Portugal can extend its’ Natura 2000 network in the sea. This time, the campaign was in the Berlengas and for the second year running, a marine scientist from Oceana has put on a wetsuit and participated in it.
The team conducted 61 dives and collected a lot of information. Now a lot of work lies ahead: analysing the data and above all, convincing other governments that they cannot manage an area properly if so little is known about it.