“With the contribution of the LIFE programme, the European Union’s financial instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects.”
Project coordinated by:
MPAs/SPA along the Spanish coastline
All selected areas host habitats appropriate for Pinna nobilis populations, including from healthy Posidonia oceanica meadows (in all of them except Columbretes Islands) to enclosed bays with gentle hydrodynamic conditions or deeper maërl beds, with optimum substrate and conditions for maintaining fan mussels. These areas also hosted dense fan mussel populations before the MME and had some permanent monitoring stations that were periodically surveyed. Therefore, a priori information about the distribution of fan mussels is available and the probability of finding resistant fan mussels in these areas is higher than in other sites not considered SAC.
The selected marine areas are managed by Spanish local or central governments, depending on the distribution of their waters. Columbretes and Tabarca Islands and Cabo de Gata Nijar (ESZZ16010, ES0000214 and ES0000046) are marine protected areas of fisheries interest. Cap de Creus (ES5120007) and Montgo (ES5211007) are protected areas managed by local Government form Cataluña and Comunidad Valenciana respectively, including the surrounding marine waters. In these areas the uses are controlled under strict legislation (e.g. restrictions to tourism, fishing, infrastructure development, etc.). Penyal d’Ifach and Penyasegats de la Marina (ES5211009 and ES5213018) are SAC where specific use legislation is in development.
Kalloni Gulf (Greece)
The status of all known P. nobilis populations inside and outside Natura 2000 sites along the Greek coastline will be assessed and a limited number of optimal sites will be selected for the application of the project’s actions. Greek territorial waters are characterized by an intricate geomorphology that reflects past geologic history and recent geodynamic processes. Shallow shelves, deep basins, and troughs alternate characterized the area. Greek seas have a distinctive insular character with more than 1,400 islands or islets, while the extensive coastline comprises several landforms, including sandy beaches, rocky shores, cliffs, coastal lagoons and deltaic systems, as well as a notable variety of coastal and marine habitat types. At many sites, P. nobilis used to be very abundant, e.g. in Kalloni and Gera Gulfs in Lesvos island, in Souda bay in Crete, in Evoikos and Thermaikos Gulfs, Messolongi lagoon, and in the marine Lake Vouliagmeni, in a variety of marine habitats, such as seagrass beds (mostly Posidonia oceanica and Cymodocea nodosa), algal beds (mostly Caulerpa prolifera), deltaic systems, lagoons and marine lakes.
Kalloni Gulf (GR4110004) is surrounded by mostly private agricultural land or uncultivated fields. There is no urban development around the gulf but only a few small coastal villages. Two salt works operate in the gulf, in the northern and southeastern part. There are artisanal fishing activities, and the gulf is famous for its sardines and bivalves. There are a few recreational areas and beaches but with low touristic activity. Shellfish aquaculture has been planned in specific locations but no shellfish farm is currently operational.
Ebro Bays (Spain)
The population of P. nobilis in the Alfacs bay, has been partly affected by the parasitic disease since the summer of 2018, but it was indicated as the second largest population of the species in the Mediterranean with over 90,000 individuals (Prado et al., 2014), and there is still a large number of survivors in the middle and inner parts of the bay. In contrast, the population of P. nobilis in the Fangar Bay was discovered only in 2017 by researchers from IRTA and has been estimated in a few hundreds of individuals, which never showed any sign of disease. Unfortunately, the recent hit of Storm Gloria in January 2020 caused a major salinity reduction (from ca. 30-32 to 11) and increased turbidity which resulted in the mortality of most of the population in Fangar, with only a few scattered individuals currently remaining (Prado et al. in press).
The main land use in the Ebro Delta (ES0000020) with ca. 70% of the present surface of 320,000 ha is rice cultivation. This causes an important impact on the bays, which receive all the agricultural wastewater between the months of April/May and September. This causes important salinity reductions, which are particularly important in the Fangar Bay due to its considerably smaller size. The remaining 30% of the delta plain also contains numerous wetland habitats hosting diverse and abundant wildlife, which are protected by the European Union and by the Ebro Delta Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve (Natura 2000 site of UNESCO).
MPA along Italian Coasts
Italian coasts overlook different seas and among them Adriatic and Thyrrenic Sea have historically been intensely investigated for aquaculture of bivalves, especially the Northern basin. Selected marine areas along Italian coasts comprehend various habitats suitable for P. nobilis.
In Thyrrenum area of Campania, P. nobilis have been described from the north to the south of the region, on the Sorrento coast and Cilento, within AMPs of Punta Campanella and Cilento comprehending the islands of Ischia e Procida. Miseno, in the northern area of the region, extends over 40 hectares and has a perimeter of about 2,800 meters while the average depth is 2.25 meters and the maximum is 4. It is separated from the sea by a sandy barrier about 200 meters wide but is connected with it through two foci: the first located near the town of Miliscola and the second located near the bay of Miseno. Reported data described still untouched areas in different lagoons and protected bays, even if recently a small percentage of mortality episodes have been described. The project in the selected regions in Italian waters will help in maintaining the limited areas left with reservoirs for P. nobilis.
Italian coastline comprehends both rocky coasts and low-lying sandy beaches. It has a huge socio-economic activity based on tourism along with agriculture, fishing, and exploitations etc. Aquaculture has big importance in Italy, of both freshwater and marine species, comprehending vertebrates fishes and invertebrate bivalves. Besides, the seashore Italy hosts many residential as well as industrial sites that pose a risk on coastal ecosystems. Desertification has also a negative impact on coastal ecosystems such as wetlands, which are widely present in the coastal zones of Italy. Degradation of these areas is exacerbated by other climate-related effects such as erosion, salinisation and potentially increased run-offs caused by floods.
Mar Menor (Spain)
The Mar Menor is an ecosystem of high ecological value, recognized by the designation of different protection status (Natural Park, RAMSAR wetland, Specially Protected Area of Importance for the Mediterranean - Convention of Barcelona-, Special Protection Area for Birds, Area of Importance for Conservation belonging to the Natura 2000 Network).
By the early 1980s the mollusc P. nobilis had appeared in the Mar Menor (Rodríguez Babio & Navarro Tárrega 1983) and rapidly became an important component of the benthos. Its rapid dispersion within the lagoon gave rise to one of the most important western Mediterranean populations of the mollusc (Belando et al. 2014). After this wide settlement process, in 2017 a high mortality event occurred in the Mar Menor. due to the environmental collapse that occurred in the lagoon. This environmental collapse took place in the second half of 2015, when, after decades of nutrient and phytosanitary inputs from nearby agricultural activities, the Mar Menor underwent a Harmful Algal Bloom (HABs) event. At this point the lagoon reached a stage of serious eutrophication. In spring 2016, the high concentration of phytoplankton prevented the light from reaching the deeper areas of the lagoon, limiting photosynthesis (CACMM 2017). The vegetation below the new photic threshold died and the organic matter which accumulated on the bottom caused processes of anoxia. The absence of oxygen caused the death of the entire benthic community and more than 85% of the lagoon surface was affected (Belando et al. 2017).
On one hand, the project will help the recovery of one of the last two surviving populations in the Mar Menor lagoon. On the other hand, this species will favour the restoration of environmental quality of the lagoon due to its bioremediation capacity.
The Mar Menor is characterized by a great socio-economic dynamic, with a convergence of activities such as agriculture, tourism, fishing, old mining exploitations, etc. These activities constitute driving forces generating pressures which have generated impacts for decades. The socioeconomic changes in recent years have caused loss of both natural and cultural values as well as traditional uses. The current situation of the Mar Menor urgently demands actions from an integral approach, with the ultimate goal of conserving and replenishing the natural capital and ecosystem services of the lagoon.
Brusc Lagoon (France)
The total surface of this area is 506 ha with 99% of marine surface. This site is unique since it is considered as a rich zone of biodiversity and includes the only lagoon of the French metropolitan coast. This lagoon, with a surface of 42 ha and a maximum depth of 1.5 m was formerly considered as a fish nursery as it was covered with a Cymodocea meadow. During the last years, the sea grass surface has dramatically dropped leaving a vast area of sand and muddy bottoms. Since 2018, the site profits from a rehabilitation program led by IOPR to restore the seagrass meadow. Also, the North part of the lagoon is a reef barrier of a shallow Posidonia oceanica meadow, . These areas of shallow waters and seagrass meadows are the natural habitat for Pinna nobilis populations.
The surface area of the Brusc Lagoon (FR9302001) is 99% marine. The remaining 1% is constituted by the Embiez and Rouveau islands. The Rouveau is an uninhabited protected area managed by the "Conservatoire du Littoral". The Embiez island is privately owned by the Ricard family. The main activity of the island consists of tourism during the summer period. There is a limited wineyard activity. This island also hosts a harbour with a capacity of 750 sailing and motor boats. The East part of the area is bordered by the hamlet of "Le Brusc" and its harbour (850 berths).