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ACCIONA Engineering completes the first trial relocation of specimens of the Patella ferruginea species as part of the REMoPaF LIFE project

12/19/2018

The project primarily seeks to develop new, sustainable and innovative techniques to help protect and recover this endangered mollusc

The LIFE REMoPaF Consortium, of which ACCIONA Engineering is a member, has successfully completed the first trial relocation of Patella ferruginea specimens from the Port of Melilla to the Port of La Línea in the Bay of Algeciras.Patella ferruginea, the Ribbed Mediterranean Limpet, is a gastropod that inhabits the western Mediterranean and is currently at risk of extinction.

The trial relocation is part of the LIFE REMoPaF Project (LIFE15 NAT/ES/000987) that is being led by ACCIONA Engineering, with the participation of the University of Seville (the Marine Biology Laboratory) and Melilla Port Authority.The company was chosen by the European Commission to join the LIFE 2015 program, the only EU financial instrument exclusively dedicated to the environment.

The Ribbed Limpet, Patella ferruginea, is a native gastropod of the western Mediterranean region that is classified as “in danger of extinction” in the Spanish List of Endangered Species, as well as being included in Annex IV of the Habitats Directive, which requires States to ensure it is strictly protected, even outside of Natura 2000 areas.

At present, only five healthy populations exist, all on the North African coastline, in the Chafarinas Islands, Ceuta, Melilla, Zembra (a Tunisian island) and the Habibas Islands (Algeria).

The species is threatened by direct human action (collecting and harvesting) and by pollution and habitat destruction.  

Given these circumstances, the main objective of the project is to develop new, sustainable and innovative  techniques that will help to protect and recover Patella ferruginea, by moving small young specimens (called “recruits”), taken from a healthy donor population with a high density (in the Port of Melilla), to a new location (Bay of Algeciras, Port of La Línea), with relatively low densities, but with sufficient potential to achieve a population size that could enable them to become a stable reproducing population.

At the same time, extensive work has been carried out to raise awareness about conservation of the species and its habitat as part of the project.

Some 60% of the eligible costs of LIFE REMoPaF, which was launched in July 2016 and will end in July 2021, are financed by the European Commission (a total of €965,391).It is also the first national project in the LIFE Program dedicated to the conservation of a marine invertebrate.

The relocation methodology is based on small artificial substrate blocks called AIMS (Artificial Inert Mobile Substrates), designed with a structural uniformity and complexity (superficial roughness) that is similar to breakwater rocks where the species naturally lives.This factor is important to achieve the objectives, since it has been proven that the roughness and type of material, together with the action of the water currents, are the main factors that determine larvae colonisation.Innovative 3D printing techniques are used to manufacture these blocks, as well as conventional technology.

The survival rate in previous relocation trials carried out to test different procedures, using a representative number of specimens, did not exceed 50%.Relocating the recruits is therefore the riskiest stage of the project.

An initial trial move has therefore been performed as part of the LIFE REMoPaF project, with a representative number of AIMS and specimens, in order to analyse the aspects that could be improved during a second relocation with a higher number of AIMS and specimens, with a view to improving conservation and protection of the species.

This relocation of specimens is the longest distance the species has been moved to date (around 350 km over land and sea). It was carried out by previously identifying the AIMS carrying Ribbed Limpets and then individually marking each specimen.The AIMS with the recruits were then transported in specific containers in a refrigerated lorry from the Donor Zone (Port of Melilla) to their new location in the Recipient Zone (Port of La Línea).

The specimens were supervised by the project’s scientific team during the move to ensure that each specimen was kept under the appropriate temperature and humidity conditions.

The coastal section of the Recipient Zone is relatively isolated, which benefits the reintroduction of the recruited specimens, helping to prevent the population from being damaged by shellfish gatherers and collectors.

Monitoring the specimens after the first few weeks of the move has shown satisfactory results, with a survival rate greater than 80%.The subsequent follow-up data will confirm whether this trend continues,and is combined with monitoring of both the donor and recipient populations.

In addition to the LIFE REMoPaF Consortium team, various private and public companies collaborated in this initial trial relocation, such as the Port Authority of the Bay of Algeciras (Recipient Zone); the Ministry for Ecological Transition, the Department of the Environment and Territorial Planning of the regional government of Andalusia, the Department of the Environment of the Autonomous City of Melilla, and Seville Aquarium.

 

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