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9 Mar 2021
A study on marine biodiversity in the eastern Canary Islands will contribute to increasing its protection
The work, led by the IEO, EurOcean's member, identifies about 2000 species in the Banco de la Concepción and the East and South Marine Space of Lanzarote-Fuerteventura, of which more than a hundred are protected by different regulations.

The Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), the University of La Laguna (ULL) and the Biodiversity Service of the Government of the Canary Islands have published a detailed fauna and flora catalog that will serve to implement management plans and increase the protection of the Bank of the Concepción and the East and South Marine Space of Lanzarote-Fuerteventura, two Places of Community Importance (SCI) declared in 2016 within the Natura 2000 Network and whose extension to Special Conservation Areas (ZEC) is being studied within the framework of the LIFE project INTEMARIAN.

Scientists from the IEO's Oceanographic Center of the Canary Islands, in collaboration with the University of La Laguna and the Biodiversity Service of the Canary Islands Government, have carried out a meticulous analysis of the biodiversity of the protected marine areas of the Banco de la Concepción and the East and South of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

These spaces, which occupy a total of more than two million hectares, were declared as Places of Community Importance (SCI) within the framework of the Natura Network in 2016 and, currently, within the LIFE INTEMARES project, work is being done to design their management plans and increase their level of protection as Special Conservation Areas (ZEC).

The work, published in the Journal of the Canarian Academy of Sciences, analyses the biodiversity of the two SCIs based on the updated catalog of the species known in them -something more than 1700-, some of them never mentioned in the waters of the Canary Islands and more than a hundred protected by different regulations. This catalog is the result of studies carried out between 2009 and 2018 by the IEO, SEO / BIRDLIFE and SECAC within the framework of the LIFE + INDEMARES and LIFE INTEMARES projects, as well as the information collected in the Canary Islands Biodiversity Data Bank. "Updating the knowledge of the biota of the two SCIs and identifying the protected species and those that form habitats is key as a preliminary step to the future declaration of these spaces as ZEC", explains Jesús Falcón, IEO researcher and first author of the work.

The SCI of Banco de la Concepción, 75 kilometers northeast of Lanzarote, is a circular seamount with an almost flat top that rises from a depth of more than 2,600 meters to 150 meters. At one time it was a refuge for sirens such as the manatee and a privileged place for the largest shark that has ever existed, the famous megalodon, to find food. The location and morphology of the bank and its interposition to currents cause the outcrop of deep waters loaded with nutrients, which turn this seamount into an oasis of biodiversity. As a consequence, in addition to benthic species, the school attracts numerous pelagic organisms, from plankton to small fish and, after them, other larger ones, such as tunas and sharks, along with cetaceans or turtles in search of food. Seabirds are also widely represented in the Banco de la Concepción, which is a place of extraordinary importance for the feeding of species such as shearwaters, petrels, paíños, terns, seagulls or paupers, so this space is also considered as an area of Special Protection for Birds (ZEPA).

On the other hand, the SCI Marine Space of the East and South of Lanzarote-Fuerteventura, includes an extensive area of ​​more than 14,000 km² that includes the islands of the Chinijo Archipelago, the entire coastline to the east of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura and the underwater banks of Amanay and El Banquete, to the south. The enormous extension of this space and its great variety of environments makes it the one with the greatest biodiversity of habitats and species. About twenty different habitats have been identified, from sebadales on the coast to coral gardens and gorgonians in deep waters. In addition, the influence of the outcrop of the nearby African coast, as well as the local upwelling of deep waters caused by the interposition of the islands to the currents, makes this area one of the most productive areas of the Canary Islands, attracting large banks of small Pelagic fish that form the trophic base for the settlement of a highly structured community of predators composed of sea turtles, tunas, sharks, seabirds and cetaceans that feed near the surface. Of the 30 species of cetaceans known to the Canary Islands and of the 84 described in the world, 28 have been recorded in the waters of the LIC, among which the presence of deep-diving species such as beaked whales should be highlighted which, due to the existence of Seamounts and the steep slope find an ideal habitat here.

This research has been carried out within the scope of the LIFE IP INTEMARES project, coordinated by the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge and with the financial support of the LIFE program of the European Union. This project advances towards the objective of achieving effective management of the marine areas of the Natura 2000 Network, with the active participation of the sectors involved and with research as basic tools.

Sources:

Falcón, J. M., M. González-Porto, L. Martín-García, A. Brito, N. Zurita-Pérez, F. Sánchez & P. Martín-Sosa. Biodiversidad de los LIC Banco de La Concepción y Espacio marino del oriente y sur de Lanzarote-Fuerteventura. Especies protegidas y formadoras de hábitats. Rev. Acad. Canar. Cienc., Vol. XXXII, 93-126 (2021).

González-Porto, M., J. M. Falcón, L. Martín-García & P. Martín-Sosa. 2020. Informe sobre el estado actual de conocimiento de la biodiversidad del LIC-ESZZ15001 “Banco de la Concepción” (Demarcación marina canaria). Proyecto Life IP INTEMARES. Instituto Español de Oceanografía. Informe técnico. 33 pp.

Falcón, J. M., M. González-Porto, L. Martín-García & P. Martín-Sosa. 2020. Informe sobre el estado actual de conocimiento de la biodiversidad del LIC-ESZZ15002 “Espacio marino del oriente y sur de Lanzarote-Fuerteventura” (Demarcación marina canaria). Proyecto Life IP INTEMARES. Instituto Español de Oceanografía. Informe técnico. 105

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