The IEO completes data collection of benthic habitats of the Escarpment of Mazarrón

Photo of sediment bottom sampling with Shipeck dredge during the ZECMA-0723 campaign. Source IEO, ZECMA-0723

A scientific team led by Research Professor José Mª Bellido Millán and belonging to the Murcia, Malaga and Cadiz Oceanographic Centres of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO, CSIC) has carried out the oceanographic campaign ZECMA-0723 in the Special Area of Conservation ZEC ‘Valles Submarinos del Escarpe de Mazarrón’, a marine area from the south of the Fraile Island in the municipality of Águilas to Cabo de Palos, in Cartagena.

The benthic habitats of rocky reefs and coral bottoms in the Region of Murcia have been sampled using underwater vehicles, especially the ROV Liropus, which allows high-definition video recording, according to IEO sources in a statement.

During ten days 56 stations have been carried out with four specific samplers of benthic habitats, such as the remotely operated robot ROV Liropus, the photogrammetric sled Tasife, the sediment dredge Shipeck and epibenthic skate BeamTrawl.

In addition, a hydrophone was anchored for eight days to record underwater noise in the area, which is an area with a high presence of marine mammals. During the campaign, very high resolution sampling has also been carried out for the bathymetric and geomorphological characterisation of the area.

“The campaign has been a success and fulfilled its objective of collecting data on several habitat types of the Habitats Directive, such as rocky reefs with coral, gorgonian and sponge forests and soft corals. It also includes the habitat of coralligenous rhodolith (maërl) beds, characteristic of the Mediterranean and of special environmental protection. It complements the previous campaigns carried out in 2021 and 2022 in the framework of the Escarpe de Mazarrón project”, as José Mª Bellido indicated.

Once the project data collection has been completed, the researchers will continue with the analysis and interpretation of the results. An accurate mapping of the benthic beds of the study area will be carried out to provide updated tools for the monitoring and environmental management of these protected areas. The project will end in March 2024, the date of completion of the second cycle of Marine Strategies.


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