More than 600 species have been recorded only on soft sedimentary bottoms
Scientists of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) and the Coastal & Marine Research Estation Jaume Ferrer, co-managed by the Government of the Balearic Islands and the IEO, have recently published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation an article mapping the continental shelf habitats of Menorca channel (Balearic Islands, western Mediterranean), one of the areas proposed as marine protected area for the EU Natura 2000 network.
In this paper the researchers have defined the scientific basis that should guide the management and conservation of the seabed in the continental shelf of Menorca channel. This area has been identified as an area of great ecological value for the EU Natura 2000 network, an European network of protected areas that ensures the conservation of species and most threatened habitats in Europe.
The study is specifically focused on soft sediments located between 50 and 100 meters depth. The objectives were to map the benthic habitat, elaborate an inventory of species and make the description of the patterns that define the spatial distribution of diversity.
The scientists applied different methodologies such as acoustics, acquisition of biological and sediment samples and direct observations using remote underwater vehicles.
The results highlight the importance of the Menorca channel as an area of high biodiversity in the Western Mediterranean. 636 species were inventoried only on sedimentary soft bottoms. The habitat mapping shows a mosaic of habitats in which Corallinacea calcareous algae, or rhodoliths, and other species of soft red algae as Osmundaria volubilis and various species of Peyssonnelia were the most abundant groups.
Moreover, the results have provided useful information for the implementation of EU directives and regulations such as the Habitats Directive, the Water Framework Directive, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Mediterranean Sea Fisheries Regulation.
This work also suggests that the protection of Menorca channel should not be restricted to habitats and species protected under European legislation.