Biodiversity in southern Spanish waters worryingly degraded

by Lorraine Williamson
marine biodiversity


In the Gulf of Cadiz and the Alborán Sea, diversity has declined alarmingly over the last 30 years. This is according to a study published in the journal Sustainability. 

Marine biodiversity includes the wealth of life in seas and the ocean, from marine mammals and fish to algae and microscopic organisms. And this is declining in southern Spanish waters, research shows conducted under the direction of the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). 

The study involved biologists and scientists from UAM, the University of Murcia and the University Rey Juan Carlos.  

With funding from the Fundación Biodiversidad, the project demonstrated the links between human pressures, biodiversity loss, ecosystem service delivery and conservation and management strategies in marine ecosystems. 

The starting hypothesis was that human-induced pressures “increase marine biodiversity loss and disrupt ecosystem services. The team collected information covering the period between 1985 and 2019. Although actions were taken during this period to stem the tide, they did not have the desired effect or took even longer to produce results.  

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Compelling need to counter exploitation 

The importance of ocean ecosystem services has grown exponentially over the past century as technological and social advances have made it possible to exploit coastal and marine ecosystems, according to the report. For this very reason, there is a compelling need to counteract exploitation.  

In this context, the study points out that conservation policy remains a challenge, despite the steady increase in conservation regulations and policies. The research shows that measures have not had the desired protective effect to ensure long-term stock recovery and sustainable fisheries. 

Moreover, the research suggests that current conservation strategies are inadequate or ineffective, or that other factors are contributing to the decline. Possible reasons for this failure to mitigate biodiversity loss include “ineffective” policies due to lack of knowledge or political interest, and the inappropriate design and size of marine protected areas (MPAs). 

More causes of biodiversity loss 

Other possible causes of biodiversity loss -which have not been officially quantified- may include capture by sport fishing vessels, the black market in fish, subsistence fishing, unrecorded artisanal fishing and poaching. 

Finally, the project researchers emphasiSe that fisheries management in a sustainable manner enables the production of high-quality food, as well as securing incomes and livelihoods for fisheries-dependent societies. In doing so, negative impacts on biodiversity are minimised. 

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