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    Researching to let people and environment communicate: the International Marine Center of Torregrande

    The building that hosts the International Marine Center of Torregrande looks at the motionless water bends that find the pond of Cabras among the rushes, at the fish pond of Sa Mardini overlooking its merger at sea, at the great amygdala of the Gulf of Oristano. Geography explains the function. Not only research, monitoring and the preservation of the marine ecosystem, but constant teaching, communication, dialogue and collaboration with the social and economic fabric of the territory. "Transferring knowledge and giving practical application to research has always been one of the primary aims of the foundation, since its origins, thirty years ago" explains in her office Stefania Pinna, researcher and communications manager of the institute.

    Dario Vallainc, one of her colleagues, has collected the mullet’s wild breeders in the pond, and now breeds the larvae in large circular tanks, taking care day and night of specimens that must grow healthy, improve their ability to survive. The juveniles grown in the first year of the project have already been placed in the lagoon inside special enclosures, and in few days their release will help to support the natural populations. Next year in Cabras the monitoring system already operating in Tortolì will kick off: a thousand juveniles (at least 6 cm) will be released and marked with a microchip capable of leaving trace of the movements, allowing the constant monitoring of their health. Improving and repopulating the species means preventing local businesses from having to buy the product in in Australia or Mauritania.

    Inside the large cylinders of the laboratory algae are bred in stirred water to feed the rotifers, diet of the growing mullets, or the oysters, fed and cured with the intent of allowing local cooperatives, such as that of S. Andrea and S ' Ena Arrubia, to try out its cultivation, potentially of great support to economic sustainability in an era where climate change alters the conditions of the ecosystem, making fishing and profit fragile. "Sea water is penetrating the lagoon system, causing an increase in the degree of water salinity. Some species penetrate the rivers for miles. The balance is significantly altered", says Pinna.

    Only partially known are the causes of the death of Pinna Nobilis. An infection that began in Spanish waters exterminated the "castanets", the largest filter feeder in the Mediterranean. The disease is multifactorial. The variations in temperature and salinity, the presence of heavy metals certainly have an impact. The weakened organism is inclined to be attacked by bacteria. In the Marine Protected Area of the Sinis-Isola di Mal di Ventre the presence of the pinna nobilis is reduced to a few specimens. In the past there were thousands. In addition to purifying water, pinna nobilis offers the exterior of their shell to micro-colonizing organisms, while a crustacean species lives inside in symbiosis. From the need to better understand and contextualize the nature of the blight, a "citizen science" project was born. The IMC has created an online platform where anyone who sees a pinna nobilis has the opportunity to report its location. The researchers will then proceed to verify and assess the condition of the organism. A cartography has already been created and allows the analysis and comparison of the relationship between specimens and environment, involving and at the same time enabling awareness in the citizens, some of whom by now don't miss an opportunity to dive and go hunting for castanets in good health. Five specimens were recently found in the pond of Is Benas, one of the most numerous surviving groups.

    The Pinna nobilis project is just one of many opportunities to involve the population in the institute's activities. Training courses, lectures with researchers, seminars, collaboration with the universities of Cagliari and Sassari, the aquaculture summer school, the many meetings with schools, the "Zoumate" area on the ground floor, where marine environments have been reproduced and there is often the possibility for children and teen agers of knowing by touch the gulf’s specimens.

    "We have the institutional task of transferring knowledge and technologies that increase awareness and make extensive farming sustainable" says the institute's director, economist Paolo Mossone. Success in the relationship with the cooperatives is a patchwork, many subjects take part in the initiatives but only a few go to the end. There is a generational conflict within the cooperatives, although the need to abandon the old production models for more open, fruitful and sustainable solutions is increasingly felt.

    "Our relationship with MEDSEA and the Maristanis project is constant, with full synergy and convergence in a vision of sustainability that involves both the environmental, economic and social aspects. Coordinating our actions is essential. This territory needs everything, especially culture. From this point of view, Maristanis is a breath of fresh air. Often we at the IMC find ourselves sowing on freshly plowed land”.

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