In between threats and opportunities: in Cabras Maristanis celebrates biodiversity of Sardinian coasts and wetlands

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Experts, passionate environmentalists and curious citizens: over fifty people gathered on Friday 7 February for the conference "Mediterranean biodiversity in the Sardinian sea: threats, protection, opportunities", organized by the MEDSEA foundation within the Maristanis project. The meeting, held at the multifunctional center in Cabras, is one of the many events linked to the World Wetlands Day, which in Sardinia had the "water lands" of the Oristano as unique stage.

"We are lucky, we live in an area that hosts an immense heritage of biodiversity, with few equals in the Mediterranean basin" said Massimo Marras, director of the Marine Protected Area of the Sinis Peninsula-Island of Mal di Ventre, who opened and moderated the speeches. These were introduced by the institutional greetings of the deputy mayor of Cabras Alessandra Pinna, happy about a communication campaign “that addresses issues and problems that cannot be delayed anymore. Citizens themselves must become custodians of the enormous wealth that surrounds us".

Dr. Daniele Grech, of the International Marine Center of Torregrande, led the audience through the marine forests, not "charismatic" species such as coral or fish, but equally important in the preservation of the ecosystem balance: "The brown macroalgae that we mapped on the surface with drones and in depth with probes, are fundamental in describing the conditions of our sea, and in keeping a constant temperature. Unfortunately, they have disappeared in many areas of the Mediterranean, especially near the large coastal urban centers. Sardinia from this point of view is an exception. In our research we have even identified a previously unregistered species, the cystoseira usneoides. The research must absolutely go on".

Stefania Coppa, a CNR (National Research Center) scholar, analyzed the dramatic situation of Pinna Nobilis and Patella Ferruginea, both of which are close to extinction in the Mediterranean: “In the sub-areas we monitored, only 1% of the Pinna Nobilis specimens are alive. Pinna nobilis is not only very important, with its function as a natural filter, for the transparency of our seas, but also for the biodiversity that inhabits them. Many organisms find hospitality in its big shells. The patella ferruginea also plays a similar role. He is the gardener of the sea, his pasture helps the preservation of the algal species’ variety".

Algae that can also represent a great economic opportunity in the lagoon. As Aldo Addis, a researcher at the University of Cagliari, explained: "Elsewhere, microalgae are farmed because of their nutraceutical properties. A highly profitable product indeed". Addis described the impact that climate change has had on wetlands, which are essential "kidneys" between marine and continental waters. Ponds and swamps have witnessed several mass deaths of fish and bivalves, and encounter with increasing frequency alien species dangerous for the ecosystem balance. "Wetlands are important in mitigating the consequences of climate change, just think of how they can absorb the impact of sudden floods. We must know in detail the environment, we have to keep studying it, and an intervention plan cannot be missing: we must manage the quantity and quality of water resources, find solutions for adaptation to now endemic species such as hyacinth and cormorant".

"Sardinia, and the wetlands of Oristano, are home to a very rare concentration of species, by variety and number", explained Lara Bassu of Alea-Anthus in the concluding speech. Not only the great colonies of cormorants and flamingos, but the pochards and the coots, the Corsican gull, the sultan chicken which in Pauli Maiori and Mar'e Pauli finds in the impenetrable reeds its perfect habitat, or the kentish plover, “a small wading bird that loves nesting on our beaches in spring and summer, even if in the last 20 years its presence has been put at serious risk by the unsustainable presence of mass tourism".