Spain has more than 10,000 marine species and this places us in the second European country with the greatest marine biodiversity. In addition, it has more than a million square kilometers of marine surface. The existence of so much biodiversity can be explained largely by geological history. The appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, the opening of the Bay of Biscay and the opening and closing of the Strait of Gibraltar with the consequent floods and desiccation of the Mediterranean Sea basin have determined the current oceanic communities. Some of the most representative species of our seas and oceans that are also threatened are the loggerhead turtle, the monk seal, the Atlantic shearwater or a species of aquatic angiosperm, Posidonia oceanica .
If you want to know more examples of the biodiversity of our marine waters, where it can be found and in what state of conservation they are, keep reading this article because in AgroCorrn we are going to talk to you about the marine biodiversity of Spain .
- Marine habitats and species
- Protected upper infralittoral rock habitat and its biodiversity
- Biodiversity in the habitat of circalittoral rock dominated by invertebrates
- Sand and muddy sand and infralittoral and circalittoral sand habitat
- Macaronesian grassland habitat of Cymodocea nodosa
- Posidonia oceanica grassland habitat
- Deep coral reef habitat
- Protected marine areas in Spain
Marine habitats and species
Much of the marine biodiversity is due to the great variety of habitats that we can find in our seas. Either due to the characteristics of the waters that bathe our coasts, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea or the Cantabrian Sea, due to geological history or climate, organisms have adapted to live in these conditions and have been able to diversify. The Ministry for Ecological Transition has developed a list with the different marine habitats that can be found on our coasts and marine waters and, below, we will briefly explain them in order to understand the ecological value of these spaces.
These habitats are home to numerous species, some better known than others. Some of the best known and most widely distributed mammals that we can find as part of the marine biodiversity in Spain are:
- The bottlenose dolphin
- The painted dolphin
- Monk seal
- The orca
- Fin whale
- The fin whale
- Gervais’s beaked whale
- Fraser’s Dolphin
- The false killer whale
- True’s beaked whale
- The fin whale
- Minke whale
- The Harbor Porpoise
- The blue whale
We can also spot sea turtles in Spain such as:
- The loggerhead turtle
- Hawksbill turtle
- The olive ridley turtle
- The leatherback turtle
- The green turtle
Learn more about sea turtles in this other AgroCorrn article. Apart from these well-known species, there are thousands more and many of an endemic nature.
Protected upper infralittoral rock habitat and its biodiversity
It is a rocky habitat that we find fundamentally in the areas closest to sea level or the first 30 meters, especially in the Mediterranean region . They are located in areas protected from the wind and strong waves.
The dominant vegetation in areas with abundant light are laminar algae such as Laminaria hyperborea or Laminaria ocrhroleuca species, and fucal algae, such as Cystoseira species . In areas where light is scarcer and the relief is steeper, such as rocky walls or caves, sciaphilic algae or algae adapted to low light, such as Peyssonnella squamaria or Cladophora prolifera, and some sessile animals predominate .
Biodiversity in the habitat of circalittoral rock dominated by invertebrates
These types of communities develop between 30 and 200 meters deep and can be found in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and the Canary Archipelago. It is a fundamentally rocky habitat where, due to the scarcity of light, the absence of algae stands out and the invertebrate animal communities predominate .
The fauna present must be adapted to the hydrodynamics of the area (force of the water, waves, water currents), the turbidity and the topography. The most representative animals are sponges, bryozoans (colonial animals), sea urchins, crinoid echinoderms, Madrepora or Astroid corals among others, porifers, polychaete worms, cnidarians or hydroids.
Sand and muddy sand and infralittoral and circalittoral sand habitat
To continue talking about biodiversity in Spain , we will now comment on details about a curious habitat: sands and muddy sands in different coastal areas.
This type of habitat can appear between sea level and 200 meters deep in all marine regions of Spain (Atlantic, Mediterranean and Canary Islands). This type of habitat is dominated by the presence of fine, muddy sands and organic matter. The hydrodynamism of the area determines the characteristics of the sediment and the structure and function of the community.
In shallow or shallow areas where the waves have a more intense effect, the sands have a finer grain, there are hardly any macrophytes (aquatic plants) since due to the instability of the sediment they cannot root and mainly bivalve or gastropod molluscs develop as the sea snail Nassarius granum .
In the sandy bottoms between 5 and 20 meters, the marine fauna is practically made up of mollusks, crustaceans, polychaetes, different echinoderms and fish. As in the interior case, there are no macrophytes or algae communities. In areas of the Atlantic coast, living in fine and slightly muddy sands, we can find bivalve mollusks commonly known as razor clams and belonging to the Ensis genus . In the Canary Islands, in areas with moderate hydrodynamics and sufficient light, algae meadows can develop and animals such as the garden eel ( Heteroconger longissimus ) can live .
In areas with shallow muddy sands and where the force of the water is not very intense, such as coastal lagoons or closed bays, immense meadows of green algae ( Caulerpa, Ulva, Cladophora ) can develop and in the Atlantic, also of red algae. In some areas, aquatic plants such as seba or Cymodocea nodosa can grow . The typical fauna of these meadows are crustaceans and mollusks.
Macaronesian grassland habitat of Cymodocea nodosa
Cymodocea nodosa or seba is one of the 60 aquatic phanerogams or angiosperms that exist on the planet. It is a plant that takes root in the substrate and produces seeds. This phanerogam forms important meadows on the seabed of Spain , specifically the Canary Islands, especially in the southern part of the islands where the force of the water is less intense and in the eastern islands (they are not found in the islands of El Hierro and La Palma). These meadows allow the existence of more complex communities since they attenuate the force of the water, favor the accumulation of sediments and organic matter, serve as food and substrate for other species and offer protection, so many animals choose these sites to lay their eggs. and raise their descendants.
In some cases, mixed seagrass beds may appear with some green algae. The typical fauna is made up of polychaete and sipunculean worms, mollusks that can develop large sizes such as some conches ( Conus pulcher) , cuttlefish and octopus, crustaceans, echinoderms, sea urchins and holothurians. Among the fish are seahorses, pejepipas, mule marlin and a small fish that lives in the leaves of the seba known as seba bloodsucker (Opeatogenys cadenati ). We also find the previously mentioned garden eel.
Posidonia oceanica grassland habitat
Posidonia is an endemic aquatic angiosperm of the Mediterranean Sea . The meadows that it forms are unique and especially important in Mediterranean ecosystems. Many animals use them to reproduce, protect themselves from predators, and their leaves and roots serve as food and substrate for other species.
In addition, thanks to its roots, this aquatic plant contributes to the stabilization of the sediment and prevents the erosion of the coasts due to the force of currents and waves. They can develop on rocky or sandy substrates up to a depth of 30 meters and are indicators of clean water, therefore they are very sensitive to changes in the environment (pollution, temperature, light, etc.). In these ecosystems we can find a multitude of species of algae, cnidarians or sponges, polychaetes, bryozoans, foraminifera, sea urchins, crustaceans, mollusks such as cuttlefish, octopus or nacra, a bivalve that can exceed one meter in length and live longer. one hundred years old, as well as communities of different fish, highlighting salps, wrasses, sparids and signatids.
Deep coral reef habitat
These reefs are found at great depths , between 200 and 1000 meters. They are located in steep reliefs and areas of calcium carbonate and the predominant species are the crystal coral ( Lophelia pertusa ) and the white stem ( Madrepora oculata ). They spread in areas with temperatures not exceeding 12 ºC and are home to great biodiversity.
Great marine biodiversity of Spain can be found in this part of the sea and ocean. Specifically, different species of cnidarians (anthozoans, sponges, hydrozoans), bryozoans, echinoderms, tunicates or urochordates, worms (nemerteans, polychaetes), crustaceans, mollusks and fish such as ling ( Molva molva ) can be found in the North Atlantic.
Protected marine areas in Spain
Spain is the second country in the European Union with the most kilometers of protected marine surface, with a total of 84,400 km 2 . The marine protected areas that we find in Spain are included in different protection figures. Next, we are going to show the categories that we find:
- ZEPIM: Specially Protected Areas of Importance for the Mediterranean. In Andalusia we find the Island of Alboran, the seabed of the Levante Almeria, Cabo de Gata – Níjar and the cliffs of Maro – Cerro Gordo. In Catalonia, we have the Medes Islands and Cabo de Creus. In the Valencian Community, the Columbretes Islands; in Murcia, the Mar Menor and the eastern Mediterranean area of the Murcian coast and finally in the Balearic Islands is the Cabrera Archipelago.
- Biosphere Reserves : Cabo de Gata, Isla de Menorca and the Intercontinental Reserve of the Mediterranean, which is located between Andalusia and Morocco (does not include the oceanic strip between Spain and Morocco).
- National Maritime-Terrestrial Parks: The Cabrera archipelago in the Balearic Islands and the Atlantic Islands of Galicia that comprise the Sálvora, Ons, Cíes and Cortegada archipelagos.
- Marine Reserves: Cabo de Gata-Níjar located in Almería and Punta de la Restinga-Mar de las Calmas on the island of El Hierro.
- Marine Protected Areas: Currently Spain only has one, Mount Cachucho. It is an underwater mountain located 65 km off the coast of Ribadesella (Asturias) and which is home to endemic fauna.
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