Financed recently by the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) amongst a total of 280 international projects, Portofino Seaweed Garden intends to be a showcase for the brown Cystoseira seaweed (now Ericaria) on the Mediterranean sea, by creating an submerged seaweed garden, looked after and monitored by Portofino’s Outdoor community.
There are two main objectives of the project. On the one hand, our intent is to involve outdoor water sports lovers (SUP, canoeing, snorkeling/coasteering, swimming and boating) in safeguarding, monitoring and recovery activities regarding Ericaria amentacea seaweed forests inside the Portofino Protected Marine Area. The second objective is that of informing about and protecting the Ericaria amentacea forests, by involving local outdoor communities and making sure that other realities can replicate similar projects.
Ericaria amentacea is a perennial brown seaweed, typical of the Mediterranean’s rocky shores. It loves waves, sunlight and the rocky coasts of the intertidal area, that zone just above and below the sea’s surface. Just like a tree, it reproduces in the Springtime and loses its branches in the autumn.
Just imagine yourself in an underwater forest: the thick fronds of this seaweed are home to extremely rich biodiversity! Here molluscs, little worms and crustaceans, as well as fish, find food, shelter and a calm place where they can lay their eggs.
The greater the coastal biodiversity, the greater is the sea’s ability to face up to disturbances, such as climatic changes.
Not just do trees on dry land release oxygen, helping us to mitigate climatic changes. About 50% of the oxygen we breathe comes from the sea, which also absorbs 25% of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere, aiding us to alleviate climatic changes.
The Ericaria amentacea forests are part of this immense blue engine, producing enormous amounts of oxygen and trapping CO2 via the photosynthetic process, in the form of blue carbon.
Ericaria amentacea, “captures and traps” excess CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, acting as a true “carbon sink”. In the sea, these biological rhythms are much more rapid than those relating to forests on dry land, and when faced with eventual disturbances, have a greater capacity for resilience.
We must continue protecting and renewing these habitats, as they are a valid strategy for mitigating climatic changes.
A seaweed that is as important as it is sensitive
Mediterranean populations of Ericaria amentacea have recently been depleted due to the loss and change of its habitats and due to the presence of polluting chemicals in the sea. A slight variation in salinity, light and wave action can drastically reduce how these forests survive.
A protected and safeguarded species
E. amentacea populations are under surveillance because they are considered vulnerable by numerous international bodies, amongst whom IUCN, RAC/SPA and MedPAN. Projects like ROC-POP Life in Italy are producing excellent results exactly via renewal and safeguarding of submerged E. amentacea forests.
1. Selection of the project at a European level
Portofino Seaweed Garden is the only Italian project selected amongst the 280 international projects by EOCA – European Outdoor Conservation Association!
2. Apice collection
On a sunny July day on board our canoes we went collecting some seaweed ‘cuttings’ from the Eastern slopes of Punta Chiappa, in the B zone of Portofino’s Protected Marine Park. Making sure that we didn’t tread on the already present, luxuriant Ericaria amentacea forest – always be careful when you walk on rocks! -, we collected just a few cuttings, which we then took back to the laboratory.
3. Growth in the lab
The cuttings were placed on little clay discs. Perched there on the discs, gametes then grew that became little seaweeds themselves. Over the weeks, we checked important growth parameters such as nutrient levels, LED lamp irradiance, temperature and levels of water exchange inside the tanks.
4. Implanting and monitoring
Once the lab seaweeds had grown enough, they were implanted at a site inside the Portofino Protected Marine Area, more precisely in Paraggi Bay under the Bonomi Castle. From now on, it will be the outdoor community, with the support of marine biologists, who will renew, monitor and guard the underwater garden filled with Ericaria amentacea!
The watersports community at the service of marine research
Through this project, our aim is to engage outdoor watersports lovers in monitoring the Ericaria amentacea seaweed inside the Portofino Protected Marine Area. The garden is located on the Eastern side of Paraggi Bay, under Bonomi Castle.
Monitor the seaweed with us! Reach the garden by practicing your favorite outdoor sport and follow these simple steps, contributing to the monitoring!
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