The Institute for Research and Agro-Alimentary Technology (IRTA) participates in the European project Life Pinnarca to conserve and recover the populations of nacra, the largest bivalve mollusc in the Mediterranean, on the verge of extinction and which is in the delta of l’ Ebre un dels seus últims habitats.
In 2016, the marine currents will rapidly spread the parasitic protozoan Haplosporidium pinnae to gairebé at all costs and will cause mortality of 99.9% of the shellfish population. The project aims to revive the species with various coordinated actions on the ground and in the laboratory, for example, with a census and the installation of mesh collectors to catch the larvae that spread in the hatches. One of the few remaining pearl sanctuaries in Spanish territory is found inside the Badia dels Alfacs delta de l’Ebre, in 2014 the IRTA had recorded the second largest population in the Mediterranean with 90,000 individuals. The disease usually has a lower salinity thanks to the discharge of regrowth, a factor that could hinder the spread of the protozoa and, therefore, prevent infection. In the northern hemidelta, the Badia del Fangar had remained exceptionally intact thanks to less salinity, but the Glòria storm of 2020 will last 97.7% of the sea. In all ways, the post-pandemic map is not complete and an assessment of unexplored areas of the country has evidenced our survivors. “We don’t know how many natives Romanen, we have an exhaustive and extensive sample of the badies”, assenyala Patrícia Prado, researcher of the IRTA Marine and Continental Aigües program. Així, the census of shallow areas like the Delta is one of the first actions of Life Pinnarca in which IRTA will work. Other organisms will also search areas of the open sea such as Cap de Creus, the Medes Islands or the Costa Daurada.
But confirming the presence of survivors is not enough to guarantee the future of the shell. «If there are only isolated and unconnected populations, it is very difficult to reproduce, because there will be problems of consanguinity and vulnerability to human impacts with the Mar Menor disaster. Per això calen programs of joint management and creation of populations”, summarizes the researcher.
The Life Pinnarca project, in which various research centers participate by the end of 2024, aims to revive the species with a battery of coordinated actions on the ground and in the laboratory. Among other actions, it is planned censuses of survivors, comparative genomics, reproduction in captivity or reintroduction in optimal zones for its growth at open sea.