A project that consists of replanting gorgonians in poor condition.
Gorgonians, although they may not appear to be so, are animals, specifically octocorallia (cousins of reef-building corals). They are suspensivorous organisms, i.e. they take advantage of the current to capture small prey (such as small crustaceans) on which they feed. They have very bright red and yellow colours that make divers fall in love with them. A few years ago, an invasive algae called Dyctiota pinnatifida arrived in this area. It is an algae that is found in warmer environments such as the Red Sea and that, due to the increase in temperature in the Mediterranean, has remained here. It gets on top of the gorgonian and often the animal dies because it cannot feed.
Just in front of Llafranc, a few metres out to sea, there are some underwater mountains called Ullastres. On the north side of the Ullastres walls live gorgonians. That is why we want to try to replant the gorgonians on the Ullastres themselves. Specifically on a north-facing wall where there are no gorgonians now.
Replanting consists of cutting a healthy branch from a gorgonian damaged by algae and using a special glue to stick it to the wall. It is a simple process and has been found to be successful elsewhere.
Gorgonians have both sexual and asexual reproduction. When one is cut and replanted, it grows by asexual reproduction to form a colony. Growth is much faster when they reproduce asexually and therefore results would be visible in the short term.
To start the project, the diving centre Triton proposes biosalidas. Dives where marine themes are explained. With these biosalidas the clients pay an extra 5 € to buy the necessary material to replant the gorgonians.
With this project it is hoped that the Ullastres ecosystem will improve thanks to the increase in the number of gorgonians, which are ecosystem engineers, as they play a key role in the biomass, structure and biodiversity of marine communities.
Detailed image of the polyps of a healthy gorgonian (Paramuricea clavata). They are open as they are feeding. All together they form a colony.
Image of a gorgonian that could be used for replanting. The algae colonises most of the branches on the left side of the gorgonian, while those on the right are healthy and could be used for replanting.
Image of the invasive algae (Dyctiota pinnatifida) damaging the gorgonians.
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