José Manuel Viegas Azevedo, professor at the University of the Azores, and Francisco Otero Ferrer, post-doctoral researcher at the University Institute of Aquaculture and Sustainable Marine Ecosystems (IU-ECOAQUA) and member of ABAS (Association for Atlantic Biodiversity and Sustainability) attended the Third International Island Biology Conference, held in July (8-13) on the island of La Réunion (France), representing the MOVE project.
This European Union (EU) project, which will run for 3 years and is coordinated by the Regional Fund for Science and Technology (FRCT) of the Regional Government of the Azores, involves a total of 14 organizations, mostly universities and research institutes.
The International Island Biology Conference took place for the first time in Hawaii in 2014, and the second edition was held subsequently in the Azores in 2016. The latest in La Réunion has managed to bring together more than 400 experts in marine and terrestrial ecosystems related to island environments.
José Azevedo presented an oral communication within a session dedicated to conservation, explaining the need to preserve biodiversity in the European overseas islands based on the experience acquired in the Macaronesia. “These places constitute,” said Azevedo, “a privileged place to focus conservation efforts and check their effectiveness”.
In his presentation, he gave the example of the BEST initiative, promoted by the EU, which is based on the distribution of endangered species in the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands, and through which key biodiversity areas (KBAs) have been geographically identified in which the degree of protection was low or non-existent.
Azevedo also explained how large gaps in knowledge about Macaronesian biodiversity and its conservation have come to light, as well as the insufficient legislative framework at regional or European level to protect many of the threatened species existing in this ecoregion. In his opinion, “if we want to halt the loss of biodiversity in Europe, investment in basic science and monitoring must increase, and the conservation of biodiversity must be a priority for Europe”.
At the same time, Francisco Otero Ferrer presented another oral communication within a session dedicated to marine ecology, focusing on the environmental factors affecting the structure and functioning of rhodolith seabeds on different islands of the eastern Atlantic, including Madeira (Portugal), Gran Canaria (Spain) and Príncipe (Republic of São Tome and Príncipe, located in the Gulf of Guinea).
During the study carried out by this Galician researcher, the depth of the rhodoliths was evaluated on the three islands. The results showed that, in all environments, ocean currents affect the shape and size of rhodoliths in shallower areas, while at depth the most important factor affecting these algae is the loss of light.
The study also showed that the islands are excellent natural laboratories for carrying out this type of research.