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Sustainability Matters – July 2020

This month, IbizaPreservation explains the reason why the water around Ibiza and Formentera is so clear and what we can do to help keep it that way.

Photo courtesy of Manu San Félix

The crystalline waters around Ibiza and Formentera are one of the islands' main attractions. Indeed, sometimes the sea is so turquoise, you could be forgiven for thinking you'd been transported to the Caribbean. But did you know that it's all thanks to one of the world's largest and oldest living organisms, which grows along the sandy sea floor?

It's called Posidonia oceanica (named, of course, after the Greek sea god). This type of seagrass is found all over the Mediterranean, but the meadows around our islands are some of the best examples of their kind. So much so, in fact, that they have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The meadows stretch, quite literally, for miles. One particular patch off Formentera was found to be 15 kilometres long and, in 2012, scientists studying specimens from it revealed they believed it to be between 80,000 and 100,000 years old.


The lungs of the Mediterranean

Posidonia is key to our marine ecosystem, supporting a variety of species, including fish and sea horses, which use it for feeding, breeding and shelter. Not only that, it is also a highly effective carbon sink. Seagrass can store up to 20 times more carbon than the same area of terrestrial forest, sequestering it at a faster rate and keeping it trapped for millions of years. It's estimated that our Posidonia meadows absorb up to 13% of carbon emissions in the Balearics.

The plant also filters and oxygenates the water. The gas is then released back into the atmosphere, providing more than half the oxygen we breathe. So it may not surprise you to learn that Posidonia is often referred to as the “lungs of the Mediterranean”.


Under threat

Despite being one of our most valuable natural assets, our Posidonia is in danger. Years of pollution and uncontrolled boat anchoring have decimated the once abundant meadows, and the warming of the seas due to climate change isn't helping matters. Posidonia starts to die off once the water temperature reaches 28°C, and these days we are seeing peaks as high as 29°C.

The seagrass also grows back incredibly slowly, just a few centimetres a year, meaning that in the past 40 years, the western Mediterranean has lost about a third of its meadows. Local marine biologist Manu San Félix has warned that, measures need to be taken - and fast: “We need to act quickly to reduce the threats against it. Healthy Posidonia is much more resilient.”

We at IbizaPreservation are determined to ensure this magical plant is able to thrive once more in our waters, and have made the protection of Posidonia one of our four key conservation projects. Led by San Félix's Vellmarí Association, the project has developed an app that maps where all the Posidonia meadows are around Ibiza and Formentera, to help boat captains know where they should and shouldn't anchor.

Vellmarí dive camps

We believe education is key and have offered a series of financial grants to local children to attend special dive camps run by Vellmarí. As well as learning to dive, the kids learn about the local marine environment through a series of workshops and get to experience it first-hand under the water. So far more than 300 students aged between 8 and 17 have attended the camps, including many from disadvantaged backgrounds, and they have all come back enthused and committed to saving our Posidonia!


What you can do

Even if you are just visiting the island briefly, you can still do your bit to help:

  • Download the free Posidonia MAPS app on your iPhone or Android and, if you're going out on a boat trip, ask your captain to use it.
  • Invest in some environmentally friendly, chemical-free sunscreen. Pollutants from normal sun cream contaminate the water and poison the seagrass. There are plenty to choose from but our friends at Sol de Ibiza make one locally and, what's more, €1 per pot sold is donated to IbizaPreservation!
  • You can also donate to our Posidonia protection project via our website.
  • Become a Posidonia ambassador and help spread the word about this precious plant and how best to protect it!

You can find out more about IbizaPreservation and donate towards their work by going to their website: ibizapreservation.org. You can also follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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