A com­mu­nity project has been set up to pro­tect fresh­wa­ter fish species in the Gua­di­ana River Basin and save its en­demics from ex­tinc­tion.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Mertola -

Sci­en­tists study­ing the aquatic life of the Gua­di­ana River Basin have iden­ti­fied 11 species of fish that live in dis­tinct streams that feed into the main river, 10 of which are en­demic to the area and the 11th, Anae­cypris his­pan­ica, a highly en­dan­gered en­demic of Ibe­ria. In the drier months th­ese fish sur­vive in pools left as the wa­ter lev­els drop but there has been a grow­ing con­cern that drier sum­mers, agri­cul­tural use and damming are threat­en­ing th­ese reser­voirs and that there is a danger that some of the species might die out. Not only that, fish com­mu­ni­ties are sen­si­tive indi­ca­tors of wider prob­lems in land man­age­ment, and so mon­i­tor­ing their well­be­ing is an im­por­tant ‘ca­nary in a mine’ ex­er­cise.

A com­mu­nity project was set up in­volv­ing wa­ter man­age­ment bod­ies, an­gling as­so­ci­a­tions and lo­cal schools to raise aware­ness of th­ese fresh­wa­ter fish. Along with habi­tat restora­tion and long-term plan­ning of pub­lic wa­ter use, the In­sti­tute for the Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture also came up with a novel plan to tackle the prob­lem of im­mi­nent ex­tinc­tion. On the roof of its head­quar­ters in Mér­tola it has in­stalled 20 or so large glass tanks con­tain­ing wa­ter and plantlife taken from the dis­tinct ar­eas that sus­tain each species of fish. In th­ese tanks they raise fry from the species so that they will al­ways have a source to fall back on should the un­think­able hap­pen and an en­demic be wiped out in the wild in a par­tic­u­larly dry sea­son.

The Gua­di­ana River is home to en­demic species of fish.

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