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