El Ayuntamiento de Murcia organizó el 19 de junio de 2023 una visita al Mar Menor como parte de las actividades del proyecto puropeo JOIN - Transnational Network of Young Women for a Ecological Just and Social Transition.
Ese día, un total de 30 mujeres jóvenes se embarcaron en una excursión educativa al Mar Menor, una laguna de agua salada de España, para conocer los retos medioambientales a los que se enfrenta. Dirigida por un reputado biólogo experto, la jornada se centró en concienciar y crear recomendaciones políticas para combatir los problemas ecológicos que afectan a este ecosistema único.
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Coastal lagoons are shallow, brackish water bodies that are typically located along the coast, adjacent to the ocean or sea. They are characterized by their semi-enclosed nature, with a barrier separating them from the open ocean, such as sandbars, spits, barrier islands, or reefs. Coastal lagoons can vary in size, ranging from small, shallow ponds to larger, extensive systems covering hundreds of square kilometers.
The distinctive habitats within coastal lagoons include intertidal zones, mudflats, seagrass beds, salt marshes, mangrove forests, and shallow open waters. These diverse habitats support a wide array of plant and animal species, ranging from marine organisms adapted to saltwater environments to those that can tolerate both freshwater and saline conditions.
Coastal lagoons are indeed important ecosystems that support high levels of biodiversity due to their unique characteristics and ecological functions: nursery areas for many marine species; feeding grounds for migratory species; biodiversity hotspots that support a high abundance and variety of species; natural filters trapping sediments and pollutants; buffers against coastal erosion and storm events; etc.
Coastal lagoons are ecosystems of high environmental importance but are quite vulnerable to human activities. The continuous inflow of pollutant loads can trigger negative impacts on the ecological status of these water bodies, which is contrary to the European Green Deal. Due to their ecological significance and the threats they face from human activities and climate change, the conservation and sustainable management of coastal lagoons are essential for maintaining their biodiversity, ecosystem services, and overall ecological health.
Activities and Highlights:
1. Expert-led presentation: The day began with an in-depth presentation by the biologist expert, providing participants with an overview of Mar Menor's ecology and the pressing environmental concerns. The presentation highlighted issues such as water pollution, algal blooms, habitat degradation, and the decline of biodiversity.
2. Field observation: The group then embarked on a guided tour of the Mar Menor region, visiting various key sites to witness the environmental challenges firsthand. Participants had the opportunity to observe the lagoon's water quality, damaged shorelines, and the effects of urbanization on the ecosystem.
3. Interactive workshops: Workshops were conducted to encourage participants to think critically and brainstorm solutions to the identified problems. These sessions encouraged group discussions, creative thinking, and sharing of ideas.
4. Policy recommendation development: Young women, inspired by their newfound knowledge and the urgent need for action, collectively drafted a set of policy recommendations to address Mar Menor's environmental issues. These recommendations covered a range of topics, summarised in the next section.
Addressing the environmental problems in the Mar Menor requires a multi-faceted approach involving various stakeholders, including government authorities, local communities, and environmental organizations.
Key policy recommendations:
1. Water quality management: Implement strict regulations to control and reduce pollution sources, including agricultural runoff, industrial discharges, and untreated sewage. Invest in modern wastewater treatment facilities.
2. Agricultural best practices: Promote and enforce sustainable agricultural practices, including reduced pesticide and fertilizer use, crop rotation, and the creation of buffer zones to prevent agricultural runoff into the Mar Menor.
3. Wetland restoration and protection: Develop and implement a comprehensive wetland conservation plan to restore and protect the natural habitat surrounding the Mar Menor, including salt marshes and dune systems.
4. Eutrophication control: Monitor nutrient levels in the Mar Menor and take corrective actions to prevent eutrophication, such as controlling nitrogen and phosphorus inputs.
5. Fishing regulations: Establish sustainable fishing practices and regulations to prevent overfishing and protect the fish populations and ecosystem of the Mar Menor.
6. Maritime spatial planning: Develop and enforce policies for sustainable maritime spatial planning to control coastal development and reduce coastal erosion.
7. Urban development controls: Implement strict controls on coastal urban development and land use, including building height limits, zoning regulations, and environmental impact assessments.
8. Public awareness and education: Launch public awareness campaigns to educate residents and tourists about the importance of preserving the Mar Menor and responsible environmental practices.
9. Ecotourism promotion: Encourage eco-friendly tourism practices and offer incentives for tourism businesses that adhere to sustainable and responsible tourism principles.
10. Stakeholder engagement: Include local communities, NGOs, and experts in policy discussions and decision-making processes to ensure that policies are practical and effective.
11. Long-term sustainability planning: Develop a long-term sustainability plan for the Mar Menor that sets clear goals and timelines for restoration and protection efforts
The opinions expressed in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.