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REEForest activities kick-off in Greece

In the charming Cyclades archipelago of Greece, a remarkable effort to restore marine forests is underway on the island of Gyaros Marine Reserve.

Once used as a prison in the past, this remote site now captures the attention of HCMR‘s dedicated researchers, who have committed on restoring the once abundant Gongolaria montagnei algal forests.

The clear waters of this island are a biodiversity hotspot in the eastern Mediterranean.

Unfortunately, as is the case for most canopy macroalgae, the population of G. montagnei (former Cystoseira spinosa) has experienced a dramatic decline in recent years in this region, primarily due to the increasing impact of various herbivore species.

As part of the REEForest project, fertile apices are meticulously collected from healthy donor populations to cultivate new seedlings.

These seedlings are then outplanted in areas where Cystoseira, a crucial component of the marine ecosystem, has been depleted.

Spearheading this ambitious restoration initiative is the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), a governmental research organization operating under the auspices of the General Secretariat for Research and Innovation (GSRI) of the Greek Ministry of Development and Investment.

Since February, HCMR researchers Maria and Polytimi-Ioli have been monitoring the fertility of G. montagnei. Bi-monthly dives are conducted to collect receptacles for microscopic observations. Through these observations, a decline in fecundity compared to previous years and lower thallus development have been observed. However, the researchers also noted the release of zygotes three weeks ago, albeit with reduced efficiency.

Environmental factors, such as unusually warm winters and heat waves, might be contributing to these changes in fecundity.

Reproductive success can naturally vary from year to year. Through REEForest, we aim not only to restore the marine ecosystem but also gain valuable knowledge; such monitoring activities play a crucial role in unraveling the reproductive cycles of these remarkable, yet little-acknowledged species

Overall, this aspiring conservation effort on the island of Gyaros is a shining example of how Greece’s Cyclades archipelago is committed to restoring and preserving its marine ecosystems for generations to come.

Through the dedication of HCMR researchers and the collaboration of various organizations, the marine forests in this region’s coastal reefs have a hopeful chance of flourishing once more.

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