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Interdisciplinary research for the blue management of the invasive alien alga Rugulopteryx Okamurae.

Since around 2015, abundant upwelling of the alga R. okamurae, an alga of Asian origin, has been observed on the coast of the Strait of Gibraltar. The proliferation of this seaweed has been rapid, affecting not only coastal areas but also at depth, with samples of this seaweed in Almería and Huelva (Spain), in the Algarve (Portugal), in Marseilles (France), as well as in the Azores Islands (Portugal).

The first reference of this species in Europe was in the Thau Lagoon in 2002, when it arrived with the aquaculture of Japanese oysters, but it remained confined there. R. Okamurae was included in the BOE list of invasive species in Spain in December 2020 and the risk study commissioned by the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge in the same year concluded that the risk of expansion could cover practically the entire Mediterranean.

It is therefore urgent to carry out research to find out more about the biological strengths and weaknesses of this species and to pass on the scientific conclusions to managers in order to act quickly, as the impact on marine ecosystems and the economy (fishing and tourism sector) is only getting worse.

In this sense, BLUEMARO is structured into three main areas of study:

1) Observational oceanographic studies and modelling, which will make it possible to determine the probabilities of proliferation and to establish control and recalibration strategies for the species in most of the affected and potentially affected areas.

2) Benthic studies, which will analyse the interaction of RO with other key populations, mainly: Posidonia oceanica, Cystoseira spp. and Astroides calcycularis. In addition, other experiments will be carried out to study their nutrient uptake capacity, antioxidant activity, energy dissipation and the accumulation of bioactive compounds in the RO.

3) Biotechnological approach, in which the biochemical composition of RO will be studied in detail in order to understand the success of its colonisation of the Mediterranean coasts. In addition, the toxicity of these bioactive substances and their possible application in aquaculture (fish feed), agriculture (biostimulants and compost) and cosmeceuticals (cosmetic and pharmacological industry) will be evaluated.

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