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The 'Cargola del Cap de Creus' (Erodium foetidum), one of the most endangered plants in Spain

Under the shadow of SARS-Cov-2, we need to know, more than ever, that nature will continue celebrating spring

The "Cargola del Cap de Creus" (Erodium foetidum) is a unique being, a small endemic and threatened plant that only survives, making spring possible, in two isolated corners of the planet: the golfe du Lion, in France, and Cap de Creus, in Spain.

The Catalan Society of Sciences for the Conservation of Biodiversity (BioSciCat) will carry out a set of studies to better understand the biology, ecology and tendency of its unique Iberian population. The objective is to reach the necessary knowledge to draft the Recovery Plan for this species, listed as "endangered" in Catalonia and Spain.

It is part of BioSciCat's "Unique" program, a line of action aimed to promote the conservation of the most threatened living beings, the worldwide distribution of which is assigned to the Iberian Peninsula.

Tarragona, May 29, 2020

At a time when the shadow of SARS-Cov-2 has clouded our lives with uncertainties, we cheer ourselfs up in knowing that out there, spring is progressing, and that nature continues celebrating "life".

Learning times. Times in which, for the first time, as if it was a laboratory experiment, man and nature have been clearly and deliberately separated, isolated. Does anyone doubt the result? Nature does not need us; we can't live without it.

But it is not the only reality that we have suddenly had to accept. Another feeling that has taken root deeply in us over the days is that the apparent strength and security of the greatest certainties, those that sustained our lives, is more fragile than we may thought.

Well, this revealed truth, in some way, can be found exquisitely synthesized in the delicate existence of a tiny plant, the 'Cargola del Cap de Creus' (Erodium foetidum): admiring the beauty of its flowers, we are invaded by the absolute certainty of not being able to conceive of our existence outside of nature, but at the same time, its fragility, and the plausible idea that it could disappear forever, reminds us that not even natural cycles, such as the irruption of spring at Cap Norfeu thanks to its flowering, are as unstoppable as we thought until now.

Conserving the "Cargola del Cap de Creus"

The "Cargola del Cap de Creus" is a small endemic and threatened plant that is only found between Montpellier and Perpignan, in France, and in Cap de Creus, Spain, where the only known population of the Iberian Peninsula survives isolated. It has already been considered endangered in the Catalog of Endangered Flora of Catalonia and in the Spanish Catalog of Endangered Species. It is one of the stars that have made it possible for spring to light up each year in the sky of the Cap de Creus dome. But it is also one of the unique and unrepeatable beings that could be extinguished, forever.

To avoid this, the Catalan Society of Sciences for the Conservation of Biodiversity (BioSciCat) has started a project focused on its study and conservation. The research will focus on figuring out demographic, biological and ecological aspects that will be essential to make possible the future Recovery Plan for the species, an instrument that, in accordance with the current legislation, must define which are the actions that will have to be carried out to ensure the viability of the species.

Through this project, BioSciCat adds a new species to its "Unique" program, a line of action aimed at protecting and conserving the most threatened and endemic living beings in the Iberian geography, that is, those whose future lies exclusively in our own hands.

The project

The project is divided into four lines of work: the review of previous scientific knowledge about the species; the study of the only known population in the Iberian Peninsula, in Cap de Creus; the search for possible new populations from a predictive model; and the dissemination and communication of the importance of this critically endangered species.

With the results that are derived, it is expected to obtain valuable information on various aspects that may be key to establis a reasoned program aimed at the conservation of the species. Some questions need to be answered:

Is the population of the "Cargola del Cap de Creus" stable, is it increasing or decreasing? Some previous works have evaluated the total number of individuals from the only known Spanish locality. The surveys that will be carried out will make it possible to estimate if there is a clear demographic tendency or if, on the contrary, the population remains stable.

Is the locality known in Cap de Creus unique or are there others? Based on the characterization of the ecological parameters of the known locality in Cap Norfeu, near Roses, a predictive mathematical model will be developed and will guide the search for possible new populations in other places with similar ecological conditions, which will also include the use of drones.

What threats does the species face? It will be studied the impact that pressures, whether of human origin, such as tourism or livestock, or natural, such as climate change or forest fires, can have on the population.

These and other lines of research will allow us to have a much more precise knowledge of the only Iberian population of an endemic species that currently has a very small area of global distribution. The dissemination of the work that will be carried out throughout the project will aim to inform and make the local population and visitors participate in this small natural jewel: you can only love what you know.

Support and financing

The "Cargola del Cap de Creus" research project has, among others, the support of the Fundación Biodiversidad, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, and the Department of Territory and Sustainability of the Government of Catalonia, as well as with the collaboration of the Cap de Creus Natural Park.



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