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Characterizing ecosystems


Where do marine animals travel? And why do they do it? What are their favourite areas and habitats? To answer these questions, biologists tag animals with small acoustic transmitters and detect their movements through a network of receivers that capture the transmitter's signal. Telemetry studies have allowed the analysis of possible impacts of the protection measures and fisheries patterns in the Marine Park in species with different behaviours. This information is critical for a correct management and conservation of species and habitats.

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Using video systems, it is possible to monitor marine life by capturing underwater images of animals that are attracted using bait, which are then analyzed to identify the species and estimate their abundance. This technique arose with the evolution of video technology and new image processing programs and it enables the observation of species that hide in the presence of divers or that live in areas where diving is more difficult (e.g.: greater depths or in the open sea).

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Using different sampling techniques, researchers have registered a high density of larvae  close to the coast within the Marine Park (we call larvae to the state of development of marine animals before they grow into adulthood). This reveals the role of Arrábida coast as a nursery and its importance for the reproduction and growth of different species, many of which of commercial or conservation interest.


Recent technologies allow a deeper knowledge of the seabed: the depth, the composition, and the organisms that inhabit it. At the Marine Park and its surrounding area, using various techniques, seabed habitats up to 100 meters deep were characterized and mapped.

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Using scientific studies or the information provided by fishermen and divers, researchers have been recording all species that occur in the Park. This is a continuous work that has already allowed more than 2000 species to be registered in these special waters.

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In the last decades there have been enormous advances in technologies for the study of DNA - the genetic material of organisms. By analyzing this molecule present in all living beings, scientists have unveiled great questions about the Ocean: how did marine species evolve? In an environment without physical barriers, how can we distinguish different populations of the same species? How do organisms adapt to changes, such as climate change? At the Marine Park, genetic studies are used to understand the dependence of the Park in relation to the surrounding areas, the occurrence of rare species or more difficult to detect, or to study the species conservation status.