Environmental Education

Within the scope of the project, a series of awareness-raising works are planned, meeting the objectives of the project and the need to conserve biodiversity among the school public.

Main pressures and threats to baleen whales

15/04/2021 - SRAAC

Baleen whales have long suffered from the pressure of anthropogenic activities. In the past, these animals were severely affected by the practice of whaling, a very important economic activity between the 16th and mid 20th centuries. In the Azores, this economic activity also existed, targeting sperm whales, not baleen whales. It is thought that in certain places, due to this practice, some species have seen their populations reduced to nearly extinction, having survived only 1% of the worldwide population, for example in the case of blue whales. Fortunately, due to a global conservation effort on the part of non-governmental, governmental entities and the scientific communities, it was possible to promote a gradual recovery of these populations, despite the fact that they continue to be under pressure from various human activities.

The most important threat to baleen whales is the collision with vessels, which is recognised as the main cause of death nowadays. During the breeding season, in feeding grounds, or along seasonal migration routes, the risk of collision with vessels is high, and increases in areas with high maritime traffic densities.

Other pressures to which these whales are subjected are entanglement in fishing gear, ingestion of marine litter, noise, pollution, harassment by maritime-touristic activity, and in the medium-to-long term, climate change. Although all these threats occur in the Azores, their current level of risk is still unknown. For this reason, the LIFE-IP Azores Natura project seeks to increase knowledge about the threat levels to which these individuals are subject, in order to mitigate the adoption of specific measures to improve their conservation status.

Photo credits: Richard Sears

Baleen whales in the Azores archipelago

08/04/2021 - SRAAC

Baleen whales are cetaceans that belong to the suborder Mysticeti, designation due to the presence of keratin plates on their upper jaw, called baleen plates, hence the generic name baleen whales because unlike sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus), these whales lack teeth. Depending on the species, each individual has between one hundred and fifty to three hundred and fifty pairs of baleen plates; these plates range in colour from black or dark-brown to yellow or white; and their size varies between thirty centimeters on grey whales (Eschrichtius robustus) to four meters long on bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus). Another feature that distinguishes these whales from the other cetaceans is the fact that they have a double blowhole (breathing cavity) on the top of their heads.

Some of the species belonging to this group are the largest animals known to date to have ever existed. They range in size from the smallest pygmy right whale (Caperea marginata) six metres long and three tonnes of weight to the largest, thirty metres long and one hundred and ninety tonnes, blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus). They usually exhibit sexual dimorphism, with females reaching larger lengths than males. Baleen whales use their baleen plates to filter out food from the water, mostly zooplankton (including krill) and small species of fish.

In the northern hemisphere, the reproduction of baleen whales usually takes place during winter months, with births occurring a year later. The time that calves remain with their mother varies between a few months up to 1-5 years. During spring, they migrate long distances between their mating grounds, in warm tropical and sub-tropical areas, and their feeding grounds in cold polar waters. It is during their migration that they usually occur in the Azores, where they are frequently sighted between March and June. Therefore, this is the best time of the year to observe these animals in our waters. Of the sixteen recognised species of baleen whales worldwide, seven have been reported in the Azores, and the most frequently sighted are fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), Sei whales (Balaenoptera borealis) and blue whales. Although humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera edeni) are occurring regularly as well.

The social structure of these animals is poorly understood, with some species forming small groups, and some usually solitary. Yet, some individual can form temporary associations in areas where there is a great abundance of food, or during their migrations.

Sperm Whale, an emblematic marine mammal of the Azores

04/03/2021 - SRAAC

Around the Azorean waters, Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) can be observed all year around, becoming an emblematic species that have strongly influenced the local culture. Females have generally, smaller dimensions than males, measuring between ten and twelve meters in length and weighing between thirteen and twenty tons, while male specimens can reach lengths of up to sixteen meters in the North Atlantic. The average length of males in the global population is eighteen meters with a maximum record of twenty meters, although there are no such size records in the Azores. In the northern hemisphere, the reproductive season is mostly during the summer months, with births occurring between summer and autumn. The species feeds at great depths and, at Azorean latitudes, their diet consists mostly of squids and octopus. Even so, males are known to be less selective in their diet. The social structure of Sperm Whales is complex and males that have reach sexual maturity can be breeders. The mating strategy can vary according to the social maturity and the size of the individuals. In the Azores, all the population segments can be spotted, including matriarchal groups of female and calves, groups of males and the big solitary males.

Photos: DOP/Azores University

TOP 5 “The rarest endemic species of the Azores” – Part 1

26/02/2021 - SRAAC

An endemic species is one that can only be found in a specific place. Endemism is usually caused by a physical, climatic and biological barrier that effectively delimits the distribution of a species or causes the separation from the original group. In the Azores, there are many endemic species, because of the fact that the islands are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, far away from the main land, which means that this region is the perfect hotspot for biodiversity and endemic species. The list that we present below is a sample of the rarest endemic species of the Azores. This is no ordinary Top 5, because, in the Azores, most of the endemic species are rare, this TOP 5 will be presented in two parts. What follows is the TOP 5 of the rarest endemic species of the Azores – Part 1.

Do your own mask with the LIFE IP AZORES NATURA

12/02/2021 - SRAAC

Download your mask here to color and cut:


Are there water ferns in the Azores?

08/02/2021 - SRAAC

Isoetes azorica is an aquatic fern, with grass-like morphology. The stems are short, the leaves long and narrow, and can grow up to 40 centimeters in length, where the sporangia meet at the base of the leaf. It is a species of rare occurrence, present in small lagoons above 500 meters of altitude. It is observed in dense stands from the lakeside to 3 meters deep. It is present in all the islands of the Azores except in São Miguel, Santa Maria and Graciosa, and its status of conservation is currently considered to be vulnerable. Framed in the LIFE IP Azores Natura project, there will be conservation works to improve the status of conservation of this species through action C3.1 “Implementation of pilot conservation works for conservation of endemic flora – ex-situ conservation”, namely through: I) propagation protocols essayed and ready for use and ii) Install viable populations in Botanical Garden of Faial island.

Top 5 – The most dangerous invasive species that exist in the Azores

29/01/2021 - SRAAC

Invasive species are one of the main concerns regarding the conservation of the natural heritage of the Azores. Whether by competition with native species; hybridization risks; physical and chemical changes in the soil; changes in natural habitats; or by the spread of pests and diseases, alien species are a major cause of biodiversity loss in the Azores. For this reason, LIFE IP Azores Natura intends to implement a strategy to combat invasive species in terrestrial protected areas, through action C8. What we intend to present next are 5 vascular flora species, considered invasive, and existing in the Azores, which, according to the available bibliography, are considered the most dangerous. Not disregarding other equally dangerous species, these are the ones that present greater range of distribution throughout the region, bigger occupancy of natural habitats and higher regeneration, being also included in European and international lists as species of concern for the nature conservation.

Arundo donax

Hedychium gardnerianum

Pittosporum undulatum

Hydrangea macrophylla

Lantana camara

Reviewing another year of LIFE IP AZORES NATURA

04/01/2021 - SRAAC

Last January 1, the LIFE IP AZORES NATURA had another anniversary, today, as a way to mark the date, and reviewing on the last year progress, we release our anniversary video.

More than just a Christmas ornament

29/12/2020 - SRAAC

The Ilex azorica is a perennial shrub with dark green leaves and red fruits that make its aspect characteristic and easy to distinguish between the Laurissilva forest. Historically, this species has had numerous uses, such as feeding cattle, thus molding some aspects of the Azorean landscape, namely, some field pastures. As for its protection status, its use for livestock feed, coupled with the occupation of humans in places where, normally, this species would occur, the silent threat of invasive species and the risk of hybridization (still little studied) has made this species vulnerable. More than just a Christmas ornament known to all is an extremely important endemic species in the Azorean ecosystem, serving as food for countless species and even the Priolo (Pyrrhula murina) (target-species of the LIFE IP Azores Natura project) that feeds almost exclusively on the flower buds of the Ilex at the beginning winter, when food is scarce.

For these reasons, for its vulnerability, this species, requires, form all of us, a special care.

LIFE IP AZORES NATURA Newsletter 1st Edition (Christmas special)

22/12/2020 - SRAAC

We present the first edition of the LIFE IP Azores Natura Newsletter, which contains activities, news, items on target species and puzzles related to the project.

This Christmas special edition marks the beginning of the LIFE IP Azores Natura Newsletter, which will have a biannual periodicity.

Continue to participate and monitor our activities. We count on you!

Happy Holidays!

Newsletter LIFE IP AZORES NATURA 1ª Edição:

The project LIFE IP AZORES NATURA (LIFE17 IPE/PT/000010) project has received funding from the LIFE Programme of the European Union
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