The Alborán Sea is a transition zone between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The mixing of waters from both oceanographic basins creates certain special conditions that contribute to the wealth and uniqueness of the marine life. In addition, the Alborán Sea constitutes a feeding zone and migratory stopover for numerous species, particularly cetaceans, marine turtles and seabirds.
Located approximately in the centre of the sea that gives it its name is the island of Alborán. It is volcanic in origin and surrounded by a submarine plateau with a great diversity of habitats, where 1,645 species have been inventoried, 13 of which are new to science.
TYPES OF NATURAL HABITATS AND SPECIES COMMUNITY INTEREST
Reefs (Habitat 1170)
Reefs are hard, compact substrates on smooth, solid bases that rise from the sea floor. They can shelter benthic communities of animals and seaweeds, as well as coralligenous concretions. The Alborán Sea is home to important populations of gorgonain sea fans, like the whip coral (Viminella flagellum). There is also red coral (Corallium rubrum) and a great variety of sponges, amongst which are three species new to science (Axinella alborana, Axinella spatula and Endectyon filiformis).
Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
Cosmopolitan species typical in tropical and temperate regions, although it may also be found in relatively cold waters. It is characterised by being very gregarious. Its very varied diet includes hake, sea bream, mackerel, octopus, squid, and prawns, among other marine animals. The Alborán Sea supports a population of about 1,200 dolphins. This is particularly important for maintaining a flow of genetic material between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta*)
(Threatened in the Mediterranean (IUCN Red List 1996))
Cosmopolitan species found in tropical and subtropical waters. Solitary and omnivorous, its diet includes crustaceans, fish, molluscs, seagrass and jellyfish. The Alborán Sea is an important area for this species, as it is a natural step in the migration route between the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, and constitutes an important feeding zone for juveniles and sub-adults, the majority of which originate from Atlantic populations.
The Alborán Sea has a great diversity and abundance of birds. Besides the relative abundance of small pelagic fish, making this an important feeding zone, numerous species of seabirds frequent these waters in their migratory trips between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a particularly important winter feeding ground for the Balearic shearwater as well as the Audouin's gull, both during migration and in the breeding season (when it raises young on Alborán Island and the Chafarinas islands). The coastal wetlands are also the breeding grounds for species of interest, such as the slender-billed gull and the little tern. Another peculiarity of the zone is the presence, during the winter, of a large number of typically Atlantic species: the great skua, northern gannet, and to a lesser extent, the puffin.