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CETSENTI - Cetaceans as marine ecosystem health sentinels
Coordinator - Catarina Eira
Programme - COMPETE
Execution dates - 2013-07-01 - 2015-12-31 (30 Months)
Funding Entity - FCT
Funding for CESAM - 174.112 €
Total Funding - 497.948 €
Proponent Institution - Universidade de Aveiro
Participating Institutions
Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária - Universidade Técnica de Lisboa
Universidade do Minho
Sociedade Portuguesa de Vida Selvagem (SPVS)
Coordinadora para o Estudo dos Mamíferos Mariños (CEMMA)

Marine mammals are key animal groups acting as sentinels of disturbances of marine environments, reflecting health and status of lower trophic levels. Long-term research focusing on these long-living top predators produces data on levels of xenobiotic exposure and their effects on the ecosystem. In the particular case of bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises, both species are presently included in Annex II of the Habitat Directive, and therefore both Spain and Portugal are required to create and apply conservation measures for those species, which has been hampered by the lack of scientific data.


Several emerging diseases were recently described in marine mammals, some with epizootic potential, zoonotic implications and a complex pathogenesis involving other cofactors (environmental conditions, contaminant burden, genetics, and immunologic dysfunction). In such studies a typical experimental design cannot be applied e.g. no estimate of number of samples, no definition of control-exposed populations, no choice of exposure dose or pathogen, no control of environmental parameters.


This research will be the first systematic effort for assessing population status and health of coastal cetacean species, not only to monitor the risks to the populations themselves, but also to be able to use them as sentinels of the health of marine ecosystems from the Iberian Atlantic basin. The methodological approach, grounded on Conservation Medicine, is innovative because marine mammal sample selection will be based on the classical case–control approach, while trying to validate the use of epidemiology methods to determine potential population- level effects on marine wildlife




Members on this project

researcher
Catarina Eira
principal investigator