Spanish rainfall keeps jellyfish at bay
Tourists going to Spain may not be too happy about the recent downpours but scientists say they are keeping the plagues of jellyfish at bay.13 June 2008
MADRID - Residents of and visitors to Spain's Mediterranean coast may have been wondering recently where Spain's famous sunshine has gone, but the heavy rain that has fallen across the east of the country and the Balearics in recent weeks could be a blessing in disguise, say scientists.
Not only has the rain prevented water shortages from reaching crisis point, but the increased volume of fresh water reaching the sea is also likely to keep the plagues of jellyfish that have invaded Spain's beaches in recent years at bay.
"The rain and the increased river flows have caused the density of the salt water to change... creating a physical barrier that keeps the jellyfish from approaching the coast," explains Dacha Atienza, a marine biologist at the Sea Sciences Institute of Spain's Higher Council for Scientific Research.
Atienza notes that plagues of jellyfish will still probably form in the Mediterranean as the sea warms this summer, but they should stay far out to sea, away from the beaches frequented by vacationing Spaniards and foreigners.
"The number of jellyfish is unaffected by whether it rains or not, it will just keep them away from the coast," the researcher says.
In recent summers, dozens of beaches on Spain's Mediterranean coast have had to be closed - often for weeks at a time - in order to keep bathers from being stung. The beach closures reduced revenues for local businesses and harmed tourism.
Scientists believe that the plagues are due to a combination of increased pollution and shrinking numbers of natural predators due to overfishing.
[El Pais / Expatica]