POPCORN is a project led by the BIOCON group of the IU-ECOAQUA, with the participation of the University of Coruña, the University of Algarve and the University of Vienna, which is developed in the Northeast Atlantic and is funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

In this area the rodolith beds are catalogued as threatened habitats in regression by the OSPAR convention and are also included in "Special Areas of Conservation" by the Habitat Directive of the European Union (EU).

Despite advances in the last decade, rhodolith beds are largely unexplored, including the estimated ecosystem services they provide, such as their ability to sequester carbon. As these habitats are a conservation priority for the EU, studies on these habitats should be high on the EU agenda in order to implement conservation programs.

This project addresses a series of issues and phases to provide basic ecological knowledge to ensure the conservation of rhodolith beds in the Canary Islands.

Project phases

Phase I: The composition, identity and phylogeographic relationships of rhodoliths throughout the archipelago will be identified.

Phase II: The distribution and structure (thickness, live cover rate and nodule density) of the habitat created by rhodoliths at archipelagic scale will be estimated to model the distribution of rhodolith fields, according to environmental/niche predictors.

Phase III: The knowledge gained in the second phase will be complemented with point measurements of three key ecosystem services (carbon sequestration (i.e., Blue Carbon), contribution to beach generation, and provision of wildlife habitat) provided by this habitat.

Phase IV: Experimentally determine the vulnerability and resilience of rhodoliths to stressors linked to human actions (light limitation and fertilization), in combination with global stressors (water warming).


The results of this project are of general and applied interest for the scientific community and directly applicable to habitat management and conservation, in particular to reach possible solutions in areas where interactions between human actions and rhodoliths are intense.

In this sense, coastal environmental managers need knowledge about the sensitivity and vulnerability of rhodolith fields to a series of environmental alterations derived from human actions, in order to know their resilience to such activities. By linking knowledge of rhodolith field distribution with in situ metabolic and growth measurements, this project will estimate the habitat's capacity as a carbon sink.

Researchers involved

A total of 11 researchers participate in the development of the HABITATS POPCORN project:

On behalf of ECOAQUA and the BIOCON group:

  • Fernando Tuya (principal researcher)
  • Ricardo Haroun Tabraue
  • Rodrigo Riera Elena
  • Raul Triay Portella
  • Francisco Otero Ferrer 
  • Nestor E. Bosch Guerra

On behalf of the University of Coruña: 

  • Viviana Peña Freire (principal researcher)

On behalf of the Rey Juan Carlos University:

  • María del Brezo Díaz-Caneja

On behalf of the Universidad do Algarve:

  • Joao Silva
  • Nadine Schubert

On behalf of the University of Vienna:

  • Javier Souto Derungs

On behalf of Gobierno de Canarias:

  • Fernando Espino Rodríguez




The University Institute ECOAQUA is a research centre that belongs to the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, a public institution that offers a wide range of degrees in all the major areas of knowledge, with the aim of providing comprehensive training to those who come to it, in a commitment based on innovation, quality and internationalisation.