Natural environment  |  Successes  |  14.07.2011

Spain: restoring the lagoons of Extremadura

The wetlands of Extremadura in western Spain are rich in biodiversity. However, human activities threaten the fragile ecosystem of the Albuera lagoon complex. With the support of the local farming community, a LIFE Nature project took vital actions to safeguard this important habitat for the future.

The Albuera wetland in Extremadura is an important stopover point for migratory birds, as well as a significant breeding and wintering site. The lagoon complex faces threats from a number of damaging activities, including overexploitation of aquifers, overgrazing and eutrophication. Moreover, silting processes and the use of temporary lagoons by private landowners for crop-planting and livestock when they were dry have led to the lagoons being treated as extensions of the surrounding agricultural land, thus destroying the original habitat. The aim of the LIFE Nature project was to restore the La Albuera wetland habitats by stopping human activities that were leading to the silting up of the lagoons and by restoring the natural watercourses between the lagoons. These measures, it was hoped, would increase the biological diversity of the shorelines.

Project actions included restoring natural canals for consecutive filling of the lagoons, fencing off certain lagoons and restoring vegetation diversity to encour¬age bird species. An observation tower for bird-watching was also built. Persuading farmers to implement more sustainable management practices was crucial to the success of the project. For instance, after shorelines and the origi¬nal connections between lagoons were restored, a deal was struck with local farmers to construct watering points for livestock in exchange for not allowing cattle to enter the lagoons. Land rental and purchase agreements were used to delay sowing and harvesting of crops on arable lands during the breeding period of the birds. Hunting was also regulated to ensure compatibility with habitat conservation. To continue this positive trend, long-term measures have been put in place.

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