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Conservation and restoration of wetlands in Andalucia (Humedales andaluces)
Start date: Sep 15, 2003, End date: Dec 15, 2006 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background Mediterranean wetlands are unique and valuable habitats but also fragile due to the typical arid climatic conditions. This project targeted three wetlands of European importance in southern Spain’s Andalusia region. Two of the wetlands are closed basins, where lagoons of different sizes host habitats and species of high biological interest. The first site is the Fuente de Piedra lagoon in the province of Málaga, known especially for its breeding colonies of greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber). The second site incorporates three closed basins with small lagoons (Rincón, Santiago, Amarga) in the South of Córdoba province. The third wetland is the Odiel Marshes, within the estuary of the Odiel and Tinto rivers in Huelva province. The variety of threats identified – silting up of basins due to agriculture, water pollution, disturbance of water level management regimes and reduction in flooded areas - and their particular ecological features make them suitable for demonstration of conservation initiatives that could be applied to similar wetlands in the future. Objectives With this project, the Andalusia Government intended to improve the conservation status of 12 EU habitat types, including two EU priority (coastal lagoons and Mediterranean salt steppes), on three Natura 2000 sites. Actions also aimed to improve the feeding and nesting habitats of 44 EU-listed bird species, of which three are priority: the marbled teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris); the crested coot (Fulica cristata); and the white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala). A variety of actions were undertaken to restore the ecological and hydrological integrity of the three targeted wetlands. These included acquisition of land to recover flooded areas, restoration of lagoons which have been drained or were still used for agriculture, restoration of degraded nesting areas and replanting of lagoon shores. Finally, a series of actions were carried out to improve public use of these wetlands and inform both the local population and visitors about the importance of these habitats and species. Results All of the LIFE project’s main objectives were met and safety restrictions limited the project team’s ability to adapt some of the Odiel Marshes’ ponds for biomass production. In the SCI/SPA Fuente de Piedra lagoon, the acquisition of 59 ha of land allowed wetland surface areas to be increased by managing water flows within the lagoon. This improved the habitat quality and helped the recovery of deteriorated nesting areas, as well as two freshwater lagoons (Laguneto del Pueblo and Cantarranas). Two paths and several bird observatories were also built in order to help improve access, gain more knowledge about the sites’ species and raise awareness about the site. In the SCI/SPA Odiel marshes, several actions were undertaken to recover an area that had previously been converted into a salt pan. These actions involved restoration of the marsh’s water flow dynamics, creation of a new freshwater lagoon, construction of an observatory and a path. In the SCI/SPA Lagoons of Southern Cordoba, land acquisition allowed gully corrections and reforestation actions which combined to help reduce silting risks in the Amarga lagoon. In addition, the Santiago lagoon, which had been drained in the past, was restored and a bird watching observatory was built between the Santiago and Rincón lagoons. Two interesting documents resulted from the project implementation. A ‘Manual for the Mediterranean Wetlands Restoration’ provides information about experiences gained during several LIFE projects that focussed on restoring European Mediterranean wetlands. This document presents guidelines for ecological restoration projects in Mediterranean wetlands. A second document, the ‘Hydro-geological study of the Lagoons of Southern Cordoba’ has helped to considerably strengthen knowledge about the hydro-geologic dynamics of the three target lagoons. Furthermore, the study establishes protection parameters that should be respected, along with different proposals for action, monitoring and control that will help improve lagoon management decision-making processes. The LIFE project’s awareness and educational campaign utilised a mobile exhibition, based around six different information panels accompanied by a leaflet. This exhibition was displayed in different municipalities throughout the three project areas. Other dissemination materials were also produced, including school education packs. Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).
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