|Natura 2000 management by farmers, Lagunas de Villafáfila, Spain
The Spanish Natura 2000 site of Lagunas de Villafáfila has benefitted from an agri-environment scheme under the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) since the 1990’s.
The Cereal steppe programmestarted in 1993 with a priority to support farmers working within Special Protection Areas under the EU Birds Directive (SPAs).
The first programme was targeted to specific areas important for steppe birds and had three options for farmers, including partial abandonment for 20 years. The other options included different requirements regarding fallowing and field margins management, implantation of legumes (one of the most valuable practices), sowing, harvesting dates and inputs applications.
The subsequent phases of the programme have been adjusted to CAP regulations and rural development programming periods, maintaining broadly the same practices.
SEO/BirdLife in Spain was involved during site designation and the first agri-environmental programme design. Almost 20 years later, in which other projects have been developed, bird population have increased and farmers’ participation remains high.
The experience from the Lagunas de Villafáfila in Spain shows how an integrated and well planned implementation of agri-environmental schemes can benefit both biodiversity and farmers. The future CAP must guarantee that these types of measures are maintained and promoted as they are demonstrated win-win approaches.
The Lagunas de Villafáfila site (SPA) in the region of Castilla y León in Spain, one of the most important sites for the charismatic Great bustard, measures 32,519 ha of which near 90% are extensive cereal crops (including rotations and regular fallowing). Small wetlands, dry grasslands and other crops take up the rest of the area. The whole area is also protected as Natural Reserve; furthermore, around 4,220 ha were also designated as a site (SCI) under the EU Habitats Directive because of its botanical richness and the presence of saline pastures (a priority habitat of the Habitats Directive), and near 2,714 ha, the main wetlands and their surroundings, are included in the Ramsar list.
The greatest success amongst farmers was the implantation of the local type of legume (lucerne “Tierra de Campos”) that started as an independent measure in 2003. It is now included as an additional commitment in the basic support scheme of the current Rural Development Programme. Site managers are planning where and to what extent within the SPA this crop should be cultivated. This is a targeted approach that also offers high payments that engage the farmers, in other words, site-specific schemes are known to be effective. However, it is important to note that nearly 70% of the natural reserve area is managed under voluntary agri-environmental schemes.
| Further reading:
SEO/BirdLife, (BirdLife partner in Spain)
Ana Carricondo, acarricondo(at)seo.org
In parallel EU LIFE projects have been carried out for conservation of a minimum area of suitable habitat for the Great bustard (Otis tarda) in the SPA core zone. Two consecutive projects on 1997 and 2000 show that additional targeted actions are needed in order to restore and safeguard the most valuable habitats. Populations of Great bustard have slightly increased as well as those of other species (or at least stabilised) in surrounding the wetlands area. There has been an improvement of the lagoons’ water quality with subsequent benefits for surrounding biodiversity. Removing of garbage dumps has led to an improvement of habitat for fauna.
Nature conservation also encouraged a number of rural development projects. Several tourism promotion campaigns, publications and tourism infrastructure have been promoted by the regional government and the Local Action Group under the EU LEADER scheme that started in 2000. Apart from tourism campaigns, the regional government has financed several environmental education programmes within the area and two training-schools targeting ornithologist tourism. The results revealed that farmers have increased their income compared to their previous management of fields.