The Life project “La Mancha Wetlands” entails the restoration of the esparto [Lygeum spartum] grasslandsand salt steppes in the region’s wetlands. The initiative, with the official name LIFE+10 NAT/ES/000563, is coordinated by Fundación Global Nature, and the Department of Agriculture of the Castile-La Mancha regional government is an associated partner. The implementation period concludes in November 2016. “La Mancha Wetlands” has a budget of €2,599,274, of which 75% is funded by the European Union and 25% co-funded by Fundación Global Nature and Castile-La Mancha’s Department of Agriculture.
The project is taking place in Natura 2000 network spaces in the provinces of Ciudad Real, Toledo and Cuenca, affecting lakes in a total of ten municipalities:
“La Mancha Wetlands” aims to restore the esparto [Lygeum spartum] grasslands and salt steppes (Limonietalia), designated a priority habitat (1510) by Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC, and other halophile formations in the La Mancha wetlands” SCI and SPA (Birds) zones.
La Mancha Wetlands are similar and even, in some respects, superior in environmental value to the Tablas de Daimiel and the Lagunas de Ruidera. However, these wetlands are unknown to most of the population, both local residents and the inhabitants of Castile-La Mancha in general, not to mention other Spaniards.
In addition to conservation, the project focuses on raising awareness and bringing the importance of this area to public attention, as well as promoting local development through educational, recreational and environmental activities. For this purpose, meetings are planned with experts and scientists at limnology conferences, where specialists in the field can exchange research, experiences and results. This is the second Life project related to wetlands for which Fundación Global Nature is responsible in Castile-La Mancha.
Project work includes:
- Closing drainage ditches and salt extraction ponds: reclaiming the original lake basin landscape and natural water levels in six wetlands.
- Restoration of halophilic flora: formation of Limonietalia around the lakes and other forms of vegetation, Salicornia and other associated species.
- Creation of hedgerows, copses and restoration of verges with species of trees and bushes such as tamarisk (Tamarix canariensis and Tamarix gallica), thyme (Artemisia campestris), saltwort (Salsola vermiculata), Mediterranean saltbush (Atriplex halimus) and Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera). The boundaries of public land around the wetlands will also be defined in order to protect them.
- Restructuring of paths to define access to sensitive areas, especially those on public land: routes alongside lakes will be closed and other pathways opened further away.
- Land purchase: a total of 262 hectares.
- Control and monitoring by plant mapping, regular censuses and databases for each wetland, linked to a Geographic Information System.
- Control of public access with 1.5 km of wooden fencing around special areas.
- Awareness-raising and dissemination activities include exhibitions, talks, conferences, information material, a communications plan, website and the publication of scientific research explaining project findings.
- Awareness-raising activities for farmers are also planned, with a view to promoting sale of their output, including a reference to the products' origin from areas located in the Natura 2000 network.
- Provision has also been made for cooperation with other LIFE projects to restore wetlands and salt steppes in Italy, Bulgaria, Finland, Slovakia and Poland.