An impulse for Biodiversity and Rewilding in the Faia Brava Reserve

An impulse for Biodiversity and Rewilding in the Faia Brava Reserve

by ATNatureza

Transumância e Natureza – Associação (ATN) is a non-governmental, non-profit organization for the environment, created in 2000 in Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, district of Guarda. Our mission is to preserve, enhance, know and disseminate the natural heritage of the Northeast of Portugal, through the management and protection of natural areas.

The creation of ATN had the objective to support the implementation of a conservation project for the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata), in the Northeast region of Portugal.

From 2000 to 2003, the strategy developed by ATN in the North East of Portugal focused on 3 sets of actions:

  1. The acquisition of important land for birds;
  2. A supplementary feeding program: repopulation of dovecotes and feeding ground for scavenger birds;
  3. Environmental awareness actions aimed at the local population.

During this period, ATN acquired land in 3 important locations for the 2 species of birds of prey, covering approximately 67 ha, namely in the Côa Valley SPA (Natura 2000 Network) and in the Douro International Natural Park. As of 2003, these lands became ATN’s main intervention zone – the Faia Brava Reserve.

In 2008, the Faia Brava Reserve included around 600 ha, which allowed ATN to assume long-term objectives for the area, having developed a 10-year management plan. This plan made it possible to structure conservation solutions and actions, oriented towards the restoration and ecological valuation of properties with special emphasis on the conservation of avifauna. The plan was published and started in 2009, having subsequently given rise to a proposal to classify the reserve as a Private Protected Area, a process that ended successfully in 2010.

In 2021, ATN manages a total continuous area of ​​1000 ha in Faia Brava which includes a 5 km nesting zone for rupicolous birds in the Côa Valley SPA as well as neighboring areas of feeding these birds. Additionally, ATN manages, in partnership with 40 other owners, a forest area of ​​2600 ha, including part of the largest cork oak patch in the Guarda district – Algodres/Vale de Afonsinho Forest Intervention Zone.

Over the past 21 years, in the Faia Brava Reserve, ATN has been testing and consolidating a methodology for acting in nature conservation, which we believe can be successfully replicated in other natural areas. ATN considers that it is essential to prepare a conservation strategy for the association that allows:

  1. Plan a sustained and sustainable intervention in this expanded territory;
  2. Define priority natural values;
  3. Identify threats, solutions, objectives and typical actions for each species or biotope;
  4. Create and manage a network of priority natural areas within this territory.

Project Description

This project includes several nature conservation measures in the Faia Brava reserve with a direct impact on biodiversity, in the short and long term.

In the long term, we propose to accelerate reforestation by pruning 25 ha of shrubland and cork oaks, enhancing vertical growth, and creating four patches of forest biodiversity (each 0.25 ha) as a future seed bank for natural reforestation.

As a preventive measure, we propose to remove 50ha of shrub-dominated areas to reduce the risk and impact of forest fires and create a fire corridor to stop forest fires.

In addition, we propose the creation of a new water point in the north that will attract herbivores. Herbivores natural circulation will increase structural diversity and therefore biodiversity. All actions and their results will be monitored throughout the project.

In this project our main objectives are:

  1. Allow herbivores to graze throughout the reserve, leading to greater structural diversity in the ecosystem and, therefore, to biodiversity;
  2. Accelerate reforestation, leading to a more resilient ecosystem;
  3. Reduce the risk and impact of forest fires, the main threat to the ecosystem;
  4. Increase the availability of water and the biodiversity of ponds, reducing the negative impact of herbivores.

Key Ecosystems

Continental Mediterranean ecosystems and ecosystems deeply modified by human activities through pastoralism and fire in low rainfall areas, whose renaturalization process can be framed within the Great Coa Valley project.

Key Species

Oak (Quercus suber), Cork Oak (Quercus rotundifolia), Mediterranean Cypress (Juniperus oxycedrus), Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo).

Project Manager
Henk Smit

Responsible Associates
Nuno Ferrand and Carlos Aguiar

Place of action
Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo

Implementation period
22 months
(March 2021 to December 2022)

€ 99.454

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