Habitat Management |
Habitat protection
Habitat Protection
The cereal steppes are habitats that result from human direct intervention throughout the centuries and, therefore, its existence depends on the maintenance of traditional farming practices. Farming in the Baixo Alentejo, was, until recently, based on the extensive cultivation of cereals (such as wheat, oatmeal and barley) in yearly rotations with fallows that were often used as pasture areas.

Over the last years many changes have been occurring in the Baixo Alentejo rural landscape, mostly due to the existence of irrigated crops, which allow a more intensive exploration, and other type of crops. Many areas that once were fallows are now occupied by intensive olive groves, vineyards or other annual irrigated crops. These changes are the main cause for the disappearance of the habitat of steppe birds who depend on the mosaic created by the rotation of dry arable crops (wheat, oatmeal and barley crops) with pastures (fallows).

Habitat protection in the agricultural component is not carried out with direct management measures implemented by the Life Estepárias project. This aspect is ensured by the existence of Agro-Environmental Measures made available for farmers who can voluntarily apply, as part of the Rural Development Program (Proder) of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union.

These Agro-Environmental Measures are currently available for the four SPA of the Life Estepárias project through the Castro Verde Integrated Territorial Intervention (ITI), which replaces the Zonal Plan which was in force since 1995, and the ITI of the Alentejo Natura Network Areas, which include the Piçarras, Vale do Guadiana e Mourão/Moura/Barrancos SPAs. In these ITI the “Cereal-Fallow Rotation” Agro-Environmental Measure includes the main rules of agricultural management that are compatible with the conservation of the steppe habitat, namely the proportion of fallows (superior to 50%), the restriction of work during the nesting period or the growth of specific crops for steppe birds, among others.

In terms of habitat protection the Life Estepárias project has an important management measure which is the acquisition of lands considered essential for the conservation of the Great Bustard, Little Bustard and Lesser Kestrel. Therefore, 168ha of land have been acquired in the Castro Verde SPA, in an area of courtship and regular occurrence of Great Bustard, which is also important for the Little Bustard and the Lesser Kestrel. This new property will integrate the Biodiversity Reserves network of LPN in Castro Verde, making a total of 6 estates with 1812ha, which are exclusively dedicated to the conservation of nature and of these endangered species.

Following habitat protection measures, 1600m of fences potentially dangerous, considered as barriers in sensitive areas, were also removed in two estates (the problem of fences is described in this tab).

The construction of two nesting towers for the lesser kestrel, one on the estate acquired within the project and another in Safara - Moura, helped to improve and increase the nesting habitat of this bird, providing 160 new nesting sites.

You may access more information on habitat protection measures HERE. (Powerpoint presentation of Rita Alcazar - LPN)