On Tuesday 28th May, a week after the date set by the European Union to mark the European Natura 2000 Day, the Life+ARCOS team met up in the Society of Sciences Aranzadi headquarters in San Sebastian to hold the final project meeting and to discover the main results achieved, just a month before its formal completion.
Along with all the partners involved in the project, the meeting also included contributions from various experts specialising in dune ecosystem management, whom, from various different fields and locations, were able to participate in the workshop, revealing the outcomes of the experiences and projects on which they had worked.
Their contributions will be discussed in another blog entry.
The seminar was opened by Mr Tomás E. Diaz (Main project researcher from the Life+ARCOS project), José Ramón Martínez Cordero (Director of the Maritime-Terrestrial Public Domain Department in the Ministry for Ecological Transition (MITECO)), Íñigo Mendiola (Gipuzkoa Council) and Juan Arizaga (Society of Sciences Aranzadi).
This presentation was followed by a screening of a video about the restoration carried out by Life+ARCOS on the Somo dune system in Cantabria, and an introduction to the conference given by J. Ignacio Alonso Felpete (Ecología Litoral) to highlight the celebration of the European Natura 2000 Day and to outline the Spanish contribution to this Network of protected spaces.
The first part of the conference was led by partners participating in the Life+ARCOS project, who assessed the actions carried out in each of the targeted spaces.
Revealing problems and actions in the enclaves
The first of the interventions was given by Jorge Marquínez, who outlined the main signs of change detected in the ten dune systems that had been worked on within the ARCOS project.
The historical photo analysis and LIDAR data allowed for an assessment of the advances and setbacks suffered by the coastline over the past 70 years, as well as the volume of sediment estimated to have moved over these years. Some results were also shown of the chemical analyses performed on the different beaches-dunes, and the sea flooding and storm phenomena that have occurred, as well as estimated recurrence periods.
The Main project Researcher, Tomás E. Díaz, from the Department of Biology of Organisms and Systems from the University of Oviedo was in charge of sharing the actions undertaken on the three dune systems in the Principality of Asturias where actions have been performed: the Partial Natural Reserve of Barayo, included in the SAC Penarronda-Barayo; the Verdicio beach, included in the SAC Cabo Busto-Luanco, and the Vega Beach, belonging to the SAC Vega Beach.
The actions carried out in Barayo constituted the main focus of the intervention. The social interest raised with the felling of the non-native trees has been high, as expected. Importance was also given to the planting of native dune system species in the three enclaves, which should encourage self-restoration processes. In spaces such as Verdicio and Vega, the treatment of invasive species has been crucial to improving the state of conservation of the present dune habitats. The aim of the protection system using enclosures is to prevent the negative effects of excess pressure due to visitors walking over these spaces, particularly intense in these two areas.
The actions carried out in Cantabria, specifically on the Liencres dune system (SAC Liencres dune system and Pas Estuary) and on the Berria and Helgueras beaches (SAC Santoña, Victoria and Joyel Marshes) were presented by Jesús Varas, director of the Liencres protected space. Lourdes González, director of the latter SAC, also concluded the presentations, in which emphasis was placed on the on-going treatment to remove invasive exotic species, which has had outstanding results, in particular on the Santoña and Noja beaches. The role of certain social agents and associations of groups with difficulties has been an essential part of developing this action. Among many others is the particularly noteworthy NACAR Programme (Nature and Prison), which enabled inmates and staff members from the El Dueso Penitentiary Centre to participate in some of these actions.
The management and regulation of access to these spaces has been singled out as a key to achieving excellent results in the recovery of dune plant life. Accompanying all of these actions has been the planting of species that have speeded up the initial growth of biodiversity.
From the Cantabrian Coastal Demarcation, José Luis Tejerina Hernando spoke on behalf of the Directorate General of Sustainability of the Coast and the Sea (Ministry for Ecological Transition), a beneficiary partner of the Life+ARCOS project. This demarcation is responsible for assigning the majority of the structural dune species that have been used in all the spaces, as is responsible for managing the Ministry’s dune plant nursery located in the Cantabrian town of Somo.
Tejerina assessed the plant that has been used in each of the SAC spaces where work has been performed.
The summary of the actions carried out on the dune systems of Santiago, in Zumaia (SAC Urolako Itsasadarra / Urola Estuary) and in Zarautz (SAC Iñurritza) was given by Jon Zulaika Isasti, from the Protection of Wild Flora and Fauna Department of the Gipuzkoa Council, a project partner.
Zulaika focused a large part of the presentation on the handling of part of the non-native trees that were removed from Santiago, the handling of the invasive species in this space, and the problems caused by the strong tides on the extensive dune system in Zarautz. Managing threatened flora in this space has also been a priority line of action, as various protected species have been recorded here.
The difference in the sediment balance between the first and second spaces, has been heavily conditioned by the set of actions. Sand collection in Zarautz: a priority line of action to create the conditions needed to ensure a future for the plantations carried out there. Various sand collecting systems have been implemented with varying results.
The actions carried out on the Somo beach in Cantabria (SAC Puntal Dunes and Miera Estuary) and in the Biscay enclaves of La Arena, Zierbena (SAC Barbadungo itsasadarra/Barbadun Estuary) and Laga, Ibarrangelu (SAC Urdaibaiko Itsasertzak eta Padurak – Coastal and Marshland Zones of Urdaibai) were covered by Carlos Ley Vega de Seoane, director of the Ecología Litoral company, an project partner. This company was responsible for the development of the actions in the cited spaces and in all the Asturian spaces.
The Somo dune system has been a success story for the functional and ecological recovery of a dune ridge, which had been literally destroyed after the 2014 storms. Along with the physical actions of incorporating sand and removing invasive exotic species, intense recovery work has also been carried out on the plant cover, which will enable the bank of seeds in the space to recover quickly. Fitting enclosures to control access and to avoid the negative effects of visitors treading on the plants as far as possible, have also been qualified as effective measures in achieving the desired results.
Equally successful are the actions carried out in La Arena, where particularly intensive work was performed to remove invasive species, due to their high concentration at the start of the actions. The final aspect of the recovered dune system presents a marked dune morphology, thanks to the sand collectors fitted along specific points, and to sediment inputs, which have been exceptionally good over recent years. Reorganising accesses has also been highlighted as a key measure in encouraging the recovery of the entire system.
The Laga dune system is currently the focus of the latest actions, which have centred on removing invasive exotic species and some non-native tree species, as well as on strengthening the numbers of dune species on the most damaged points. Strengthening the peripheral enclosures will also be a key step in organising access and to give greater continuity to the dune ridges, especially along the most easterly end.
After the speech by Carlos Ley there was a break, followed by interventions from experts invited by Life+ARCOS, who spoke about the projects they are working on.
We will explain it all in the next blog entry.