LIFE ARCOS project commemorates the European Day of the Natura 2000 Network with volunteer activities in Cantabria

Activity within the LIFE Arcos (2014-18) project is continuing in Cantabria, with volunteering work in collaboration with different entities from the Autonomous Community.

The Helgueras and Trengandín dune systems have been the focus of the activity over the past two days of work, which have contributed towards recovering the natural dynamic of these systems by mechanically eliminating different species of invasive exotic flora.

The first of these days took place on 12th May, with the collaboration of a group of inmates from the El Dueso Penitentiary Centre. Within the NACAR (Nature and Prison) Programme, this group has undertaken outstanding work in restoring the dune by eliminating invasive species, reproducing and planting local species, removing waste, etc.

On this occasion the tasks focused on eliminating ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis) from the dunes on the Helgueras beach. Prior to the work, as on previous occasions, the Director of the Santoña, Victoria and Joyel Marshes Natural Park gave a quick explanation to the participants about the dune dynamic and the problems that invasive species cause on these ecosystems. After this brief introduction and a practical demonstration of how to correctly treat and eliminate the species in question to ensure that the work is effective, the work began, resulting in the removal of some 1,600 kg  of ice plant from a surface area of around 120 m2. The group performed a 3 km hike from the Berria beach in the town of Santoña to reach the work zone, located on the Helgueras beach in Noja.


Volunteering Group from the NACAR Programme

The action was supported by the Noja Council, firstly represented by the Mayor and the Environmental Technician who made a follow-up visit, alongside civil servants from El Dueso Penitentiary Centre, followed by workers from the Council, who helped transport the plant waste extracted during the morning on the most inaccessible part of Helgueras beach.

NACAR Programme group and the ice plant removal activity

Members of the work team that had already participated in the NACAR Programme on previous occasions were given LIFE ARCOS t-shirts, which were enthusiastically received.

NACAR Programme group and the ice plant removal activity

The second work day took place on 17th May, coinciding to commemorate the European Natura 2000 Day. The activity was carried out with the collaboration of the AMICA and AMPROS associations, and the SERCA Special Employment Centre, which as on previous occasions, collaborated actively with the LIFE Arcos project, splitting into three action groups. 

AMICA volunteering team

The location chosen for these tasks was the Trengandín beach dune system, which despite being a clear example of the consolidation of the ecosystems of this nature, also presents a significant amount of invasive exotic species.

At the start of the day, various regional and town authorities attended to greet participants in person. The Councillor from the Natural Environment, Fisheries and Food Department , the Directorate General of the Environment, the Head of the Government of Cantabria Conservation Service and the Noja Council Mayor, with environmental experts and council members.

After the formal greeting, participants were given an introductory explanation about how the dune systems work, the invasive plants and how to eliminate them, and the targets of the LIFE ARCOS Project, in this case focusing specifically on the invasive exotic species, evening primrose (Oenothera glazioviana).

Volunteering group with the Councillor from the Natural Environment, Fisheries and Food Department

Evening primrose present in the dune system (Oenothera glazioviana).

Once the guidelines and aim of the activity were established, the work areas were marked out and the task began, which continued until the rain brought the activity to a close. By this point the group had already removed the evening primrose from a considerable stretch of dune (200 kg and 2 kg of waste) over an area covering around 10,000m2. To end the activity, participants from AMICA, SERCA and AMPROS were all given a LIFE ARCOS logo pendant, which is one of the ceramic pieces that has been made in their Workshops at the El Dueso Penitentiary Centre, as well as pen holders and flower pots. 

LIFE ARCOS ceramic works produced in the El Dueso Penitentiary Centre Workshop

During the task of removing the evening primrose, another exotic plant was detected and also removed: Agave americana. It had numerous shoots growing next to the dune vegetation, which would potentially have grown very large.

Removed specimen of invasive species, Agave Americana


The work performed on both days was supported by staff from the  Cantabrian Rural Development Network team, whose collaboration in removing and managing the plant waste obtained was paramount.

These kinds of actions represent a major advance in terms of controlling invasive species, and show that adding up small actions can create a big result, which is why it falls to the Government of Cantabria Directorate General of the Environment to thank the collaborating entities for their involvement, without which these tasks would have been impossible.

AMICA, Cantabria, DUESO, NACAR, Natura 2000 Network, Natura 2000 Network Day, Noja, Trengandín, Volunteering

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