Removing ice plant, an invasive species, from Playa de Helgueras (Noja, Cantabria)

Volunteering for the NACAR (Nature and Prison) programme in the LIFE ARCOS project

A new NACAR (Nature and Prison) programme volunteer event took place on 19 April 2018, in coordination with the LIFE ARCOS project from the Directorate-General of Natural Environment of the Regional Ministry of the Rural Affairs, Fisheries and Food of the Government of Cantabria. The goal of the event was to remove invasive flora.

Collaboration between the NACAR programme and the European LIFE ARCOS programme has brought about various activities, mainly in the dune systems of the Natural Park Marshes of Santoña, Victoria and Joyel (which are also protected as a Special Area of Conservation), SAC Santoña, Victoria and Joyel Marshes (Special Protection Area for Birds), SPAB Santoña, Victoria and Joyel Marshes, Ajo Estuary, and Marshes of Santoña (Wetlands of International Importance).

This time, we worked on the Helgueras beach (Noja) dunes with the participation of inmates and civil servants from the El Dueso Penitentiary. We also had the support of the Cantabrian Network for Rural Development team (and two foreign students interns) and technical personnel of the Directorate-General of Natural Environment of the Government of Cantabria. The Council of Noja provided logistical support.

The day started with a brief introduction at Berria beach (Santoña), where we explained the importance of dune systems. From there, we made our way towards Noja. On the way, we walked through the El Brusco hill. From different viewpoints, we explained the positive impact the LIFE ARCOS dune restoration project has had on Berria beach over the last few years (some of which was with the NACAR project). Likewise, when passing through the Cantabrian oak-tree forest, we talked about some of its characteristics and referenced the positive effect El Dueso Penitentiary inmates’ work has had there.

Walk from Berria beach to El Brusco (Santoña)

Once we passed El Brusco and reached Helgueras (Noja) beach, we started the main activity of the day: extracting ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis). After a few hours of meticulous work—keeping in mind the importance of extracting every single remain of the extracted plants to prevent their return—we eradicated approximately 1,100 kg of ice plant. The Council of Noja team helped us load and dispose of the ice plant at the Cantabrian Network for Rural Development collection point.

The team extracting ice plant at Helgueras beach (Noja)

We also collected various bags full of non-biodegradable garbage and planted sea daffodil (Pancratium maritimum) seeds to control the resurgence of ice plant collected.  We expect this effort to reinforce the natural colonization of dune species in the area, which should be rich in Honckenya peploides community species, but is increasingly scarce on the Cantabrian coast.

Honckenya peploides community on Helgueras beach (Noja)

We hope that this programme continues to grow and move forward. We would like to thank the Directorate-General of Natural Environment and everyone who worked on this opportunity to continue working and learning together.

Work team at Helgueras beach (Noja)

Cantabria, NACAR, Noja, Volunteering

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