On the 25th of October we received our fifth and final visit from Ainhoa Darquistade of the Neemo Consultancy, in charge of supervising the development and execution of the LIFE SALINAS Project. Edouard Gatienau, from the European Executive Agency for Climate, Infrastructure and Environment, also participated in said meeting remotely. As usual, the meeting was also attended by all of the partners in charge of the Project: Julio Fernández and Gustavo Ballesteros, from Salinera Española (coordinating partner of the Project); Jorge Sánchez and Antonio García, from the “Asociación de Naturalistas del Sureste” (ANSE); María Monteagudo, Director of the Regional Park “Salinas y Arenales de San Pedro del Pinatar”, from the “Dirección General del Medio Natural”; Katia Hueso, from the consulting firm Mãe d’água; Eva Pagán, from the City Council of San Pedro del Pinatar; as well as Daniel Ibarra and Nerea Martínez, from the University of Murcia. On the other hand, María Huertas and Sandra Fernández, from the consultancy firm Eurovértice in charge of the administrative and financial aspects of the Project, also participated in the meeting.
During the meeting, a detailed review of all of the Project’s actions was carried out, solving any queries that came up during the session. Finally, the participants took part in a field reconnaissance visit with an explanation and viewing of the latest actions carried out by the Project.
Developed between the 1st October 2018 and 30th September 2022, the LIFE-Salinas project has been able to successfully solve a number of conservation issues found within the Regional Park “Salinas y Arenales de San Pedro del Pinatar”:
- Reduction of dune erosion on the beaches of “La Llana”. This objective was achieved via the installation of game fencing that has managed to prevent any damage caused by visitors trampling on the dune ecosystem along the first 600 metres of the beach; the establishment of a Posidonia oceanica sea wall using the removal of said species from other beaches used for tourism; the installation of 2,500 linear metres of sand fences made of reed; the plantation of 16,361 specimens of 24 species native to dunes. Given these actions, in addition to controlling dune erosion, the risk of the water flooding from the Mediterranean Sea into the salt ponds closest to “La Llana” beach, an area particularly vulnerable during storms, has been reduced.
- Creation of 1,800 metres of new earth mounds separating the salt ponds. The increase in the population of yellow-legged gulls (from less than 200 wintering specimens in the 1980s to more than 2,000 specimens since 2010) has increased the deposits of guano and with it, the development of vegetation that covers a large part of the earth mounds separating the salt ponds. This vegetation prevents other waterbirds from breeding. The deposit of saline substrates from the bottom of the salt ponds onto the newly created earth mounds prevent the development of vegetation and favours the nesting of other species such as the Audouin’s gull. In addition to improving the water circuit of the salt ponds, this action has increased the breeding area available for waterbirds (406 ha in 1994 / 85.4 ha in 2015). As a result, the earth mounds shores have been colonised by the Spanish toothcarp (Aphanius iberus) and used in the last year by 240 pairs of Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii), 146 of Little tern (Sternula albifrons), 63 Pied Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta), 16 gull-billed terns (Gelochelidon nilotica), 7 Kentish Plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus) and 2 Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus).
- Improvement of the Coterillo pond’s water circulation by adapting a water inlet and outlet. This action has made it possible to reduce the high salinity, integrating the pond into the salt circuit. The immediate result has been the recovery of the Spanish toothcarp (fartet) population as well as the breeding colonies of common terns, avocets and little terns.
- Manual removal of 63 Tn (204 m³) of invasive exotic species, mainly Agave america and Carpobrotus cacinaciformis, which affected 115 ha of dune habitats distributed along the 6 km long coastline of the protected area.
A series of more specific objectives have also been developed, including the land stewardship agreement between Salinera Española and ANSE; the design of a quality and environmental protection certificate for salt produced in the salt flats, especially those included in the Natura 2000 Network, expected to be launched in 2023; transferability and replicability actions in other areas of the territory, contacting other initiatives for the conservation of salt flats, coastal erosion and land stewardship, or through participation in forums, congresses, conferences and national and international events; 48 volunteer activities, promoting the participation of the general public and above all the local population in some of the Project’s actions as well as other nature conservation actions; a large environmental education and dissemination campaign in which more than 250 activities took place, raising awareness regarding the LIFE Salinas Project and the Natura 2000 Network among schoolchildren in the region (primary and secondary education), the general and local population, tourists, workers of the San Pedro del Pinatar port, workers of Salinera Española and local neighbourhood associations (senior citizens, housewives, nature conservation, young people, etc.).
Therefore, the LIFE-Salinas Project’s actions have improved the state of conservation of the Regional Parks territories and priority fauna and habitats within the European Union, enhanced the value of ecosystem services by increasing salt production and improving its quality, and raised awareness for the Regional Park “Salinas y Arenales de San Pedro del Pinatar”.