Spain designates six new Wetlands of International Importance

The government of Spain has designated five more wetlands to the List of Wetlands of International Importance, bringing Spain’s total number of Ramsar Sites to 74, the third highest number of sites amongst the Contracting Parties. The new sites can be found below.

Lagunas de Campotejar. 07/01/11; Murcia; 61 ha; 38º06’35”N 001º13’11”W. Comprising the catchment area of a small seasonal creek as well as five artificial ponds originally constructed for water treatment purposes which are now used to store pre-treated water for irrigation. Reed belts have developed along the edges of the ponds. The site contains different habitat types of European interest supporting characteristic salt-tolerant vegetation as well as birds associated with saline inland habitats. The site is important for wintering, staging and reproduction of several water bird species, including the internationally endangered White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala and the vulnerable Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris. Invasive plant species threaten the ecological character of the site, but eradication and revegetation projects are foreseen in the near future together with the construction of a bird observatory. The site is used for research and environmental education. Ramsar Site number: 2035. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Lagunas de las Moreras. 07/01/11; Murcia; 73 ha; 37º34´47”N 001º18’00”W. Covering the final stretch of the irregular stream Las Moreras that discharges into the Mediterranean Sea. At its mouth typical halophytic vegetation of European interest can be found. The site also includes an artificial pond, a former gravel pit, used as a water storage area. The site is an important area for wintering, staging and reproduction of many species of waterfowl, including the internationally endangered White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala and the vulnerable Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris which nest here. Furthermore, the site offers habitat to many different species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and invertebrates, including endemic and threatened species such as the Spanish Toothcarp Aphanius iberus, endemic to the Iberian Peninsula. The site is of cultural and archaeological significance and is being used for small-scale sheep grazing, research, environmental education and some bird watching tourism. The construction of a bird observatory is planned. Threats to the site include erosion and siltation, agricultural pollution as well as invasive species. Ramsar Site number: 2036. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Ría de Villaviciosa. 07/01/11; Asturias; 1,263 ha; 43º31’12”N 005º23’23”W. Nature Reserve, Natura 2000 (SPA, SIC). One of the best-conserved estuaries on the Cantabrian coast, containing a wide diversity of species of flora and fauna, including internationally threatened species such as the European Eel Anguilla anguilla, Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola and the Gold-striped Salamander Chioglossa lusitanica. Amongst the different habitat types, four wetland types are listed as European priority habitats including coastal lagoons and dunes as well as Atlantic heaths. The site is an important wintering and staging area for numerous species of waterbirds. It is located along the pilgrim’s trail “Camino de Santiago” and is of high cultural and archeological as well as touristic importance. Bird observatories, environmental education opportunities and an interpretation centre exist. Water contamination and invasive species threaten the site. Ramsar Site number: 2037. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Saladas de Sástago-Bujaraloz. 07/01/11; Aragón; 8,145 ha; 41º23’59”N 000º12’36”W. Natura 2000 (SPA, SIC). An endorheic complex of 26 seasonal saline lakes located in a salt steppe ecosystem representing a habitat which is unique in Western Europe due to its geomorphological, geochemical, hydrological and ecological characteristics. Many of the lakes contain water for only short periods of time following heavy precipitation events and are mostly covered with a typical salt crust. Only 16 of the lakes are flooded regularly. The site is exceptionally rich in species specifically adapted to such extreme saline environments. It contains several threatened and endemic species such as crustacean Candelacypris aragonica, endemic to these salt lakes, as well as 31 species of flora endemic to the Iberian Peninsula or to the Ebro basin like Limonium stenophyllum. Furthermore, 238 vertebrate species have been recorded in the wider area, many of them of European interest. The site is of cultural importance due to its history of salt exploitation. It is used to some extent for rain-fed agriculture, research and nature tourism. Threatening factors include the possible future transformation from rain-fed to irrigated agriculture and the use of some of the lakes as a waste dump due to a lack of appreciation of the site’s values. Ramsar Site number: 2038. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Tremedales de Orihuela. 07/01/11; Aragón; 1,845 ha; 40º31’48”N 001º39’00”W. Natura 2000 (SPA, SIC). A high mountain site (1,400m asl) in the Mediterranean biogeographical region dominated by large areas of pine forest and interspersed with dense grassland which contains about 1,000 small peat bogs, including active raised and blanket bogs. Its very diverse and predominantly Mediterranean flora distinguishes this bog complex from others in Europe, offering habitat to more than 600 different plant species, 32 of them endemic. It is especially rich in bryophytes with 141 species of mosses reported, and some unique species of pteridophytes can be found as well. The site also harbours different species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and invertebrates, some of them threatened globally, such as the endangered European Freshwater Crayfish Austropotamobius pallipes. The site is geologically interesting due to its periglacial formations, namely “rivers of stone” on which the bogs have formed. Human uses include livestock feeding, forestry, fishing, hunting, research and recreational activities. The alteration of the hydrological regime due to water abstraction, changes in traditional land management, and touristic pressure threaten the site. Ramsar Site number: 2039. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Lagunas de Ruidera 19/08/2012 (6,639 hectares, 38°56’23”N 002°51’35”W) in the Castilla-La Mancha region, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is a 25 km long chain of natural dams creating a lagoon complex interconnected by waterfalls and karst formations. It was formed through unique geological processes and comprises European priority habitat types such as petrifying springs with tufa formation and calcareous fens. Several plant communities associated with alkaline peatlands can be found, but Charophytes are dominant.The site hosts many globally threatened species including Bivalve Unio tumidiformis and Water Vole Arvicola sapidus as well as numerous fish and bird species, especially Anatidae. The site is critical for the functioning of the regional hydrological system and serves as an important water reservoir in this very dry region.The site is of archaeological and historic significance and is used for traditional agriculture, research and recreational activities. Unsustainable tourism developments involving high water consumption and pollution have threatened the site, but are now partly addressed through a water purification project. There is a visitors centre offering guided tours.

For more information, you can read the interview by Magdalena Bernués Sanz from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment- Department of Conservation and Inventory of Wetlands.

Source of the article: Ramsar Conevntion website

Cover Photo credit: Photo: Dirección General de Patrimonio Natural y Biodiversidad, Gobierno de la Región de Murcia