Reviving Mediterranean Salinas: Interview by Katia Hueso Kortekaas from the Association of Friends of Inland Salinas

Salinas are special types of wetlands with a particular interest for the biodiversity they host and their cultural value. We took the opportunity to interview Miss Katia Hueso Kortekaas from the Cultural Association of Friends of Inland Salinas on the work they implement, the value of inland salinas and of regional cooperation.

1.    What is the “Asociacion de Amigos de las Salinas de interior”?
Our organisation is a not-for-profit association of people interested in the defense, research and sound use of the cultural and natural values of saltscapes in general, and more specifically, of inland saltscapes and traditional salt making sites. Although we are based in Guadalajara, Spain, we work anywhere in the world where salt is present. Our associates are members of the public, and are very diverse: from academics to salt producers, from public servants to private consultants… anyone interested in the added values of salt can become a member.

2.   What makes Salinas and particularly inland salinas such a special ecosystem?
Saltscapes are special ecosystems because all living beings that inhabit them have to adapt to the presence of salt, in principle toxic for life. This needs very specific physiological adaptations that require an important investment in energy and resources, making these ecosystems very sensitive to changes in the environment. Inland saltscapes, as opposed to coastal ones, are especially fragile in that respect, as they are surrounded by non-saline conditions. Due to their isolation, the species that inhabit inland saltscapes are often rare and even endemic. If the saline conditions disappear, the ecosystem and the species it may host, can also disappear altogether.

3.  Can you describe your most successful project/activity?
Perhaps our most successful feat has been to put the concept of “inland salinas” on the map. These are often considered the “poor” sibling of coastal salinas or even inland salt lakes. Inland salinas are, however, important reservoirs of endemic biodiversity and endangered cultural heritage. Thanks to our participation in conferences, the publication of our research results and our own events, plus the more than 800 readers of our journal El Alfolí, inland salinas are becoming a better known phenomenon and are slowly gaining the recognition of the public and the decision makers in charge of them. We look forward to keep on working on the actual recovery and sound use of these and other traditional and valuable saltscapes, a task for which we are gradually more often being consulted.

4.  Do you think regional cooperation on Salinas is important? In which fields do you think this cooperation is most effective?
Regional cooperation in salinas is not only important, but essential. Depending on each country, management of saltscapes can vary enormously. Also, saltscapes worldwide are under tremendous pressure: coastal salinas are situated in flat terrain that is highly valuable for housing and tourism development. Inland salinas have traditionally been considered sterile and unhealthy places and have systematically been drained for other purposes. Regional cooperation around salinas is important to disseminate their values among decision makers, site managers, sponsors and the general public. I believe efforts should be made to approach the salt making industry to cooperate in saltscape conservation of both large and small salinas. On the other hand it is important to give voice to the much smaller, artisanal producers. Networking efforts should be made to empower them and give them the opportunity to sell the added values of their artisanal salt at an adequate market price, as a means to preserve a well-managed landscape and, especially, the know-how and livelihoods of the salters themselves.