Project

LIFE CHARCOS - Conservation of Temporary Ponds in the Southwest Coast of Portugal (LIFE12NAT/PT/997)

Goal: http://lifecharcos.lpn.pt/en/
The project’s overall aim is to enhance the conservation status in southwest Portugal of Mediterranean Temporary Ponds (MTPs) by fulfilling the following goals:
Compile, in a coherent and homogeneous database, the available biological information and updated cartography;
Promote the reduction and elimination of the identified threats, in order to halt the destruction caused on this habitat in the recent past;
Demonstrate management and restoration techniques that will improve and enhance the conservation status of the temporary ponds;
Create and establish a seed bank, primarily, as a tool for conservation and restoration actions, and also for safeguarding biodiversity;
Promote locally the dissemination of knowledge about the ecology and function of temporary ponds, through demonstrations of sustainable management practices;
Contribute to the long-term protection of temporary ponds, engaging landowners, farmers and decision makers;
Increase public awareness about temporary pond habitat preservation and the value of the ecosystem services they provided.

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Project log

João Tiago Marques
added 5 research items
Bats have very high daily energy demands and they often forage on freshwater habitats, such as ponds, to fulfil their needs. Ponds are highly profitable feeding areas but may provide different foraging opportunities for bats according to the type of ponds and landscape in the vicinity of these habitats. Here, we aim to test the influence of pond hydroperiod length on bats by comparing their activity and species richness in both mediterranean temporary ponds and permanent ponds. Although we focused mainly on the hydroperiod length of ponds we also assessed the influence on bats of other variables such as water quality parameters, insect-availability and landscape features. We sampled 32 ponds – 16 mediterranean temporary and 16 permanent - along the southwestern coast of Portugal during two seasons, from April to May 2015 and in May 2016. On each pond we assessed bat activity, species richness and number of feeding attempts using automatic recording stations. We also recorded information on water quality and insect-prey availability. Representative land uses in the surrounding landscape (1000m radius buffer) were assessed using a GIS. Overall, we recorded 12 070 bat-passes, most of them in temporary mediterranean ponds (n = 8270 passes). Thus, average bat activity on temporary ponds was more than twice the value detected on permanent ponds (temporary ponds = 516.9 bat-passes, permanent ponds = 237.6 bat-passes). We detected eight species of bats and the most common were the Pipistrelle bats, Pipistrellus kuhlii, P. pipistrellus and P. pygmaeus. The less recorded species included B. barbastellus, Tadarida teniotis, Plecotus spp. and R. ferrumequinum, a species of high conservation concern. In contrast with bat activity, species richness was higher in permanent ponds (average bat species: temporary = 2.38; permanent = 4.06). We used GLMs to assess the influence of water parameters, insect-prey availability and landscape variables on bat activity and species richness on ponds. The best model for species richness included three variables: the type of pond, total biomass of insects and the proportion of urban area near the ponds. The high importance of the variables urban area and availability of dipteran insects concurs with the very high contribution of the pipistrelle species to our sample. The higher species richness found on permanent ponds is probably related to the predictability of water availability in these habitats.
The coastal plain of southwest Portugal is classified under the European Natura 2000 Network as Site of Community Importance (SCI Costa Sudoeste), because it also hosts a large number of priority Mediterranean temporary ponds (TMP). In the last two- decades, modern industrialized agriculture and tourism are causing a steep decline of this European habitat (H3170*). TMP are very shallow temporary ponds (less than 0.5m deep) which fill in during Autumn and Winter and dry out in late spring. From January 2014 until May 2015, about 82 TMP of this SCI were assessed for their conservation status, based on strictly plant criteria (H3170*). This assessment revealed 21 TMP in favourable condition, 25 in inadequate and 36 in unfavourable condition. We also assessed amphibian richness for this TPM set. In this coastal plain 13 amphibian species may be found, but on average we found 3.38±2.32 species per pond, with a maximum of 8 species. The five most recorded species were Pelobates cultripes (68.3% of all ponds), Pleurodeles waltl (47.6%), Hyla meridionalis (45.1%), Pelodytes punctatus* (40.2%) and Triturus pygmaeus (34.2%), while the less recorded was Salamandra salamandra (2.4%). An indicator species analysis was run to check if any amphibian species are associated with the TMP conservation status. For favourable TMP, Triturus pygmaeus (IV = 0.74) and Pleurodeles waltl (IV = 0.72) show a high indicator value (IV) with p-value <0.001 based on 2000 randomizations (Monte Carlo test), followed by Pelobates cultripes (IV = 0.61), Pelodytes punctatus* (IV = 0.58) and Lissotriton boscai (IV = 0.50) with p-value <0.05. There were no significant species associations neither with inadequate nor with unfavourable TMP conservation status. These results are relevant to implement a quick TMP conservation assessment for technical staff.
Mediterranean Temporary Ponds are habitats of major conservation concern in Europe. Moreover, according to the IUCN Red List of Habitats, they are currently assessed as Vulnerable because of a strong decline in habitat quality occurred over the last decades. In this work, we present the interventions performed to restore and the monitoring scheme of nine degraded ponds in Southern Portugal, made within the LIFE-Project ‘Conservation of Temporary Ponds in the Southwest Coast of Portugal’ (LIFE12NAT/PT/997). In addition, we present the first after-restoration results for a case- study pond (LIFE620). The natural topography of the nine ponds was re-established mainly by deepening the sediment bed. We expected to recover the natural hydroperiod, restore vegetation typical zonation and enhance local biodiversity. To assess the impact of this restoration we surveyed and monitored changes of several biophysical components (flora, fauna, water and sediment) before and after the interventions. On pond LIFE620, interventions were made in the summer of 2015. Exotic invasive trees (Acacia spp.), which completely surrounded the pond, were removed. Then, the pond was slightly deepened to restore its natural topography. The pond started to fill with water in October 2015 and during the first hydroperiod after restoration it showed already a more suitable vegetation zonation and a marked increase of pond characteristic plant species. Plant richness increased in all vegetation belts (central, intermediate and external). The same happened with the frequency of ponds’ characteristic species, except for the central belt, were it has decreased. In contrast, we observed a significant decrease in the frequency of Dittrichia viscosa, a typical species of the pond secondary succession, and a significant reduction of the area occupied by invasive exotic species. Regarding large branchiopods biodiversity, a new species of anostracan colonized the pond during the second hydroperiod after restoration. Amphibian species richness also increased markedly after the pond restoration, from two to eight species. Furthermore, the number of reproducing species at this pond also increased after the restoration, from one to three amphibian species. Bat activity increased after the restoration but only slightly while the species richness remained low even after the pond restoration.
João Tiago Marques
added a research item
The conservation of biodiversity is a global priority in the Anthropocene. We may achieve this important goal using efficient conservation strategies, which target simultaneously multiple natural values. At the same time, there is a need to find indicators of habitat conservation status, particularly for threatened freshwater habitats like the Mediterranean temporary ponds. In this work we aim to assess the use of two species of voles, Cabrera’s vole (Microtus cabrerae) and water vole (Arvicola sapidus), as indicators or proxies of the conservation status of Mediterranean temporary ponds. We surveyed 74 ponds for the presence of the two voles. Species presence was assessed by the search and identification of droppings during both the flooded and the dry season. The absence of a vole species was always recorded when we found no sign of its presence during the survey period. Because of the variable pond size, the length of the survey period was calculated considering the area of potential habitat present in each pond. The vole survey results were then compared to the pond conservation status. Each pond was assigned a conservation status of good, intermediate or bad based on plant richness, number of vegetation belts, topography and the presence of natural and anthropic threats. During the flooded season, Cabrera’s vole was present in more ponds (n= 28) than the water vole (n=21). But in the dry season both species were present in similar numbers of ponds, i.e. n=26 and n=25 respectively. One of the vole species showed a potential to be used as an indicator of the pond conservation status. Cabrerae’s vole was in fact present in a higher percentage in ponds with good conservation status during the flooded season, although the result was only marginally significant (Fisher exact test p=0.065). However, during the dry season results were not different across the ponds characterised by different conservation status (p=0.715). In contrast, the water vole showed no differences between the three groups of pond conservation status in both seasons (flooded season p=0.445; dry season p=0.127). The vegetation structure and number of vegetation belts probably provide the ecological conditions for the Cabrera’s vole to prefer ponds in good condition, such as the presence of shrubby vegetation on the pond margins. Our results highlight that vole species possibly can be used as indicators of the pond conservation status, but further research is needed.
Carla Pinto-Cruz
added 2 research items
LIFE+ Nature Project-Temporary Ponds Conservation in Southwest Coast of Portugal (LIFE Charcos)-is being developed in the coastal plain of southwest Portugal, classified under the European Natura 2000 Network as Site of Community Importance (SCI Costa Sudoeste). This area hosts a large number of Mediterranean temporary ponds. In the last two-decades, modern industrialized agriculture and tourism are causing a steep decline of this habitat. The objective of LIFE Charcos project is to support and promote the temporary ponds conservation status in SW Portugal. In this context, it is essential the transmission of scientific knowledge to technicians and stakeholders. This work has two aims: (i) to establish criteria for evaluating the conservation status of temporary ponds and (ii) to create an efficient evaluation tool for technical staff. We classified 80 temporary ponds according to their conservation status taking into account plant species, number of vegetation belts, topography, threats and human activities with severe impacts. In each pond several biotic and abiotic factors, which could be used as a proxy of the pond conservation status, were surveyed. We found several indicators related to the conservation status of the ponds. But to create the abovementioned evaluation tool we selected only criteria that are easy to measure or assess by technicians without specialization in this habitat. Furthermore, not only must these indicators be scientifically significant but also easy to recognize in field in order to save time, money and human resources.
Anabela Dias Ferreira Belo
added a research item
The assessment of the habitat condition is the first step of conservation actions and several tools are available to assess wetlands. However, only a few tools are adapted to the priority habitat Mediterranean temporary ponds. Thus, our objectives were (i) to identify biological indicators associated with the different conservation status of Mediterranean temporary ponds and (ii) to create an efficient evaluation tool for non-experts using indicators of conservation status. A total of 87 ponds were sampled in southwest Portugal to assess the presence of plants, large branchiopods, amphibians, threatened voles and bats. Ponds with favourable conservation status showed higher species richness of plants, large branchiopods and amphibians. We identified eighteen indicators for favourable ponds: 15 plants, one large branchiopod and two amphibian taxa. We propose a new tool to assess the conservation status of Mediterranean temporary ponds based on the presence of these indicators. This tool is an alternative to other common, but time-consuming, methods and can be readily used by trained practitioners. The replication and adaptation of this tool to other regions and habitats enables the collection of comparable data and the geographical scaling-up of the assessments.
Carla Pinto-Cruz
added a project goal
The project’s overall aim is to enhance the conservation status in southwest Portugal of Mediterranean Temporary Ponds (MTPs) by fulfilling the following goals:
Compile, in a coherent and homogeneous database, the available biological information and updated cartography;
Promote the reduction and elimination of the identified threats, in order to halt the destruction caused on this habitat in the recent past;
Demonstrate management and restoration techniques that will improve and enhance the conservation status of the temporary ponds;
Create and establish a seed bank, primarily, as a tool for conservation and restoration actions, and also for safeguarding biodiversity;
Promote locally the dissemination of knowledge about the ecology and function of temporary ponds, through demonstrations of sustainable management practices;
Contribute to the long-term protection of temporary ponds, engaging landowners, farmers and decision makers;
Increase public awareness about temporary pond habitat preservation and the value of the ecosystem services they provided.