Life ARCOS: In situ and Ex situ innovative combined techniques for coastal dune habitats restoration in SCIs of northern Spain

Goal: Improving the conservation status of the threatened Cantabrian Coastal sand dunes by restoring 10 areas included in 10 selected Natura 2000 sites.

Methods: Habitat Restoration, Coastal Management, Coastal Geomorphology

Date: 1 July 2014 - 31 December 2018

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Project log

Elena Fernandez Iglesias
added a research item
The project has been very successful, despite the problems and difficulties associated with the work to restore natural systems that are so dynamic. The coordination between the various administrations (Autonomous Regions and Councils) that manage the Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) of the Cantabrian coast has made it possible to carry out important work, the results of which are already quite visible. However, there is still a lot to be done and there are several coastal dune systems in northern Spain that require similar action. The experience acquired and the mechanisms to achieve the change towards the improvement of the state of conservation of the dunes have been quite successful, which encourages the continuation of these synergies. Once the restoration has been completed, basically with soft bioengineering techniques, the factors that caused the loss of the state of conservation must be kept under control. This task must be carried out by the competent authorities; and, only if this goal is achieved, nature itself will keep on acting until the dune system and its dynamic processes are completely recovered. Life+ARCOS has made some proposals regarding the future management and improvement of the Natura 2000 network areas included in the project. In addition to the ordinary, periodic tasks that should be carried out, such as the maintenance of the fences and the running of follow-up invasivespecies-control campaigns, it is necessary to constantly monitor the evolution of the restored dune systems. For that purpose, some follow-up cards have been prepared, to be completed once a year. They will serve as a tool to monitor the actions that are undertaken, which will make it possible for the specialists of the administrations involved in the management of these protected areas to know how the dune areas evolve and decide whether it is necessary to implement new measures that ensure the survival and optimum state of conservation of these valuable, beautiful natural ecosystems, which are prized and enjoyed by the population.
Elena Fernandez Iglesias
added 3 research items
Coastal sand dune ecosystems are facing threats and pressures across Europe, but the quantification of the exact impacts is not easy, particularly when natural and anthropic effects are overlapping. In order to tackle this question, during two years sand movement has been measured in pilot dune plots located in the Northern Spanish coast. We aimed at correlating the waves height, wind velocity and tidal range with the temporal changes measured in the beach-dune systems. The role of littoral processes on the sand movement is quantified by fitting different regression models using R, in order to discuss the influence of marine variables, climate change and human activities in the changes identified in coastal sand systems, which also affects Spanish coasts.
Some general information regarding the main features of the coastal dunes in northern Spain is discussed to review the main problems that dune habitats are about to cope with. Key characteristics of the Cantabrian coast are highly dependent on the Cantabrian mountain range which runs parallel to the coastline following an E-W direction. It is the proximity of these mountains to the sea what results in small river basins that drop quickly and steeply, descending a significant distance, sometimes over 2600 meters, in a very short course of about 50 km. Rivers, on this scenario, purchase important erosive and transport of sediments capabilities. It is worth mentioning that while in the Cantabrian coast around 75 river basins have been reported, the rest of the Iberian Spain (more that 80% of the country surface) is drained by only 8 major river basins. It has been estimated that 38% of the dune systems in the Cantabrian region do not longer exist as a consequence of artificial landfills including urban, industrial and port areas. Despite the fact that about 1150 hectares are still occupied by dunes, most of them have been disturbed and their wild natural conditions drastically modified. In the past, non-native trees plantations together with urban planning programmes that reduced the dune area for building parking and recreational areas were in the top list of dune pressures. Nowadays, surge storms are in the first rank of the most shocking erosive processes that result in dramatic effects on the dunes. Linked to all this, Cantabrian dunes are also threatened by the tourism which, in summer, is associated to the beach recreational activities; something that should be added up to a regular population that reaches about 4 million people living in the provinces facing to the sea in the NW of Spain. As a consequence, in Basque Country, Cantabria and the Asturian Regions only about 292 hectares are still occupied by dune habitats 2110, 2120 and 2130*; meaning about 16% of the dune habitats occurring in the Atlantic Bioregion in Spain. The remaining 84% of the Atlantic Spanish dunes are located in the Galician Region. Considering also that the Cantabrian dune systems widespread along 49 small river mouths in a coast where rocky cliffs are dominant, there is no doubt about the needs of prioritise the conservation of such fragile. Since the European coastal dunes neither actually experience the same decreasing rates in the Atlantic bioregion nor have the same extension, a sort of prioritization should be considered when defining conservation policies. The conservation status, extension, nourishing river basins and intrinsic recovery capabilities, among others, should be assessed before defining the protection measures that might be adopted in order to slow down or mitigate the loss of biodiversity associated to the loss of dune areas. Life+ARCOS project is aimed to improve and hopefully restore the conservation status of ten dune systems in northern Spain.
En el marco del proyecto europeo LIFE ARCOS, iniciado en el año 2014 y que proseguirá hasta el 2018 (Felpete et al., en esta publicación), se están realizando cartografías geomorfológicas en 10 sistemas dunares repartidos a lo largo de la costa cantábrica, en diferentes fechas desde el año 1956. En el presente artículo se presentan algunos resultados preliminares obtenidos en los 3 sistemas seleccionados en la provincia de Asturias, localizados en las playas de Barayo, Verdicio y Vega. Representan sistemas donde los rellenos artificiales están prácticamente ausentes por lo que desde este punto de vista muestran un estado de conservación bastante bueno, siendo emplazamientos idóneos para analizar algunos cambios acontecidos en los últimos años.
J. Ignacio Alonso Felpete
added a project goal
Improving the conservation status of the threatened Cantabrian Coastal sand dunes by restoring 10 areas included in 10 selected Natura 2000 sites.