Biodiversity Project Expands Beyond Spain

More than 750 Mediterranean olive farmers across four countries have applied to join the Olivares Vivos project, which succeeded in increasing biodiversity in Andalusian olive groves.
By Simon Roots
Dec. 15, 2021 10:00 UTC

The new LIFE Olivares Vivos+ project, which aims to decrease the envi­ron­men­tal impact of olive cul­ti­va­tion while increas­ing prof­its for farm­ers, is to expand beyond Spain into the main olive-grow­ing regions of Italy, Greece and Portugal.

Presented at the head­quar­ters of the International Olive Council in Madrid, the project is to run from this year until 2026.

See Also:Agricultural Intensification Hurts Olive Grove Productivity

The pre­vi­ous iter­a­tion ran from 2015 to 2020 and showed sig­nif­i­cant increases in bio­di­ver­sity along­side an aver­age 22-per­cent decrease in fer­til­izer and phy­tosan­i­tary spend­ing and pay­ments to farm­ers via the numer­ous envi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives of the new Common Agricultural Policy.

The Olivares Vivos model is based on research car­ried out by the ecol­ogy depart­ment of the University of Jaén in con­junc­tion with the Arid Zones Experimental Station of the Spanish National Research Council.

This research mea­sured bio­di­ver­sity in 40 olive groves in Andalusia before and after the intro­duc­tion of wildlife-recov­ery mea­sures.

The study con­firmed that within three years of the project’s imple­men­ta­tion, the num­ber of species of birds, ants, bees and plants increased by seven to 12 per­cent in the par­tic­i­pat­ing groves and the abun­dance of these species rose by 40 per­cent. In the medium term, an addi­tional 25 per­cent is expected to be recov­ered.

In total, 180 bird species, 60 ant species, 200 kinds of wild bees and more than 750 plant vari­eties have been found in the stud­ied olive groves, includ­ing a plant pre­vi­ously unknown to sci­ence, Linaria Qartobensis, a rare endemic species that has been called a jewel of Andalusian flora.”

In this new phase, Project LIFE will seek to extend and repli­cate this model within Spain, through demon­stra­tion farms and train­ing courses for farm­ers, in the autonomous com­mu­ni­ties of Andalusia, Extremadura, Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha, Valencia and Catalonia.

Specific atten­tion will be given to the impact that cli­mate change may have on the model, par­tic­u­larly in olive groves located in the semi-arid areas of the Andalusian provinces of Almeria and Granada.

More sig­nif­i­cantly, it will also be intro­duced to the Alentejo region of Portugal; the regions of Tuscany and Puglia in Italy; and both the Peloponnese and Crete in Greece.

The olive grove is the most impor­tant crop for wildlife con­ser­va­tion in Europe,” said Asunción Ruiz, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of SEO/BirdLife, one of the orga­ni­za­tions involved in the project. The fact that Olivares Vivos+ is accel­er­at­ing its expan­sion in the main olive-grow­ing regions of the Mediterranean basin, a bio­di­ver­sity hotspot, rep­re­sents a global com­mit­ment to recover the link between agri­cul­ture and nature while main­tain­ing the farm­ers’ inter­ests as a foun­da­tion.”

Over the com­ing years, the aim of the project is to apply its results to other crops, such as vines, almond trees and cit­rus fruits.

We are con­vinced that this exten­sion will be the defin­i­tive step to con­sol­i­date Olivares Vivos as a ref­er­ence, adding more allies and con­sol­i­dat­ing in Europe a model of agri­cul­ture rec­on­ciled with life,” said Ruiz.

Many of the indi­vid­ual mea­sures that con­sti­tute the back­bone of the model are sur­pris­ingly straight­for­ward. They include the man­age­ment of herba­ceous cover, the restora­tion of so-called unpro­duc­tive areas” in olive groves such as gul­lies, streams, tracks and walls; the rein­tro­duc­tion of non-crop native species, and the instal­la­tion of sup­port infra­struc­tures for fauna such as ponds, nest­ing boxes and fenc­ing posts.

Thanks to the involve­ment of char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tions, a sub­stan­tial num­ber of these activ­i­ties have been sup­ported by vol­un­teers work­ing along­side the farm­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in the project.

So far, more than 750 farm­ers have applied to par­tic­i­pate in this new stage, and 68 areas have signed a man­i­festo pledg­ing their com­mit­ment to link the future of their olive pro­duc­tion with the future of their local bio­di­ver­sity.


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