Conservationists Hope to Replicate Success of Biodiversity Project in Northeast Spain

SEO/BirdLife is working with farmers in Aragón to promote biodiversity in their centenary groves and add value to their traditional varietals.
By Ephantus Mukundi
Feb. 8, 2022 11:28 UTC

The char­ity SEO/BirdLife and Caja Rural Foundation have joined together to study cen­te­nary olive groves in the Somontano region of north­east­ern Spain.

The goal of the study is to develop mea­sures that fos­ter bio­di­ver­sity in the ancient olive groves and add value to the tra­di­tion­ally-pro­duced olive oil of the small region of Aragón, known pri­mar­ily for its wines.

Ultimately, SEO/BirdLife said it hopes to develop a pro­gram in the region sim­i­lar to that of the Olivares Vivo project in Andalusia, which recorded a 30-per­cent increase in flora and fauna in the olive farms that adopted the model.

See Also:Biodiversity Program Succeeds in Restoring Species to Olive Groves

Somontano has a long olive-grow­ing tra­di­tion. Similar to many other parts of Spain, most grow­ers in the region fol­low tra­di­tional prac­tices, focus­ing on qual­ity and local vari­eties instead of vol­ume.

Currently, the region is home to 3,719 hectares of rain-fed olive groves while 226 hectares are under irri­ga­tion.

Since the Somontano olive groves are tra­di­tional, low-den­sity crops, mech­a­niz­ing the farms is quite a chal­lenge. To make these groves com­pet­i­tive in a global mar­ket, it is nec­es­sary to rely on the qual­ity and dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of ele­ments such as tra­di­tional vari­eties and respect for the nat­ural flora and fauna in the region.

The project dubbed Improvement of bio­di­ver­sity in the olive groves of Somontano’ started off last year with the selec­tion of 10 farms for the study.

During this stage of the project, researchers focused on the avi­fauna on the farms since birds are ideal bioindi­ca­tors of the state of the habi­tat. They also stud­ied veg­e­ta­tion includ­ing woody flora grow­ing in the uncul­ti­vated fields to find out the effects of sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of the agri­cul­tural land­scape and use of pes­ti­cides.

Once the analy­sis of bioindi­ca­tors includ­ing plants, birds and insect preda­tors of pests is com­plete, prob­a­bly by the end of the sum­mer, the team will pro­pose prac­ti­cal steps to be taken to restore the olive farms and their bio­di­ver­sity.

These steps include main­tain­ing veg­e­ta­tive ground cover and installing func­tional places to host fauna, such as nest boxes for birds, insect hotels, drink­ing foun­tains and ponds.

The improve­ment of the bio­di­ver­sity of the area through the actions designed by this project will add a plus to the Somontano oil, increas­ing the added value of this prod­uct, which already has a high qual­ity,” said Luis Tirado, SEO/BirdLife del­e­gate in Aragón.

We have shown that the con­ser­va­tion of wildlife in olive groves is not only prof­itable for the farmer but also a guar­an­tee for the future since it con­serves the soil and allows the reduc­tion of pes­ti­cides,” he con­cluded.


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