Within the framework of the LIFE Cerceta Pardilla project, coordinated by the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO), 20 specimens of this critically endangered species have been released on the El Espigar estate, in the El Hondo Natural Park (Elche), bred in captivity at the La Granja de El Saler centre (Valencia). This is the first release on one of the plots of land acquired within the framework of this project, which has been possible thanks to the first actions carried out to improve the ecological conditions of the estate.
Since January 2021, more than 1,000 specimens of marbled teal have already been released in different wetlands, but this is the first time they have been released on one of the farms acquired and managed within the framework of the project. ANSE and SEO/BirdLife, partners in this European initiative, acquired 55 hectares of wetlands located in the western part of the El Hondo Natural Park. Subsequent actions for vegetation management, the adaptation of floodgates and the dredging of channels, which guarantee adequate flooding throughout the year, have made it possible to achieve the right conditions for the release of these specimens and ensure the maintenance of water throughout the breeding season.
This area constitutes, together with another neighbouring farm, one of the main enclaves for the protection and conservation of the marbled teal in Spain. Specifically, this area of the Natura 2000 Network has been home to between 20 and 30% of the breeding population of this species in our country for some years, when the flooding conditions have been favourable. In addition, due to its ecological value, it is recognised as a critical site in the Brown Teal Conservation Strategy, constituting a vital area for its survival and recovery.
Since the purchase of the land, significant progress has been made in the management of the farm. Among them, the water inlet and outlet to the farm has been improved, allowing the ponds to remain flooded this spring, coinciding with the breeding season of the gilthead teal. This improvement extends to an area of salt marsh that had been without water for several years and will now maintain adequate levels for the species. In recent years, water was only ensured in the lagoons during the hunting season, so that in some years they remained dry during the breeding season of the marbled teal.
In addition, various volunteer actions have also been carried out. Among them, the dismantling of a very deteriorated hunting post in this protected area, thanks to the help of a group of volunteers, stands out.
RESEARCH, CONSERVATION AND GOVERNANCE
LIFE Cerceta Pardilla aims to improve the conservation status of 3,000 hectares of wetlands to reverse the risk of extinction of Europe’s most endangered duck, which is in a critical situation in Spain. To this end, it has undertaken a series of actions to reinforce the state of its populations in the natural environment, improve the state of the wetlands and scientific knowledge of the species.
The project, which is coordinated by the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, involves as partners the Ministry itself, through the Segura Hydrographic Confederation and Tragsatec; the Regional Government of Andalusia, through the Department of Sustainability, Environment and Blue Economy, and the Environment and Water Agency; the Regional Government of Valencia; the Government of the Region of Murcia, as well as the organisations SEO/BirdLife and ANSE. It is supported by the LIFE Programme of the European Union and the Directorate General for Water.