Villacañas - Restoration of three wetland areas in Villacañas (Toledo)

LIFE99 NAT/E/006339

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Eduardo DE MIGUEL
Tel: +34915569390
Fax: +34915569895
Email: edemiguel@fundacionglobalnature.org

Project description:


The salt lakes of Tirez, Larga and Peña Hueca form part of a string of wetlands known as la Mancha Húmeda. These contrast sharply with their arid surroundings and provide true havens for flora and fauna. The site will be included in the Natura 2000 network, both because of its value as a sanctuary for birdlife and because of the types of habitat which it contains. The project concentrates on a small area outstanding for its habitats classified as priorities under the Habitats Directive, including its turloughs and salt steppes.

The principal threat posed to this site comes from the intensive livestock and arable farming developed in recent decades. Overgrazing combined with drainage and channelling of the lakes for agriculture has had an adverse impact on conservation of the surrounding vegetation.


The principal objective of the project was to restore the salt steppes and the natural vegetation surrounding the three salt lakes and to improve water quality there.

In order to achieve this, measures were planned to restore the degraded areas, in the form of replanting, closing ditches and canals, and constructing buffer lakes which would act as green filters to improve the quality of the water supply to the salt lakes. There were also plans to design a management model combining conservation of these habitats with continuation of arable and livestock farming, in the form of an agri-environmental programme. Finally, campaigns would be conducted to inform the local population and visitors about the natural wealth of these salt lakes.


The general project objectives were:

  • The recovery of Limonetalia salt pans around the three Villacañas wetlands.
  • The habitat improvement for the birds.
  • In general terms, both objectives were fulfilled, as the population trends of several bird species improved through the project and the best areas for the flora of the site were regenerated. Likewise, the regional authorities adopted an agri-environmental programme drafted during the project that will serve for a better protection of a huge extension of this type of habitats.

    The main expected actions were properly developed. Some interesting results achieved were the cleaning up of 15 hectares that were reforested with Tamarix spp. and the nesting habitat improvement with the setting up of four floating islets. The effectiveness of this measure was really good, as 35 chicks of gull-billed terns were born in these islets.

    2,25 hectares of land were purchased, probably the most interesting part of the lagoon, since it harbours the only reed bed and most of the birds breed there. This plot was under serious threat of degradation, as it was being cultivated.

    Two rangers were hired for surveillance of the site during the project. They were provided with the necessary equipment (a vehicle and telephones). Their tasks included paying special attention to hunting activities to avoid disturbances for the breeding bird species. They also participated in the censuses carried out.

    Other remarkable results were the materials produced as part of the awareness-raising campaign and the events to inform the neighbours and the visitors. The participation of local people was very important for the implementation of some habitat management measures.

    Despite all the successful actions carried out, some problems were faced during the project:

  • The long term renting or the purchase of surrounding lands of Laguna Larga could not be carried due to the speculative increase in the price of the land.
  • The habitat recovery actions in Tirez lagoon were not implemented due to the lack of agreement of the owner of the lagoon. The regional government is trying to buy this lagoon to stop this exploitation.
  • In spite of all the efforts put on the plantations of the green filter, the action was not completely successful and additional funds will be necessary to complete it.
  • Among the lessons learnt by the beneficiary in the implementation of the project the following should be remarked:

  • Avoid to talk about EU funds in the negotiations with the landowners for the lands purchase.
  • To have agreements prior to the project approval with the private owners.
  • The following successes were not initially foreseen in the project and can be considered as pump-priming actions:

  • Peña Hueca lagoon was purchased by the Junta de Castilla La Mancha (regional government).
  • The pSCI will be enlarged in 40 hectares, including the lagoons of Redondilla and Gramosa, that have high botanical importance.
  • The management Plan of the site is currently being elaborated by the regional government.
  • The regional government is in process of declaring the area as “Microreserve”.
  • The agri-environmental programme drafted through the project has been adopted by the regional government and will be implemented in the Region in the near future.
  • Two important works have been carried out by the authorities to improve the quality of the water of the Laguna Larga: two by-passes to allow the connection among the water treatment plant and the river and the connection of the waters of an industry with the water-treatment plant.
  • This project has also given an incentive in the villages of the surroundings of Villacañas to recover wetlands. New conservation projects have started in this area and probably new LIFE funds will be required to some of them. In this way, the Town Councils of Villarrubia (Ciudad real) and Lorca (Murcia) are studying the construction of similar green filters.
  • Some farmers have carried out conservation measures without any cost, such as stopping to work in the areas where the Glareola pranticola was breeding.
  • Likewise, the interest of the European Union in funding this site has make possible the attention of the Spanish Ministry of Environment, that has promised to invest a big amount of resources here for continuing the project.
  • One important aspect of the project was the involvement of the Villacañas Town Council. Indeed, it is a very environmentally aware Town Council, mainly due to its economic independence on land farming. Outside the framework of the project, but totally connected to conservation of the site, the council is implementing further environmental measures, such as canalising the sewage outflows. The municipality has 10,000 inhabitants and, thanks to the industries present in the area (mainly manufacture of wooden doors), unemployment is practically non-existing. Only a few people continue to have farming as main activity and their attitude towards the project was quite good. However, some parts of the population were not involved in the project and the cases of illegal debris dumping in the site and the hunting with greyhounds are still important threats for the site. The project did not foresee direct socio-economic effects, but the following non-quantifiable indirect effects have been identified:

  • Several works were hired to local people, generating incomes in the local vicinity.
  • This wetland is currently well known in naturalistic and ornithological circles and is focus of periodical visits to the area by many of them.
  • With respect to the future of the project, the Villacañas Town Council will continue the surveillance of the area with their own funds, the green filter will be completed with the support of other funds and some other restoration works of the lagoons will be implemented. Finally, the application of the agri-environmental programme will offer the farmers the resources needed to preserve the priority habitats present in the area.


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Freshwater
Species - Birds


endangered species‚  lake‚  population dynamics‚  protected area‚  reforestation‚  migratory species‚  wildlife sanctuary‚  public awareness campaign‚  water quality improvement‚  wetland‚  social participation‚  land purchase‚  management plan

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...

Target species

 Gelochelidon nilotica     

Target Habitat types

  • 1310 - Salicornia and other annuals colonizing mud and sand
  • 1320 - Spartina swards (Spartinion maritimae)
  • 1410 - Mediterranean salt meadows (Juncetalia maritimi)
  • 1420 - Mediterranean and thermo-Atlantic halophilous scrubs (Sarcocornetea fruticosi)
  • 1510 - Mediterranean salt steppes (Limonietalia)
  • 3170 - Mediterranean temporary ponds

Natura 2000 sites

SPA ES0000091 ZEPA Humedales de La Mancha



Coordinator Fundación 2001 - Global Nature
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The beneficiary is a foundation dedicated to the implementation of nature conservation projects in Spain.


Project reference LIFE99 NAT/E/006339
Duration 01-OCT-1999 to 31-DEC -2002
Total budget 513,004.45 €
EU contribution 384,753.34 €
Project location Castilla-La Mancha(España)


Read more:

Brochure Title: Las Plantas del saladar Author: CSIC Year: 2001 No of pages: 20
Project web site Project website


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version