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Património Natural dos Açores - Study and Conservation of the Açores Natural Patrimony

LIFE96 NAT/P/003022


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Contact details:

Project Manager: José Fernando PIMENTEL MENDES
Tel: 351/296/286288-9
Fax: 351/296/286745
Email: drrf@mail.telepac.pt



Project description:

Background

The project sought to carry out conservation measures in the main natural sites in the Azores, with the aim of both restoring native flora and addressing the main threats to the Azores Bullfinch. In pursuing this objective, the project follows up on the 1994 LIFE projects "Inventory of the Natural Vegetation of the Azores" and "Conservation of the Azores Bullfinch" The locations covered by the project are mainly located on forestry land and were added to the draft list of Sites of Community Interest and later included in the Natura 2000 network. Therefore it was important to lay the foundations for a management approach compatible with the maintenance of a favourable conservation status for the natural wealth of the areas in question. With the exception of marine and coastal habitats, the project covered all habitat types that occur in the Azores, which are listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive. The project covered 80 percent of the islands' species that are included in Annex II of this Directive. On São Miguel Island, the project would target the laurel forest, home to the Azores Bullfinch, Pyrrhula murina. The Bullfinch's status as a highly endangered species meant that urgent, direct action in the field was needed to reverse the destruction of its habitat.


Objectives

The main purpose of the project was to implement a series of active conservation measures aimed at the priority species and habitats in five out of the six Azores Islands. The project also intended to carry out research that would allow better management of the ecosystems in the Azores, thereby bolstering the conservation status of the species and habitats, including those given priority status under EU legislation. In the areas where Pyrrhula murina occured, the aim was to roll back invasion of the natural forest by exotic plants and to expand the area occupied by indigenous vegetation, thus creating the preconditions for an increase in the bullfinch population. As to the other subsites, the project aimed at the active conservation and management of the target areas by augmenting the existing scientific data in order to build more accurate knowledge, which in turn would act as a basis for defining management, biotope restoration and conservation plans. These objectives were to be met through the implementation of various practical measures flanked by public awareness and environmental education actions promoting sustainable development.


Results

The broad objectives of the project were achieved and the preparatory actions were globally fulfilled. Specifically, an inventory of all the threatened and protected species was completed, together with mapping of soil use, soil use capacity, vegetation cover and distribution of vascular plant species of the Habitats Directive and the Red List of Vascular Plants of the Azores. This was done for all of the islands and was included in a GIS (Geographical information system) together with other data such as topography, hydrology and geology. This cartography was to be used as the basis for future site management plans, and was used during the project to prepare and implement land planning proposals, partial action plans and to backup management decisions. However, in respect of other specific objectives the project was less successful. The control of exotic vegetation proved a nearly impossible task, given the magnitude of the problem and the extremely steep topography of the islands, which did not allow the increase of the area of natural forest to the extent foreseen. Unfortunately, the purchase of a 100 hectare plot to improve the habitat of the Azores Bullfinch could not be completed. Although the population of the species increased to 100-120 pairs, this trend could not be confidently linked to the project actions. The likely cause is the carrying capacity of the habitat as it is preserved at the moment, so that an increase of habitat quality and/or area remain a must after the project's conclusion. The project's awareness raising activities, including sessions in the local schools and university, a promotion of a Native Vegetation and Birds Day amongst schools and nature conservation associations, and the publication of a number of brochures on the subject, met their stated objectives. The main benefits of the project for the Natura 2000 network were increased knowledge and systematisation of information allowing more effective management of sites. Another important achievement was the implementation of in situ conservation measures supporting endangered populations of several listed species (Marsilia azorica, Prunus azorica, Lotus azorica, Euphrasia azorica and Myosotis azorica). Nevertheless, the best thing about this project was the collaboration forged between the Direção Regional dos Recursos Florestais (DRRF, Regional Forest Resources Directorate) and the new and dynamic University of the Azores. This collaboration helped the DRRF achieve better management of areas under its jurisdiction. Forest guards, who until recently had heard about nature conservation only as a distant concept, became actively involved in the LIFE project after attending short courses on the identification of species and habitats and the importance of protecting native flora. The comprehensive information accumulated is an important basis for future management plans of the Azores Natura 2000 sites and has been used to support everyday management decisions. The beneficiary purchased 200 hectares on Terceira island for nature conservation purposes using its own funds, after the importance of this area was highlighted by the technical team during the cartography works done by the project. The project took place across several island communities and, during the four years it lasted, created more than 70 temporary jobs (both researchers/technicians and rural workers). The degree of invasion by exotics (that should be analysed using cartography) and the trends in the Azores Bullfinch population will be indicators the future conservation status of these Natura 2000 sites.


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Environmental issues addressed:

Themes

Species - Plants


Keywords

endangered species‚  land use planning‚  protected area‚  renaturation‚  research project‚  cartography‚  decision making support‚  biodiversity‚  island‚  restoration measure


Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...

Target species

 Pyrrhula murina     


Target Habitat types

  • 7110 - Active raised bogs
  • 8320 - Fields of lava and natural excavations
  • 91D0 - Bog woodland
  • 9360 - "Macaronesian laurel forests (Laurus, Ocotea)"
  • 9560 - Endemic forests with Juniperus spp.
  • 3140 - Hard oligo-mesotrophic waters with benthic vegetation of Chara spp.
  • 4050 - Endemic macaronesian heaths

Natura 2000 sites

SPA PTZPE0021 Costa Sul e Sudoeste - Ilha das Flores
SPA PTZPE0024 Lajes do Pico - Ilha do Pico
SPA PTZPE0031 Ponta das Contendas - Ilha Terceira
SPA PTZPE0033 Pico da Vara / Ribeira do Guilherme - Ilha de S. Miguel
SCI PTFAI0004 Caldeira e Capelinhos - Ilha do Faial
SCI PTPIC0011 Lajes do Pico - Ilha do Pico


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Beneficiaries:

Coordinator Direcção Regional dos Recursos Florestais
Type of organisation Regional authority
Description The beneficiary is a regional agency responsible for the management of forestry resources and natural heritage.
Partners University of Azores

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Project reference LIFE96 NAT/P/003022
Duration 01-JAN-1997 to 31-MAR -2001
Total budget 1,949,206.15 €
EU contribution 1,461,904.61 €
Project location Açores(Portugal)

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