Tagus Estuary's SPA - Recovery of Birds Sanctuaries

LIFE00 NAT/P/007100

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Contact details:

Project Manager: José Manuel CARVALHO DE VASCONCELOS
Tel: + 351 21 234 80 21
Fax: +351 351 21 234 16 54
Email: rnet@icnb.pt

Project description:


The estuary of the River Tagus near Lisbon is the biggest wetland in Portugal and one of the most important in Europe. It is characterized by an extensive area of estuarine waters, siltstones fields intersected by creeks, mouchoir, marshes, salt marshes and alluvial agricultural land (marshes).

The estuary has particular value in providing habitats for migratory waterfowl, especially the mudflats and sand flats exposed at low tide and the Mediterranean and thermo-Atlantic halophilous scrubs listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive. The area is located in the transition area between southern Europe and North Africa and is part of the East Atlantic Flyway. Around 100 000 birds regularly winter here, rising to 120 000 during the migration period.

The Nature Reserve was created in 1976 to protect the migratory aquatic birds that make their nests here, including the purple heron (Ardea purpurea), the wader (Himantopus himantopus), the collared pratincole (Glareola pratincola), the common tern (Sterna hirundo) and the little tern (S. albifrons). Black cowbirds concentrate in this zone, constituting over 20% of the species' population in Western Europe.

However, human disturbance and the absence of water level management have caused habitat degradation and put the essential conditions for the birds' survival at risk.


The project aimed to restore the Lagoa do Mouchão do Lombo do Tejo and the Salina de Vale de Frades, which are two key areas within the estuary where birds shelter and feed.

It planned to acquire 54 ha of land, which it would then fence in to protect nests from human interference. It foresaw the repairing of sluices and proper water level management to ensure ideal conditions for bird foraging and reproduction.

The project intended to monitor bird populations throughout the course of the project and implement actions to increase public awareness.


Although the project was able to acquire important land for the protection of migratory aquatic bird species in the Tagus Estuary Nature Reserve in Portugal, administrative and operational problems meant that the project was unfortunately not able to achieve its detailed objectives.

A first problem encountered by the project was that one target area was unexpectedly sold to another buyer - an agricultural association, which was not interested in selling. A second problem was changes in the Portuguese government which delayed negotiations around the transfer of public land to the beneficiary.

Eventually, the beneficiary was able to acquire the public hydro domain of the Salina de Vale de Frades. Monitoring work was conducted on the project site. However, management problems meant that the beneficiary was not able to successfully carry out the other foreseen activities.

It is hoped that the beneficiary will improve management of the acquired land for the protection of migratory aquatic bird species in the future.


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Birds


river‚  land purchase

Target Habitat types

  • 01 - Unknown (site without information)

Natura 2000 sites

SPA PTZPE0010 Estuário do Tejo



Coordinator Reserva Natural do Estuário do Tejo/ICN
Type of organisation Park-Reserve authority
Description Reserva Natural do Estuário do Tejo/ICN is a Nature Reserve covering an area of 14 192 ha around the Tagus Estuary just north of Lisbon, Portugal.
Partners None


Project reference LIFE00 NAT/P/007100
Duration 01-JUN-2001 to 31-MAY -2005
Total budget 459,489.00 €
EU contribution 229,744.50 €
Project location Lisboa e vale do Tejo(Portugal)


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