Canal de Castilla - Wetland restoration and management: Canal de Castilla Special Protection Area

LIFE06 NAT/E/000213

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Contact details:

Contact person: Fernando Jubete Tazo
Tel: +34 979 848 398
Fax: +34 979 842 399
Email: fjubete@fundacionglobalnature.org

Project description:


The Channel of Castilla, Palencia, Spain, is an artificial watercourse 207 km in length; it was built in the 18th century to connect the centre of the Castilian plains with the sea. With the onset of the railway at the beginning of the 20th century, the idea of using the channel for the transportation of people and goods was abandoned. The 207 km covered by this watercourse include 2 SPAs – La Nava-Campos Norte and La Nava-Campos Sur – and a SPA/SCI, Lagunas del Canal de Castilla. The two first SPAs are open areas of great importance for the steppe birds and apart from the ponds of the Channel of Castilla, include two important steppe lagoons, La Nava and Boada.

The channel hosts a series of 35 ponds in its banks distributed between the North Branch (15 ponds) and the Branch of Campos (20 ponds), with an area which ranges between 0.2 and 15 ha. All these wetlands have legal protection under both the Community (as SPA or SCI) and the autonomous legislation (Regional Catalogue of Wetlands). They make up a geographical unit independent of the steppe area in which they are included and therefore share common problems. These wetlands are threatened with serious alteration and even destruction due to a range of factors including: drainage initiatives; soil breakdown for crops or livestock activities; lack of actions aimed at water control of lagoons and helophytic vegetation management; water extraction for crops, marsh vegetation burning; illegal hunting and fishing, dumping; lack of consideration for wetlands among the local populations; lack of information on flora and fauna communities related to the wetlands; and the negative impact of the Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) and the American Mink (Mustela vison). The condition of the marsh habitats is very important for the conservation of birds, in particular species the bittern (Botaurus stellaris) and the aquatic warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola). The three sites are also host to sizeable populations of other bird species (many of which can be found in Annex 1 to Directive 79/409/EEC) and to valuable stands of vegetation.


The project aimed to implement a programme for the recovery, management, and monitoring of 35 small wetlands associated to the Channel of Castile including three SPAs and one SCI.

The project proposed to recover wetlands that have been seriously disturbed and even drained in recent years, as well as the management of helophytic vegetation to achieve habitats that are suitable for the needs of species of water birds listed in Annex I of Directive 79/439EEC. This concerns particularly species such as the bittern (Botaurus stellaris) and aquatic warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola).

It was also proposed to enhance the appreciation of the wetlands of the Channel of Castile among the local community by producing dissemination materials and organising environmental education and information activities. These actions should lead to the direct or indirect creation of local employment.


The CANAL de CASTILLA project was carried out in a group of 34 small wetlands located throughout the Norte and Campos branches of the Channel of Castilla. The final aim of the project was to re-establish a favourable condition of the wetlands connected to the channel, improving and favouring all the conditions needed for the recovery of species, which are priority in terms of conservation.

The achievements of the project can be summarised as follows:

Management Plan of the Wetlands of the Channel of Castilla: This plan was developed within the framework of the present LIFE project and approved just before the project end. Its main purpose is to establish active and preventive actions in order to maintain or restore a favourable conservation condition of natural habitats, species and ecological processes present at the wetlands and banks of the Norte and Campos branches of the Channel of Castilla, thus safeguarding the ecological integrity of this area and contributing to the consolidation of the Natura 2000 network. The execution of the management measures present in this project will be carried out by the Environmental Department of the Junta de Castilla y León, the Duero Hydrographical Confederation and other public and private administrations and institutions. Its initial term will last for six years.

Hydrological restoration: This action has allowed the improvement of the flooding levels in 14 wetlands by annulling the existing drainage and installing 12 inlets.

Reforestation: Action carried out in 30 wetlands, creating 15,140 lineal metres of hedges in their banks and surrounding areas by planting 109 087 trees and bushes.

Marsh vegetation management: Measures carried out in 14 wetlands consisting of the mowing and removal dead marsh vegetation, diversifying the marsh vegetation structure, alternating free water areas with growing marsh vegetation and old marsh vegetation areas, thus achieving a more productive and interesting habitat for species conservation. Around 14 ha were mowed.

Yearly monitoring of the breeding populations of bittern, purple heron and marsh harrier: Monitoring has not verified bittern reproduction, but it did demonstrate its isolated presence during migration and wintering passages. The isolated breeding of purple heron was verified after the extinction of the main breeding colony in one of the wetlands of the Channel of Castilla and its resettlement in the nearby pool of La Nava. Furthermore, the importance of these wetlands and the channel as a feeding place has also been shown. The breeding population of marsh harrier represents approximately 12% of the regional population and 2.5% of the national population. Its population differs, depending on feeding availability.

Radio-monitoring of marsh harrier and purple heron: 15 marsh harriers were captured and marked, from which four were marked using conventional telemetry and 11 by means of GPS satellite transmitters. These data revealed some interesting and unknown information on habitat uses and the threat to this species. This information is crucial in order to carry out different conservation measures for the species accurately. Two purple herons were also marked, and one completed its trip to the African continent. The beneficiary was thus able to track the usage that this species makes of the Channel of Castilla and from other small wetlands before it starts its post-nuptial migration.

Marsh passerines: Four ringing campaigns were carried out during the post-nuptial migration passage. Two of them were taken at the Pool of La Venta de Valdemudo and two in the Ponds of El Cruce. The campaigns demonstrated the importance of these of wetlands for several species of European marsh passerines, specially the extremely rare aquatic warbler, from which 19 birds were captured during the project’s time. This work shows the need for wetlands to have correct flooding levels and the importance of varied and young marsh vegetation.

Environmental interpretation and diffusion


Several actions were carried out:

  • Wetlands signalling: 38 information panels were erected in all the wetlands included in the project. These signs display information on the characteristics and administrative limitations of each wetland.
  • Interpretative Routes: seven panels and 14 tables were used to create three routes covering 44 km of the Channel of Castilla.
  • Birds observatories: two observatories were positioned close to two of the wetlands with the greatest ornithological interest along the Channel of Castilla: the Venta de Valdemudo (Becerril de Campos) and the Valdemorco (Boadilla del Camino) lagoons. These observatories complement the one already existing in Toja de las Ribas (Ribas de Campos) before the LIFE project.
  • Information Panels: two information panels about the LIFE Project were installed at two points of maximal influx along the Channel of Castilla; where the channel crosses the road C-615 and the Fromista’s sluices/ floodgates.
  • Information Leaflet: 20 000 leaflets were produced: half of these at the beginning of the LIFE project and the other half featuring news of the channel and the results at the end of the project.
  • Digital Bulletins: eight bulletins were digitally published and distributed (in Spanish and English), containing information on the project actions as well as information on the channel’s ecosystems and species and other projects linked to wetlands.
  • DVD: 2 000 copies of a DVD have been published. Both the channel and its wetlands are visually described in it, as well as the project’s actions and results.
  • Website: the site (www.lifecanaldecastilla.org) was the project’s main communication tool and was visited 109,897 times by 44,199 different users.
  • Informative Material: 2 000 key rings, 5 000 stickers, 2 000 posters and 2 025 t-shirts were distributed throughout the project’s area.
  • Environmental Education: The Channel of Castilla riverside population has undervalued these ecosystems and therefore it was essential to improve locals’ appreciation of these wetlands. Actions were mainly aimed at schools.

  • Travelling exhibition: a mobile exhibition visited municipalities attracting more than 5 000 visitors.
  • Educational talks: To complement the exhibition, 48 educational talks were given in the 22 municipalities. These talks were attended by 1 180 people, 517 from which were schoolchildren.
  • Educational primer: 3 000 copies of an educational primer were published, as well as 500 copies accompanied by a teacher’s notebook that aimed to make teachers’ work easier.

Environmental surveillance: Extensive monitoring was carried out in the Channel of Castilla and its wetlands and several threats were identified and recorded in nine incident reports. The surveillance work was brought into line with other actions such as the environmental interpretation of the natural values for people visiting the Channel of Castilla; wetlands cleaning; and the extension of the knowledge on environmental diversity surrounding the Channel of Castilla that helped to improve the knowledge about the distribution of more than 13 interesting botanical species.

Control of Invasive Exotic Species (IES): During the project several control actions on the American mink (Neovison vison) were carried out. The aim of this action was to reduce its populations and to aid the recovery of species affected by predation or competition, such as the southern water vole or the European polecat. During the project, 220 specimens were captured.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Freshwater


wetland‚  protected area

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

 Acrocephalus paludicola   Ardea purpurea   Botaurus stellaris   Circus aeruginosus     

Target Habitat types

  • 6420 - Mediterranean tall humid grasslands of the Molinio-Holoschoenion
  • 6430 - Hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of the montane to alpine levels
  • 92A0 - Salix alba and Populus alba galleries
  • 9340 - Quercus ilex and Quercus rotundifolia forests
  • 1310 - Salicornia and other annuals colonizing mud and sand
  • 1410 - Mediterranean salt meadows (Juncetalia maritimi)
  • 1520 - Iberian gypsum vegetation (Gypsophiletalia)
  • 3140 - Hard oligo-mesotrophic waters with benthic vegetation of Chara spp.
  • 3150 - Natural eutrophic lakes with Magnopotamion or Hydrocharition - type vegetation
  • 3170 - Mediterranean temporary ponds
  • 3260 - Water courses of plain to montane levels with the Ranunculion fluitantis and Callitricho-Batrachion vegetation
  • 4090 - Endemic oro-Mediterranean heaths with gorse
  • 6220 - Pseudo-steppe with grasses and annuals of the Thero-Brachypodietea

Natura 2000 sites




Coordinator Fundación 2001 Global Nature
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The Fundación Global Nature is a national non-profit organisation of private character created in 1993. Its main aims are the conservation, protection and planning of the environment. The projects developed contribute to the maintenance and recovery of the habitats and species threatened, technological innovation and recovery of the traditional farming practices.
Partners Fundación Patrimonio Natural de Castilla y León (Junta de Castilla y León), Spain


Project reference LIFE06 NAT/E/000213
Duration 01-OCT-2006 to 30-SEP -2010
Total budget 1,593,448.00 €
EU contribution 637,379.00 €
Project location Castilla-León(España)


Read more:

Newsletter Boletín LIFE Canal de Castilla nº2 - Marzo de 2008 ...
Newsletter Boletín LIFE Canal de Castilla nº3 - Junio de 2008 ...
Poster "LIFE Canal de Castilla" (1.18 MB)
Project web site Project's website (ES/EN)
Publication: Article-Paper Bulletin LIFE Canal de Castilla N°7
Publication: Article-Paper Bulletin LIFE Canal de Castilla N°2
Publication: Article-Paper Bulletin LIFE Canal de Castilla N°8
Publication: Article-Paper Bulletin LIFE Canal de Castilla N°6
Publication: Article-Paper Bulletin LIFE Canal de Castilla N°5
Publication: Article-Paper Bulletin LIFE Canal de Castilla N° 4
Publication: Article-Paper Bulletin LIFE Canal de Castilla N° 1
Publication: Article-Paper Bulletin LIFE Canal de Castilla N°3
Publication: Layman report Layman report


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