Final Summary of the LIFE Charcos Project (English)
Mediterranean Temporary Ponds are habitats of seasonal wetlands that occur in shallow depressions, with an annual alternation between a flooded phase in winter and a dry phase in summer, since they depend on annual precipitation and local hydrogeological conditions. Due to their uniqueness and scientific value, they are classified as priority habitat (code 3170 *) by the European Community Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43 / EEC).
The uniqueness of this habitat is due to its seasonal flood character and the diversity and peculiarity of living organisms it houses. The flora and fauna are very specific and adapted to the alternation of extreme conditions of submersion or dryness. Some of the fauna species that occur here, namely some freshwater crustaceans, are endemic with a very small distribution area (eg. Triops vicentinus) and some plants are rare with small distribution areas.
The LIFE Charcos Project “Conservation of Temporary Ponds on the Southwest Coast of Portugal” aimed at the conservation of Mediterranean Temporary Ponds (MTP) at the Community Importance Site (SCI) of the Southwest Coast (PTCON0012, whose coastal plains harbor the main cores of temporary ponds in Portugal.
The LIFE Charcos Project enabled the acquisition of essential knowledge and experience to ensure the conservation of the temporary ponds of the SIC da Costa Sudoeste in the long term, highlighting the following results:
- Assessment of 467 potential temporary ponds in the Costa do Sudoeste SCI;
- Updated georeferenced cartography for 133 temporary ponds, including the identification of protection buffer areas and recommended management standards;
- Assessment of the main biological groups present in the 3170 habitat: flora and vegetation, large branchiopoda crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, mammals (rodents and bats) and birds, in 89 ponds for species presence/absence and quantitatively for 38 ponds. Analysis of physical and chemical characteristics of soil and water was also carried out.
- Compilation of a database with the existing bibliography in scientific publications, technical reports, planning plans, academic works, among others, in a total of 753 bibliographic references.
- Knowledge increase about the hydrogeological functioning, constitution of organized databases with the biological information available and definition of an index for the assessment of the temporary ponds conservation status, including a Simplified Recognition Manual, which were the basis for the scientific paper published;
- Establishment of a specific germplasm bank for the flora of temporary ponds, with the collection of more than 5000 seeds from 116 plant species, among which 87 indicatory species of the habitat 3170 * (85% of 102);
- Sharing of duplicate seeds to 2 Germplasm Banks, one of which is national (Jardim Botânico da Ajuda at the Instituto Superior Técnico of the University of Lisbon) and one international (Millenium Seed Bank of the Botanical Garden of Kew in the United Kingdom), fulfilling all the procedures established under the Nagoya Protocol on “Access and Benefit Sharing”;
- Demonstration of good management practices for the rehabilitation of functionality and improvement of the conservation status in 29 MTP (22% of the temporary ponds of the Southwest Coast SIC), including livestock and agricultural management measures, closing of drainage ditches, topography restitution, improvement of flora and control of shrub vegetation and exotic species;
- Reduction of habitat fragmentation by promoting connectivity between temporary ponds of 6 complexes/clusters for a total of 26 temporary ponds, with the implementation of 28 wildlife shelters, construction of 2 small water dams, recovery of 2 areas and the installation of 180m barrier for fauna forwarding in one road);
- Increase in the specific richness of flora, large branchiopods and amphibians in the temporary ponds that were intervened and also in the hydroperiod for the temporary ponds where interventions involved topography restitution.
The LIFE Charcos Project also worked actively to raise awareness about the value and importance of these habitats and the biodiversity associated with them, namely:
- Restoration of a temporary ponds complex (5 ponds) for didactic purposes to raise awareness for the protection of temporary ponds and their biodiversity, including infrastructure to support visitation (trails leaflets);
- Strong involvement of the school community in the conservation of temporary ponds with the participation of 3202 students from 156 classes from 26 schools in 128 presentations and 91 field visits, in addition to many other awareness raising activities (reading children's story, computer games, celebration of international nature days and training for teachers);
- Production of a Manual with Best Management Practices for the Conservation of MTP and an bilingual illustrated Guide among many other communication materials, such as the project leaflet, posters, key chain bags, stickers, video, children tale book, Layman Report and outdoor dissemination panels;
- Organization of an International Seminar on Temporary Ponds, with 120 participants;
- Awareness increase of the general public, owners and stakeholders, with environmental education actions that promoted the importance of these habitats and disseminated the results obtained with the project and the importance of the Natura 2000 Network, seeking to reduce the vulnerability of temporary ponds related to the lack of knowledge about its ecological value;
- Constitution of the “Guardians of Temporary Ponds” Land Stewardship Network, with 46 members to monitor and preserve temporary ponds;
- Training of the competent authorities about the importance and the identification of the biodiversity of temporary ponds, improving their surveillance capacities and ensuring the protection on temporary ponds in land management plans;
- Globally the awareness raising activities carried out during the LIFE Charcos Project directly reached more than 6000 people, in addition to the indirect impact obtained with social networks and social media, where there were more than 180 news and 550 posts;
- The After-LIFE Conservation Plan (Portuguese and English) was produced;
- The Project's socio-economic impact report was produced, showing that 15% of the investment was made in the Costa Sudoeste SCI, 13% of the suppliers are headquartered in the Costa Sudoeste SCI and that 64% and 14% of the budget were invested in the NUT II do Alentejo and Algarve, respectively.
- The Project Final Report was produced.
The LIFE Charcos Project has achieved all the objectives foreseen, having exceeded the expected execution indicators in several actions. Social involvement was one of the results that was immediately more obvious, due to the presence of the project team in the field which promoted an important local dynamic that contributed to a greater dissemination of the project and mostly for the importance of protecting this priority habitat. This awareness will also be very important in the medium and long term, especially if the surveillance capacity is maintained to ensure the protection of temporary ponds, but also through the inclusion of protective measures in land management instruments (for example, in PDM) and RN2000 management financing measures (for example, agri-environmental measures for farmers).