Archive for January, 2008

Lynx born in captivity may be pregnant

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

 Brisa, one of the lynxes born in captive breeding programme, may be pregnant, and could become in March the first captive female to give birth to cubs. Consumer

Dead livestock to be left in Picos

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Good news. Dead livestock is to be left uncollected in the Picos de Europa for the first time since 2001 when the EU banned the practice due to Mad Cows’ disease. At present some 20,000 dead animals are removed every year from the Spanish countryside which otherwise would have formed part of the food chain. (Fapas)

I am at present unsure as to whether the dead livestock is to be collected in special areas only for carrion birds, or whether, mammals such as brown bears will also be able to benefit. Attacks by bears on fruit trees and beehives have increased dramatically since the ban as carrion forms an essential part of their diet.

Below a bear in Somiedo tucks into a mule (?), exempt from the Mad Cow rule. (Fapas)

See also archive on BSE and wildlife in Spain

Lynx copulations

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

First of this year’s copulations among the lynx’s in the captive breeding programme, including 65 attempts by Saliega and Jub, a record. They must be knackered. Voz Digital. In the photo, a female lynx being examined before being allowed to mate. Lynx mating in video here

Bird extinction in Spain due to climate change

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

A new report (A Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds) has just been released by Birdlife on the effects of climate change on bird populations. As would be expected, the results are of serious concern. By the end of the century, the potential future distribution of the average European bird species will shift by nearly 550 km north-east. Specifically for Spain (SEO) the following species are likely to become extinct (13):

  1. Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus)
  2. Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus)
  3. Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
  4. Common Guillemot (Uria aalge)
  5. Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
  6. Tengmalm’s Owl (Aegolius funereus)
  7. White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos)
  8. Dupont’s lark (Chersophilus duponti)
  9. Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)
  10. Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella naevia)
  11. Balearic Warbler (Sylvia balearica)
  12. Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca)
  13. Rook (Corvus frugilegus) (more…)

Spanish tourism rises

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Not exactly nature, but reflect on its effects: According to the ministry of tourism Spain received a record 59.2 million overseas visitors last year, with the country still the second most popular tourist destination in the world. This figure is 1.7 percent above 2006. The number of visitors in December alone was up 0.7 percent at 3.2 million. The ministry said Catalonia, the Balearic and Canary Islands and Andalusia were the most popular destinations last year. Foreigners showed increasing interest in Madrid, with the number of visitors
climbing to just under 12 percent. El Pais

Rural depopulation in Spain

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Excellent article from El Pais this Sunday on rural depopulation in Spain. Below is in part my rambling summary and in part my own thoughts on the subject.

The overall Spanish population is rising rapidly, and has recently topped 45 million people, confounding all predictions made just a few years ago. But, the only areas which are growing are those where immigration has reached. Parts of Spain, particularly in the West in the areas bordering Portugal, are still depopulating at an alarming rate. The provinces of Salamanca Leon, Zamora and Caceres have all lost people between 2006 and 2007. Orense, Lugo and Asturias are also in decline. The population of Salamanca fell by more 0.5 percent, though Guijuelo countered this trend with its role as a pole of regional development, attracting employment to the Iberian ham industry. In contrast, Zamora has been in freefall since 2000.

Professor Valantín Cabrero believes the problem is that Spain and Portugal “have always lived with their backs to each other, and if it were not for EU aid, the area would be a desert”, in contrast to the border between France and Spain. “Here (along the Portuguese border) are now areas with a Siberian demography with four to five inhabitants”. Projects have to struggle against decades of decline, heightened, historically, by dictatorship on both sides of the border. The young left these village en masse in the 1960s. Ever since they have been slowly dying. With thousands of villages all across Spain now populated by just a handful of old people, within ten years many will become ghost settlements, only visited by returning emigrants in the summer months. This will also have a huge effect on the landscapes and ecologies of the areas surrounding them, as many of these elderly people still work as small-holder farmers, cutting back scrub, keeping fields open. In many cases, they are the last of tradition dating back 2000 years.

In addition to promoting immigration, Cabrero believes the old La Plata railway should be reopened. “It would help save energy and reactivate the economy”. In contrast, waxing geographically as these people do, “autovias are tunnels of passage between faraway spaces”. Building roads in an area without people will not, in itself, attract them to move back, although it might increase day trippers.

One of the greatest problems of the rural world is the absence of county-wide policies, which are capable of organising and planning macro areas. Each village functions as its own microcosm, its own mini-republic, if you were. This is killing the rural world.

Another way forward is that provided by the new project, RUNA, organised by the Fundación Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente, which seeks to combine rural life with the natural world, and hand back the custody of the latter to the people who live in isolated rural areas, and who, by accident or design, over the centuries managed to foster such a rich biodiversity. This is to be a partnership between those who live and work in the rural world (farmers, hunters, foresters, etc) and those who work in natural history (biologists, wardens and environmentalists), turning biodiversity into an economic asset which can foster sustainable development and bring young people back. Benigno Varillas, founder of Quercus, and the person in charge of the project notes, ”The rural as we know it is coming to an end. It needs reconversion… Nature conservation stands at a crossroads… As the rural population grows older and EU money dries up, the rural world must change…”(Fapas/LNE).

The forum as ever has lots of interesting things to say about this topic. Here’s Simon for example:

“I saw the issue on the TV news the other day and that article is really interesting. I think one key point is the frontier issue which. The same applied to our ‘comarca’, which lies on the border bewteen Catalonia and Aragon, we certainly feel very forgotten – there’s even a local refrain “Catalunya se termine a Camarasa” (you’ll have to look this up on the map to see what I mean, look out the huge natural barrier of the Sierra de Montsec and Tremp nestling in its basin beyond) we certainly used to feel very left out until new roads came in. Now there are lots of ‘Novas’ from Barcelona but still a general downward trend in population.”

Sea level rise in the Mediterranean

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Sea level in the Mediterranean could rise by as much as half a metre in the next 50 years according to the Instituto Español de Oceanografía. Sea level in the Mediterranean rose 8cm between 1948 and 2005. The study analyzed how sea levels, temperatures and salinity have evolved in the Spanish Mediterranean since 1948, when the first scientific measurements were taken. According to the researchers the observations “coincide with the worst results” of studies on global climate change. .(El Pais).

A historical and cultural dictionary of Spain

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Major new section on Iberianature

A historical and cultural dictionary of Spain

Early days. Above Prestige Oil Disaster

Drought in Catalonia

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Worst drought in Catalonia for 70 years with little rain expected till April (El Pais)

Barcelona peregrines

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

Eduard Durany of the Barcelona Peregrine Reintroduction Project has kindly sent me these photos of a pair of peregrines nesting in the Port of Barcelona. The photos were taken with an automatic webcam. More photos here on the forum

More on peregrines