SUMMARY DESCRIPTION OF THE PROJECT LIFE ECONNECT
Project Objetives
Alto Campoo lies at the head of the valley formed by the Cordel and Híjar mountain ranges, crowned by the Tres Mares peak (2,200 m). In this high mountain location, has a wide diversity of ecosystems, with habitats and communities of special interest due to their uniqueness, degree of endemism and vulnerability. These factors led to the designation of 2 SACs and 1 SPA in this area.
The existence of a ski resort has resulted in a general degradation that has reduced species diversity through the destruction of vegetation and soil loss and compaction, preventing recolonization by native vegetation. The decline in habitat quality for wildlife due to landscape fragmentation and the colonization of opportunistic species has affected wildlife communities by reducing their population. Variations in livestock grazing pressure, has resulted in soil loss and harm to peat lands, whilst in other areas the over-development of heather has reduced the breeding habitat for species such as partridge and hen harrier.
General Objective:
Improve connectivity between 2 SACs and 1 SPA in a high mountain area through management, habitat restoration and permeabilization of a ski resort. The restoration process focuses on the regeneration of vegetation through seeding, transplantation, soil decompaction, and water retention. Features such as cattle fences will also be removed or visibly identified.
Specific objectives:

  • Strengthening of the eastern extreme population of the Perdix perdix in Cantabria.
  • Guarantee the quality of habitats used by the hen harrier.
  • Reduce erosion by restoring habitats through seeding, transplantation, soil decompaction, and water retention.
  • Improve the physical and chemical water quality of the River Hijar.
  • Improve permeability of the Alto Campóo ski station facilities - Develop tourism and livestock management models that are compatible with the Natura 2000 network.
  • Raise awareness among users of the fragility and vulnerability of mountain habitats.

Actions and means involved
The association for 36 months from 3 different entities with different nature and aspirations: one a public body responsible of the environment, a conservation NGO and the public body that operates the ski resort, talks very well about the strength of an initiative to create a team that consists of a coordinator, an administrative charge of overall coordination, an engineer responsible for the works, one foreman, 6 workers in charge of conservation actions and environmental educator in charge of education and awareness.
This team will develop the following key features:

  • Strengthening populations of grey partridge and hen harrier by clearing, thinning and enrichment plantations.
  • Decreased erosion and improving soil and water quality: by building drains that prevent laminar flow, trapping soil and mulch contribution in eroded areas, and bioengineering techniques (geogrid and geocell).
  • Habitat restoration: Creating a production plant from local seed for its use in the restoration works of the four main habitats in the area: moorland, grassland, riparian and bog formations. Also seeding and transplanting of natural vegetation, and protecting from grazing through fencing.
  • Improving the permeability of the ski resort: by restoring degraded areas and improving of the existing habitats.
  • Decrease the mid and long term impacts of anthropogenic origin: by implementing sustainable
  • patterns of grazing management and tourism.
  • Awareness by tourists and the main partners in the area (farmers, mountaineers, local people and managers) of high natural value, through the dissemination of its values, the management of public use in the area, through talks, workshops, training sessions and guided tours to Alto Campóo.

Expected results.

  • Disappearance of the causes and practices responsible for the erosive phenomena affecting habitats, water quality and dynamics of wildlife populations.
  • Recovery of 11.5 hectares of heathland (European dry heaths, oromediterr?neos endemic with gorse and Alpine and Boreal), and 18 has. of Festuca eskia grassland.
  • Improving the quality and transparency of the waters of the Rio Hijar throughout the year.
  • 10% improvement of the riverbanks through revegetation works.
  • A biodiversity management plan for the ski resort that encourages habitats and species of the 2 SPAs and 1 SACs.
  • Livestock grazing management plan in balance with the conservation maintenance of heathland habitats and the presence of species compatible with traditional uses.
  • Improvement of hen harrier habitat (increase area suitable for reproduction) and reduction of collision risk with permanent features by removal or visible identification of 7 kms. of fencing.
  • Preservation of the local grey partridge (Perdix perdix hispaniensis) population by improving habitat and reducing the risk of collision with permanent horizontal features through their removal or identification.
  • Awareness and best practices for about a 30% of mean annual users ( 130,000) of the ski resort
  • Greater acceptance and understanding from the local population of the Natura 2000 network.
  • Helping rural populations through promoting rural tourism and traditional activities as a tool for the preservation of high mountain habitats and species.
  • Creating a bank of seeds and plants that will serve in the long term to the any maintenance or new restoration work.
  • Presentation of Econnect as a pilot example for other European mountain regions with the same problems.