In 2012 was started “A little Owl on each olive tree”, a project carried out by Brinzal with the support of the Biodiversity Foundation, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment during the first two years, and the Ministry of Environment and Land Planning of the Community of Madrid in 2014.
In 2014 we started AgroSOStainable, with the support of the Biodiversity Foundation, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, which aims to reproduce farming systems that benefit bird species dependent on these habitats. During this year, we also add the support of the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA).
The aim was to demonstrate the benefits for both the farmer and the little owl that could be obtained from the practice of sustainable agriculture. The excellent results obtained during the project encouraged us, and even “forced” us to give continuity to this commitment to biodiversity conservation based on cooperation with owners and managers of farms.
STRENGTHENING OF AGRICULTURE AND IMPACT ON BIRDS
Traditional farming systems have acquired a high ecological value in many regions due to the large number of animal species dependent to land devoted to food production.
However, during the second half of the twentieth century, the social and economic changes and technological development of agriculture has caused many rapid changes in traditional production systems, creating a serious threat to the species that depend on them. It has established monocultures and increasing the average size of plots, the widespread use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, excessive plowing of the land and the disappearance of boundaries and fallow.
This set of changes, what we know as agricultural intensification aimed at increasing production, has caused a serious loss of quality habitat. As a result of this escalation, many bird species have been reduced or drastically altered habitats they need for feeding and reproduction, suffering significant declines in their populations and ranges.
At present, 80% of the species that depend on these habitats in Europe have an unfavorable conservation status. In Europe, most of the tools available for the conservation of birds of these agricultural environments are based on the cataloging of these areas within the Natura 2000 network, with figures of protection as SPAs (Special Protection Areas for birds ) or SCIs (Sites of Community Interest).
THE PROJECTThe main action of the project is advising farmers on how to help or harm the birds of agricultural means of production systems and the implementation of actions for improvement on farms to favor these species, such as placing nest boxes, installation of wooden stakes or tree planting.
We are committed to the implementation of measures that will not only benefit the conservation of species associated with these ecosystems, but also farmers, improving product quality and reducing costs. It is also focused on agriculture and organic production, as well as the conversion process. Also, as an added novelty, this year we will label products from these productions that are committed to sustainable production.
Geographically, AgroSOStenible Madrid and Castilla-La Mancha is developed, particularly in the SCI Vegas, Cuestas and stopped Southeast Madrid, the SPA Cut and Cantiles Rivers Jarama and Manzanares, the SCI Yesares Tagus Valley and the SPA Cereal Steppes in the countryside.
Another objective of the project is to collaborate with local authorities responsible for protected areas for the implementation of activities that enhance the ornithological tourism in the area, such as trails and paths
The project aim is to create an infrastructure that link conservation and sustainability, with economic benefits for the inhabitants of those areas.
Finally, we will work together with these local administrations as well as with other entities, using awareness and dissemination activities about the problems Affecting These birds dependent on agricultural habitats.
MEASURES THAT BENEFIT FARMERS AND BIRDS
The measures we propose are easy to apply and do not increase production costs, such as crop rotation, maintenance of plant structure, the use of natural fertilizers, maintaining boundaries and patches of natural vegetation, or delayed cereal harvest.
The implementation of these measures not only will help wild animals and plant species, but also will benefit farmers:
– In traditional plots they are 30% more species and 50% more individuals than intensive ones.
– The traditional plots have better pests and diseases control naturally. – Earthworms are most abundant in soils protected. These little critters help maintain soil structure and organic matter, improve aeration, drainage and root growth of crops. They are able to move up to 30 tons of soil per hectare per year.
– The plots that do not use pesticides or chemical fertilizers do not pollute the water and lose less nitrate.
– In extreme weather situations the yields obtained are better in traditional intensive crops. In addition, organically managed soils have more organic matter and absorb more water during heavy rainfall, reduce erosion and landslides and accumulate more water in times of drought.
– The food from organic farming does not contain nitrates or pesticide residues, very toxic to health, have more vitamins and antioxidants are more balanced in protein and minerals and have a higher dry matter content.
– The elimination of activities such as the use of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers and excessive tilling reduces the economic costs for the farmer.
Check here the Ornithological Routes within this project.