In the Mediterranean region, yew (Taxus baccata) usually grows with other tree species in mixed forests. Wooded formations made up solely of Mediterranean yew are listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive as priority for conservation, and are very rare. They are often reduced to small enclaves in remote mountain areas. Climatic and anthropogenic factors seem to have led to the isolation of this yew population for a long period of time, which may have significantly contributed to increasing the distinctiveness of the population, due to a restricted gene flow and genetic drift. The Iberian Peninsula is the southernmost limit of yew distribution in Europe, and is currently subject to extreme environmental conditions, typical of a marginal distribution area.
According to Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive, both Spain and the EU are not doing enough in relation to the conservation problems of this priority habitat type. In both the Mediterranean and Atlantic region, the indicators “area of occupancy”, “structure and functions” and “future prospects” are assessed as “unfavourable-inadequate”. The situation is worse in the Mediterranean region, with the indicator ‘structure and functions’ estimated to be “unfavourable-bad”. At European level, the conservation status of Mediterranean yew is also unfavourable for all indicators. This situation reflects the serious problems it faces in both the EU and Spain (with the yew forests of the Cantabrian mountain range).
The aim of the LIFE BACCATA project is to improve the conservation status of the priority habitat type, Mediterranean yew, in 15 Natura 2000 network sites in the Cantabrian mountains, by focusing on three conservation status indicators: “area of occupancy”, “structure and functions” and “future prospects”. Specific project objectives are to: Develop targeted actions to increase the area covered by Mediterranean yew woods including silviculture activities, removal of exotic species, and cultivation and planting of characteristic species of plants; Implement measures designed to improve the structure and functions of the woods, including silviculture works to promote characteristic species and control exotic species, and establishing infrastructure to stop herbivores having a negative impact; Apply measures to achieve an improvement in the future survival prospects of the woods, including establishing Mediterranean yew ‘genetic resources conservation units’ (GRCUs) and two gene banks, drafting a management plan and storing a collection of DNA tissue samples in five arboretums; Improve habitat knowledge and protection measures against human induced pressures; Establish a specific strategy to disseminate and transfer knowledge on the measures developed during the project to ensure their replicability at EU level. The GRCUs will be part of the EU programme EUFORGEN (the European Forest Genetic Resources Programme); Inform and raise public awareness on the relevance, values and ecosystem services provided by Mediterranean yew woods; and Involve regional and local administrations, landowners, stock-breeders and forestry associations in the long-term conservation of this priority habitat.
Expected results: An update of the priority habitat Mediterranean yew, mapping and clarifying its interpretation and management criteria in the Cantabrian Mountains; An increase of its area of distribution by 145.9 ha, i.e. a 6.9 % increase of its total coverage in the EU; An improvement of structure and function of the woods over 541 ha, i.e. 25.8% of the habitat type’s total distribution in the EU; Cultivation of over 132 000 plants species; Control and removal of exotic species resulting from reforestation on 45 ha; Increase of connectivity; Some 481 ha preserved from herbivore damage; Erection of almost 33 000 metres of fencing to protect the habitat type; Establishment of 35 km of forest tracks for improving and adapting the vegetation in adjacent areas and to prevent the spread of fires; Establishment of two gene banks of 33 different examples of Cantabrian yew; Creation of five arboretum of yew populations; Establishment of 15 forest GRCUs (genetic resources conservation units) and integrate them into the EU EUFORGEN Programme; Definition of the variability and the genetic relationships between different Mediterranean yew populations, and their degree of genetic connectivity, and establishment of a structure and genotypic database (incl. dataset EFDAC); Involvement of landowners in the conservation of the priority habitat type by signing management agreements. Stock-breeders and forestry staff should also be involved in its conservation and management; To take into account the results of other EU projects such as: LinkTree (EU FP6 research programme), LIFE TAXUS (LIFE 12 NAT/PT/000950 and LIFE11 NAT/ES/000711) and the EUFORGEN Programme; Transfer of the LIFE BACCATA results, in a bid to replicate them across the total distribution area in the EU; Increased public awareness and general knowledge about the habitat type; and Contribute to the sustainable development of municipalities where the project actions will take place, all situated in mountainous areas.