The latest report issued by the European Commission under Article 17 of the Habitats Directive for the period 2007-2012 determines that the conservation status of the priority habitat type, Alluvial forest with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior (91E0*), is ‘unfavourable-inadequate’ both for the Mediterranean biogeographical region and for Spain. Moreover, Article 17 assessment evaluations of the structure and function and of the future prospects for the habitat in Spain are both also considered as ‘unfavourable-inadequate’. As 48.2% of the distribution area of this habitat type and 56.3% of its distribution range in the Mediterranean region is located in Spain, the country bears a great responsibility for its conservation. Despite the efforts made in connection to the implementation of the Habitats Directive and the Natura 2000 network, the current situation reflects the need to strengthen conservation efforts of this habitat and revise strategies at different scales.
LIFE Alnus aims to better understand the causes of decline in Mediterranean alder forests at different ecological levels, as well as to design alternative conservation strategies that are transferable and replicable throughout the Mediterranean basin, to improve their conservation status at regional level. New approaches will be tested in three pilot basins in Catalonia, with the aim of reversing the unfavourable conservation status of the target priority habitat type.
Objectives for directly improving the conservation status of alluvial forest are: Enhancing connectivity and restoring habitat network structure (river continuum) and its function; Setting up a legally-protected corridor to interconnect Natura 2000 network sites; Increasing the area of alluvial forest, by restoring the habitat along water courses and recovering its presence in alluvial lowland valleys; Restoring the habitat where it remains in large floodplains; and Improving the conservation status, structure and associated biodiversity of pre-existing alluvial forest.
Objectives for replication and transferability are: Improving river and riparian governance through a coordinated implementation of the Habitats Directive, Water Framework Directive, and Floods Directive; Generating knowledge to support sustainable forest management for alluvial forest; Testing different solutions for ecological restoration that address obstacles to habitat conservation arising from climate change and changing river dynamics; and Exchanging technical experiences, and disseminating the need to change current habitat conservation strategy, to establish river basins and their networks as functional units of river ecosystems.
Social and environmental objectives are: Promoting restored river continuum as green infrastructure; Disseminating environmental, functional, cultural and experiential values of alluvial forests among the general public; and Producing new habitat management criteria.
Expected results: Better understanding of conservation issues at regional level, as well as improvement in management planning and habitat conservation in 24 special areas of conservation (SACs) and 950 linear km of river areas (485 km within Natura 2000 network sites and 465 km along interconnecting water courses), in the three river basins of the project; Improvement of the legal and physical protection of alluvial forests on 2 235 ha, through improvements at existing sites (129 ha), a proposed new Natura 2000 network site (980 ha), and additional protection by supplementary legal action (1 126 ha); Implementation of direct conservation actions for the target alluvial forest habitat on 480 ha, including i) forestry measures and regulation of river uses (280 ha), ii) the creation of more than 300 small core areas of dispersed habitat from which plants can expand out to recover habitat areas, and iii) the development of four demonstration sites (total 162 ha) to test possible solutions to the most complex problems threatening this habitat type; Transferability and replicability achieved including by i) disseminating conservation plans designed to influence key players and that have a multiplier effect in other Mediterranean areas, ii) involving at least 260 stakeholders in different project events and at least 300 people in technical and scientific networking activities; iii) publishing the project results in a technical manual, guidelines and scientific papers and Increased awareness at local and regional scale through various communication activities aiming to reach approximately 521 000 people.