LIFE Project Cover Photo

Habitat restoration for the Spring and Autumn migration of the Aquatic Warbler in the Iberian Peninsula

Reference: LIFE16 NAT/ES/000168 | Acronym: LIFE PALUDICOLA



The priority species (Annex 1 of the Birds Directive) aquatic warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola) is Europe’s rarest migratory species, with less than 3 300-3 400 males and a breeding area of 6 800 km2. According to the European Environment Information and Observation Network, the species is declining, endangered or in a situation of severe population slowdown. The causes of this decline are the frequent loss of nesting habitat, mainly due to drainage of shallow wetlands, peatlands and flood plains for use as agricultural land or for peat extraction, but also by uncontrolled burning. Changes in hydrological regimes have also had a severe negative impact.

Spain is on the aquatic warbler's main spring and autumn migration routes between Europe and Africa. However, in Spain certain areas of the countryside have experienced significant loss of fens due to disappearance of extensive animal grazing. Locally, in Tierra de Campos, for instance, there’s been a considerable fall-off of sheep grazing and in the use of cattle for the grazing of open pastures. While this is a local problem, it is of high significance for the aquatic warbler, as it has contributed to the virtual disappearance of the species’ favoured habitat in many Iberian wetlands along its migratory routes.


The LIFE PALUDICOLA project aims to:

  • Halt the decrease in the population of the aquatic warbler, Europe’s most endangered passerine species;
  • Increase areas of open wetland vegetation for resting over along the species’ migratory routes in Spain. Many of these habitats are listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive as priority for conservation; and
  • Increase the knowledge about the severe population slowdown of the species and to share this information with working groups in northern Europe, to improve and coordinate the conservation and habitat management measures.
  • Specific objectives:

  • Encouraging traditional management of target wetland vegetation, to obtain an extension of the rare, or disappearing habitats. The farm management methods will include mechanical mowing, controlled animal grazing and soil stripping, as well as the halting of regular burning. Herbaceous and bird-friendly bush species will also be planted;
  • Increasing local knowledge of the species and awareness about the benefits of recovering traditional management of vegetation; and
  • Establishing a national strategy for the conservation of the aquatic warbler in Spain, as well as specific CAP EU Rural Development agri-environmental programmes to ensure legislative and financial measures to enable the implementation of management plans sustainable in the long term.
  • Expected results:

  • Restoration and improvement of approximately 380 ha of favourable habitat for the aquatic warbler, including: - Consolidation of 22 ha of potentially floodable areas by purchasing 11 ha of the Boada de Campos wetland and with the implementation of hydraulic works to promote the flooding of another 11 ha in Marjal del Moro and Albufera de Valencia. Implementation of other wetland improvement works by removing soil embankments (1 075 m) and repairing channels and irrigation canals (1 425 m); - Restoration of at least 336 ha of suitable habitat through: rotational grazing by 20-25 animals on some 120 ha, regular mechanical mowing on another 195 ha, using amphibious machinery and a tractor, removing an average of 1 000 tonnes of biomass in total (975-1 170 tonnes); and removal (through soil stripping) of 8 ha with overgrowth of high and dense reed beds, producing 64-80 tonnes of organic matter for farming purposes; and - Improvement of the habitat diversity and structure by planting herbaceous species (32 500 plants) on 13 ha and planting 4 km of riverside bush groves (12 000 plants);
  • Control of invasive American minks (Neovison vison) through the removal of 30/40 individuals for year;
  • Improved knowledge about the species’ population and preferred habitats in areas of the Iberian Peninsula, through three detailed annual censuses and botanical cartography, data available via a public geographical information system (GIS);
  • An extensive communication strategy with a wide reach focusing especially on the project website, Radio Televisión Española, a mobile exhibition and school visits;
  • Consolidation of long-term conservation measures through the development of a national strategy for the conservation of the species, a specific EU RDP agri-environmental programme to support mowing and grazing of areas of environmental interest, and a consolidated international working group dedicated to the species (networking).


    Reference: LIFE16 NAT/ES/000168
    Start Date: 01/10/2017
    End Date: 31/12/2021
    Total Eligible Budget: 1,550,968 €
    EU Contribution: 1,163,226 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Fundacion Global Nature
    Legal Status: PNC
    Address: Corro del Postigo, 1, 34337, Fuentes de Nava, España
    Contact Person: Eduardo DE MIGUEL
    Email: Send Email
    Website: Visit Website

    LIFE Project Map



    • Birds


    • aquatic ecosystem
    • grazing
    • introduction of animal species
    • wetlands ecosystem


    • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
    • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020” (03.05.2011)


    • 02 - Specific (i.e.for technical reasons or specific issue)


    • Acrocephalus paludicola


    Type Code Name
    SPA ES0000023 L'Albufera
    SPA ES0000060 Prat de Cabanes i Torreblanca
    SPA ES0000091 ZEPA Humedales de La Mancha (DEPRECATED)
    SPA ES0000148 Marjal dels Moros
    SPA ES0000216 La Nava-Campos Sur
    SPA ES4140036 La Nava-Campos Norte
    SCI ES4250010 Humedales de La Mancha
    SCI ES0000147 Marjal de Pego-Oliva
    SPA ES0000487 Marjal de Pego-Oliva (ZEPA)
    SPA ES0000467 Prat de Cabanes i Torreblanca (ZEPA)
    SPA ES0000470 Marjal dels Moros (ZEPA)
    SPA ES0000471 l'Albufera (ZEPA)


    Name Type
    Fundacion Global Nature Coordinator
    Junta de Castilla y León - Dirección General del Medio Natural de la Consejería de Fomento y Medio Ambiente, Spain Participant


    Type Resource
    Project web site Project's website (Spanish version)
    Poster Project's poster (5.57 MB)
    Poster Project's roll up (9.57 MB)
    Publication "Informe de los resultados de la campaña de anillamiento científico de aves durante el paso posnupcial en Castilla y León: lagunas de La Nava, Boada y Pedraza" (5,70 MB)
    Publication "Informe de los resultados de la campaña de anillamiento científico de aves durante el paso prenupcial en la Comunidad Valenciana: Prat de Cabanes-Torreblanca, marjal del Moro, tancat de la Ratlla (La Albufera) y marjal de Pego-Oliva" (4,78 MB)
    Publication "Resumen y Conclusiones del Taller Ibérico de Expertos en Aves Palustres Amenazadas" (1,97 MB)
    Publication "Informe de los resultados de la campaña de anillamiento científico de aves durante el paso posnupcial en Castilla-La Mancha: lagunas de Manjavacas y Chica de Villafranca." (3,68 MB)
    Leaflet "LIFE Paludicola: Habitat restoration for the spring and autumn migration of the aquatic warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola) in the Iberian Peninsula" (7.89 MB)
    Leaflet "LIFE Paludicola: Restauración del hábitat para la migración primaveral y otonal del carricerín cejudo (Acrocephalus paludicola) en la península ibérica" (2.90 MB)