Sustainable agrarian approaches for agro-steppe species and habitats conservation in Nature 2000

Reference: LIFE20 NAT/ES/001477 | Acronym: LIFE Iberian Agrosteppes



The progressive intensification of agriculture and livestock farming practices (including chemical treatments, early harvesting of fodder crops, reduction of long-term fallow land areas and elimination of the boundaries with natural vegetation), promoted via the implementation in Spain of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), is causing major deterioration in the conservation status of the EU protected priority habitat type  ‘Pseudo-steppe with grasses and annuals of the Thero-Brachypodietea’ (6220*). This trend is also threatening steppe bird species, particularly little bustard (Tetrax tetrax) and great bustard (Otis tarda), both considered as priority species for conservation at the EU level and also and Montagu´s harrier (Circus pygargus). During the last decade, the populations of these species have suffered a great reduction in the Iberian Peninsula. Specifically, according to the national censuses in Spain, great bustard has shown a negative trend of over 30% (2005-2019), little bustard of 48% (2005-2016), and Montagu´s harrier of 23% (2006-2017). In the Autonomous Community of Extremadura, these declines are even worse (47% great bustard, 64% little bustard, and 41% Montagu´s harrier). Similar declines have been registered in Portugal: a reduction of 49% of the little bustard population (2003-2016), whereas in the case of the Montagu´s harrier the population loss is estimated at circa 80%. Furthermore, invertebrates, a fundamental part of these ecosystems, also seem to be suffering negative trends.


The LIFE Iberian Agrosteppes project has the following objectives:

  • Improvement of the conservation status of the EU Habitats Directive priority habitat 6220* ‘Pseudo-steppe with grasses and annuals of the Thero-Brachypodietea‘ (at least 300 ha in an initial favourable state, with a special focus on improving its invertebrate communities);
  • Improvement of the conservation status of the little bustard (Tetrax tetrax), great bustard (Otis tarda) and Montagu´s harrier (Circus pygargus). To this end, the project will implement management measures on at least 600 ha in areas identified as critical;
  • Promote the use of traditional grain varieties that, in addition to promoting bird conservation, will also serve to offer produce of greater added value (at least 100 ha);
  • Achieve a broad replicable model, and transfer the project measures to all important areas of the targeted habitat and species in Spain and Portugal; and
  • Incorporation of the project´s best farming practices into agricultural and rural development policies of the Autonomous Regions of Extremadura y Aragón;
  • Reinforcement of the legal protection of the steppe species in Extremadura.

The project will contribute to the implementation of the EU Habitats and Birds directives, the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, and the EU Farm to Fork Strategy.


Expected results:

  • Improved conservation status of the habitat type 6220*, applying direct management measures on at least 300 ha in the most degraded areas;
  • A 10% increase in the reproductive success rate for all the target bird species, which implies more than 70% of the target species populations in the Natura 2000 network of Extremadura and Aragon;
  • Balanced levels of mammal predator populations in breeding areas of the target species;
  • A reduced use of pesticides in the project´s Natura 2000 sites, of at least 25%;
  • Modification and increased visibility to birds of the most dangerous power lines and fences for the project's target species, identified in the preliminary studies;
  • Long-term land stewardship agreements achieved for the application of conservation measures and the project's objectives on more than 1 000 ha in areas with the highest nesting density of the target species;
  • Legal integration of the best farming measures into the CAP financing schemes and in the rural development plans of the Autonomous Communities of Extremadura and Aragon;
  • At least 10% of the areas included in the land stewardship agreements (100 ha) benefits by growing new varieties of cereal with higher added value;
  • Official approval of The Integrated Conservation and Recovery Plan for steppe birds in Extremadura; and
  • Enlargement of the Natura 2000 network in Extremadura.


Reference: LIFE20 NAT/ES/001477
Acronym: LIFE Iberian Agrosteppes
Start Date: 01/09/2021
End Date: 31/08/2026
Total Eligible Budget: 3,315,951 €
EU Contribution: 2,486,961 €
Project Location:


Coordinating Beneficiary: Sociedad Española de Ornitología
Legal Status: PNC
Address: Melquiades Biencinto nº 34, 28053, Madrid, España
Contact Person: Asunción Ruiz
Email: Send Email
Website: Visit Website

LIFE Project Map



  • Grasslands
  • Improved legislative compliance and enforcement
  • High Nature Value farmland
  • Public and Stakeholders participation
  • Birds
  • Sensitive and protected areas management


  • bird species
  • grassland ecosystem
  • protected area
  • Agriculture
  • rural development
  • endangered species
  • monitoring


  • COM(2020) 380 EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 Bringing nature back into our lives (20.05.2020.) 
  • Directive 2009/147 - Conservation of wild birds - Birds Directive (codified version of Directive 79/409/EEC as amended) (30.11.2009)
  • COM/2020/381 final. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. A Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)
  • COM(2010)672 - The CAP towards 2020: Meeting the food, natural resources and territorial challenges of the future (18.11.2010)


  • 6220 - Pseudo-steppe with grasses and annuals of the Thero-Brachypodietea


  • Otis tarda
  • Circus pygargus
  • Tetrax tetrax


Type Code Name
SCI ES2430082 Monegros
SPA ES0000398 Llanos y Complejo Lagunar de la Albuera
SPA ES0000180 Estepas de Monegrillo y Pina
SCI ES4310010 La Serena
SPA ES0000183 El Basal, Las Menorcas y Llanos de Cardiel
SPA ES0000181 La Retuerta y Saladas de Sástago
SPA ES0000369 Llanos de Alcantara y Brozas
SPA ES0000367 La Serena y Sierras Periféricas
SPA ES0000325 Campiña sur - Embalse de Arroyo Conejos
SPA PTZPE0055 Évora
SPA ES0000071 Llanos de Cáceres y Sierra de Fuentes
SPA PTZPE0043 Campo Maior
SPA PTZPE0046 Castro Verde


Name Type
LPN(Liga para a Protecção da Natureza), Portugal Participant
BIOPOLIS (Associação BIOPOLIS ) Participant
SPEA(Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves), Portugal Participant
DG_SOST(Dirección General de Sostenibilidad. Consejería de Transición Ecológica y Sostenibilidad de la Junta de Extremadura), Spain Participant
DG_AGRI(Dirección General de Agricultura y Ganadería. Consejería de Agricultura, Desarrollo Rural y Territorio de la Junta de Extremadura), Spain Participant
ASAJA CC(Asociación Agraria Jóvenes Agricultores de Cáceres), Spain Participant
CICYTEX(Centro de Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnológicas de Extremadura), Spain Participant
Sociedad Española de Ornitología Coordinator