The factors conditioning the conservation status of the blanket bog complex in the Iberian Peninsula are well known, and they are mentioned in the main reference documents. However, the level of precision with which said factors are defined is far from adequate when aiming to draft the necessary conservation actions. This specific action's focus is set on gathering all the necessary information to implement the demonstrative management models through the plans defined in action A4, as well as to plan direct habitat restoration measures.
Several flights will be conducted with multi-spectral, non-metric cameras mounted on RPAs in order to determine the conservation status of the target habitats in common land areas. The collected data will then be processed through methodologies developed by the USC. The information thus generated will be the baseline scenario for habitat conservation status and for the planning of the implementation of the management models in communal areas (action A4). Field trips will be conducted to the areas where conservation issues have been detected, in order to design the specific restoration measures for the target habitats. Based on the prior work carried out by the RPAs, data will be gathered regarding the impact on the hydrological network of road infrastructure, drainage network, old reforestation efforts with non-indigenous species or trophic-level change issues derived from the fertilization of adjacent areas.
Gathering of the information required to assess the baseline scenario of the priority habitats within common lands. An assessment of activities and impacts will be included, as well as the socio-cultural background.
A preparatory action geared towards facilitating commoner participation. This action aims to promote in an effective manner the active participation of the comuneros. It is designed in two phases: on the one hand, commoners help will be requested in order to gather information on the exploitation efforts located in common lands, whilst on the other hand commoners will be the focus of an instrumental information campaign, aiming to explain in a clear manner what a results-based management model is and what can be considered a "good conservation status" of the habitats they manage.
Setting up the conservation results-based management schemes within the management plans for common land requires the active participation and commitment of the commoners, as one of the cornerstones of said schemes consists in increasing their responsibility and decision-making capacity, as well as those of their governance structures. For this way of operation to be feasible, it is necessary for the proprietors to know what a results-based management model is and what the desirable results for each case are, i.e., it is necessary to identify as clearly as possible what a "good habitat conservation status" is in terms of species composition, wet heath structure, bog surface exposed, etc. On the other hand, the implementation of these management plans demands a deep understanding of the reality of every area to be managed, which is only attainable with the involvement of the proprietors.
Interviews will be conducted with the stockbreeders in order to determine the activities they carry out in the common lands. Simultaneously, informative meetings will be held with the proprietors to inform them in a clear manner about conservation results-based management models and the conservation results which are the project's goals, i.e., what a "good conservation status" is for the habitats or habitat mosaics that may be present in their properties. A dossier featuring graphic material will be distributed among them as support material, describing an optimal conservation status for each of the target habitats (4020*, 7110* y 7130*) and for their various mosaics.
Achieving commoner involvement in the process of management plan development.
Gathering all the required information on the side of commoners to develop the results-based management schemes.
Explaining in a practical and ad hoc manner to each commoner/manager what a "good conservation status" is for the habitats present in their property.
Wild horses are a key element of open ecosystems in Galicia's middle mountain ranges (and more specifically, of Serra do Xistral), as well as for the conservation of open ecosystems such as the target priority habitats. The various communal properties to be acted upon may present different situations regarding the influence of wild pony bands on their wet heaths and bog communities.
The population of Galician wild pony has decreased in recent years owing to motives such as the abandonment of livestock farming, the low prices of meat and various conflicts deriving from the application of new legislations, but also due to the lack of knowledge on the species as a whole and hence to a low appreciation of it. Traffic accidents due to animal invasion of roads, both from ponies and cows, are an important problem in the mountains in the area. In order to avoid them, it would be beneficial to reduce as much as possible animal access to the main roads, as well as to make their users wary of the potential presence of animals on the secondary roads crossing the mountains.
The abandonment of the traditional exploitation of wild ponies in Serra do Xistral is resulting in the degradation of wet heaths and the succession towards other plant communities. The threats looming over this activity make it necessary to design and set in motion innovative solutions in order to ensure its persistence. The use of wild ponies to preserve heathland habitats is new in Galicia, but it has been successfully employed in habitat conservation and restoration projects, mainly in the United Kingdom, using other horse breeds such as the Exmoor.
An assessment of the baseline scenario for wild pony population will be carried out through an analysis of the spatial distribution of their bands, their social structure and of which use horses make of the Atlantic wet heath and bog communities for each communal property. Additionally, the various conflicts arising from the presence of wild pony will be studied, such as the areas with the highest risk of accidents caused by these ponies on roads, the presence of physical barriers or an estimate of their losses by wolf predation.
For each communal property, bands will be located and monitored for the priority habitats, using GPS collars, field observation and the aerial image data gathered in action A1. Elements such as dividing enclosures, which limit the movement of ponies, will be mapped. The areas with the highest risk of traffic accidents caused by ponies will be identified. Lastly, meetings will be held with the proprietors to analyse their conditions, the problems they find to carry on with their activities and viable formulae for the use of their ponies as conservation tools for priority habitats.
Assessing the spatial distribution and social organization of wild pony bands. Assessing their impact on the maintenance of the selected priority habitats. Quantifying the existing conflicts regarding the tenure or abandonment of ponies.
Drafting of technical planning documents, both for the demonstrative, conservation results-based management plans (included in the management projects for montes veciñais) and for the projects required for the development of actions linked to said management plans.
This action is necessary for a suitable development of the specific conservation actions, for the subcontracting of the associated works and for the obtention of the corresponding permits on the side of the relevant authorities.
The choice of the format management project or “proyecto de ordenación forestal” was made to comply with the Galician Law 7/2012, which dictates that all common land with a surface exceeding 25 ha –as it is the case for the project area— must have a management project of this particular type. This management tool is the one suitable for the exploitation of common land products and services, within the framework established by Galicia's Master Plan for the Natura 2000 Network (Plan Rector de la Red Natura 2000).
Drafting of the "management projects" and their associated technical projects for habitat restoration, conservation results-based management plans and the technical and administrative specifications, adhering to "green procurement" criteria.
The goal of this action is to set up mechanisms for compensatory payments for the implementation of the conservation results-based management schemes, and to make them effective. Suitable payments per hectare will be estimated based on the degree of improvement to habitat conservation status; the area assigned to conservation purposes under this scheme; and on the persistence or abandonment of practices damaging to conservation. Payments will be made effective at the end of the third year, pending a final evaluation of the Conservation Results Indicators, and to the maximum possible percentage afforded by the budget allotted to this action regarding the payment scheme generated.
Obtaining an agri-environmental payment scheme tailored to the reality of Serra do Xistral and its conservation goals.
Making payments effective to commoners on account of conservation results.
Attracting and maintaining the involvement of the commoners and of their governance structures. Demonstrating their capacity to "generate biodiversity and environmental conservation" as just another product of their land use.
The management schemes integrated into common land management projects will be implemented (A4). This action focuses on the management of pastures included in the target habitat mosaic (4020*, 7110* y 7130*). Management will aim to improve priority habitat conservation through the application of scrub-clearing techniques, controlled burning and grazing that allow pastures to regenerate, allowing in turn sustainable resource exploitation and the achievement of conservation goals.
After determining the conservation status for the priority habitat mosaic present in each communal land, as well as the baseline values for result indicators, experts will assess which areas are subject to excessive grazing and which ones would tolerate increased grazing, as well as the actions to be carried out in each case, which may include: C1.1. Wet heath regeneration through livestock management, identifying –according to proprietor opinion— the grazing patterns necessary to improve the conservation status of these mosaics; C1.2. Wet heath regeneration by scrub clearing or controlled burning, acting upon wet heaths determined to be in senescent stage and which may be regenerated in order to improve their properties as grazing areas, while simultaneously improving habitat conservation status for bog and wet heath mosaics.
Implementing in an effective manner the conservation results-based management plans resulting from the chapter of actions A.
Improving conservation status of habitats 4020*, 7110* y 7130* during action execution.
Attracting and maintaining proprietor involvement and that of their communal governance structures.
This action aims to execute a series of interventions contributing to priority habitat conservation: raised bogs (7110*) and wet heaths (4020*), included in the forest and livestock management document (A4).
The technical and scientific works and studies carried out on the SAC Serra do Xistral show certain human activity impact on habitat conservation status. Such impacts derive mainly from two causes: consequences resulting from the building of forest roads and point concentrations of livestock around raised bogs.
Through this action, specific interventions are suggested aiming to correct impacts and mitigate threats, specifically regarding the correction of impacts on the hydrology of those wetlands most vulnerable to livestock trampling.
The roads present in the mountain range have negative effects in certain areas where rainwater accumulates, be it because they generate new erosion areas or due to the depositing of materials from the asphalt agglomerate (aggregates). In both cases, the hydrology of raised bogs is damaged. Another conflict-generating circumstance derives from the paths used by livestock and farming machinery, which affect active raised bogs.
The main goal of this action is the improvement to conservation status for the raised bog and wet heath mosaic.
This action aims to restore and improve the area covered by Atlantic wet heathlands and blanket bogs in common areas of the SAC Serra do Xistral. The action will be carried out in old reforested areas consisting mainly of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).
This action is required in order to improve conservation status for habitats 4020* and 7110* in the Iberian Peninsula, where they cover –respectively— an area of 2.014 km2 and 0,93 km2 (Atlantic region) as per the assessment of their conservation status for the period 2007-2012.
Interventions will be carried out on common land. Therefore, it will be necessary to reach agreements with the commoners where they commit –for a period of 35 years— not to carry out any action that may jeopardize the project investment or the restoration resulting from it. In this sense, proprietor communities have expressed their support to the project, considering the measures to be adopted as beneficial to the conservation of their land and their community. They consider this restoration neither to diminish the profitability of their exploitation activities, nor to be a restriction of the uses of their common land.
The pine tree forests to be subject to these interventions stem from old agreements signed with the Administration between 1950 and 1970. Currently, said agreements are not applicable any longer and the reforested areas have not accomplished their timber production goals, as the species selected (Pinus sylvestris) has shown not to be suitable to the site. These pine tree forests lack an economic value that might justify their exploitation for timber, and their sole value for their proprietors derives from their use as cattle and wild pony shelters.
In sight of these precedents, the project suggests transforming part of these forests in order to restore the priority habitats on which they were planted. A part of them will be kept in their current role as livestock shelter.
Improving the conservation status of Atlantic wet heathlands (4020*) and active raised bogs (7110*).
The repercussions derived from the implementation of the demonstrative, conservation results-based management plans and of their associated actions on priority habitats 7110*, 7130* and 4020* will be assessed.
An innovative methodology will be applied, designed within the framework of a research project of the USC (cf. Bibliography), through which priority habitat conservation status will be monitored by means of RPAs (use of remote sensors).
Assessing the achieved conservation results. Implementing an innovative methodology to monitor habitats by means of remote sensors mounted on RPAs. Gathering information to adjust wet heaths and bog management actions if it were necessary (action C1).
LIFE IN COMMON LAND possesses a fairly relevant socio-economic component, as it focuses on the conservation of a series of habitats (7110*, 7130* and 4020*) tightly bound to human economic activities. The project influences those activities from the point of view of common land management to maintain a favourable conservation status for priority habitats (7110*, 7130*, 4020*) and to promote the rural development of these areas.
The interest in the social and economic repercussions is present throughout the whole project, from preparatory actions to direct conservation, public outreach and dissemination actions. All of them will have a positive influence on the economy of a mountain area strongly restricted from a social and environmental point of view.
Because of that, it is particularly interesting to monitor the socio-economic consequences of the project –an instrumental aspect at the time of assessing the cost-efficiency of the project (Action D3) and hence, the possibility to replicate it.
The goal of this action is to assess the contribution of the project to the socio-economic system, particularly at the local level, where communal areas are more widely established.
LIFE in COMMON LAND is a project of demonstrative and collaborative nature that will implement management models for priority habitats (4020*, 7110* and 7130*) designed in other countries (Ireland, United Kingdom and Norway) for areas of communal management. Additionally, a new methodology will be implemented for habitat monitoring through RPAs, developed for a Spanish research project participated by the USC.
One of the main aspects of LIFE IN COMMON LAND is the assessment of cost-efficiency with regard to replicating and transferring the project's actions and results. This action is designed with that goal in mind. Action cost-efficiency assessment will be used in the strategy for replication and transferal (E3).
Carrying out the assessment and monitoring of cost-efficiency with regard to replication and transferal of actions and results from LIFE IN COMMON LAND.
LIFE IN COMMON LAND is a demonstrative project aiming to preserve habitats 7130*, 7110* and 4020* through the sustainable exploitation of natural resources in common land areas located in protected zones under the Natura 2000 Network. Habitat improvement is a project goal entailing an improvement of ecosystem services, i.e. goods and services contributing to human well-being.
This action's goal consists in assessing the changes and repercussions of project LIFE in COMMON LAND to ecosystem services in the target areas.
This action is compulsory, as every LIFE project must fill out the monitoring table (LIFE Performance Indicators) to assess project results, together with the rest of LIFE projects of the LIFE Program as a whole.
In accordance to the rules and the indicator table supplied by the European Commission (EC) for 2016, indicators will be filled out in compliance with the current rules and with whichever future modifications the EC may deem necessary.
Supplying the EC with enough information to conduct the assessment of project LIFE IN COMMON LAND's impact. LAND.
Training, public outreach and result dissemination actions (E)
This action is geared towards achieving the maximum dissemination for project activities –an instrumental part of the project, given its demonstrative nature. Public outreach will be promoted regarding the importance of conserving habitats 7110*, 7130* and 4020* within the geographical scope of the project, as well as regarding the importance of human activities in said conservation and the their role as High Nature Value Farming Systems (HNVFSs) The socio-economic importance of land communal management will be highlighted, as well as specific aspects such as the importance of free-roaming wild horses, through communication methods targeting different types of social stakeholders.
E1.1 Drafting the communication and outreach plan, including different types of activities.
E1.4 Final seminar.
E1.5 Layman report.
Public dissemination of the project, both within its geographical scope and in other areas subject to similar sets of issues and under similar land-tenure systems (Galicia, Spain and other European countries), publicly promoting and valuing a sustainable rural development model tailored to montes veciñais (MMVV, by its Spanish acronym) and communal economy.
Action geared towards the training of the stakeholders maintaining habitats 4020*, 7130* and 7110* as High Nature Value Farming Systems (HNVFSs). These stakeholders are the communal proprietors with ownership over the land, who keep extensive cattle and wild ponies on the common lands.
The strategy will include the distributors of farming products, wind farming companies and companies from the touristic sector, as there is no working network currently connecting them to generate synergies.
Other actors involved on account of interest or responsibility are habitat conservation technicians, advisors, environmental organizations, land custodial associations, research centres, local associations and public bodies responsible for the management of the Natura 2000 Network.
Improving the management capacity of all the stakeholders involved through the creation of a working platform to streamline technical assistance to its recipients, while simultaneously carrying out training activities.
This action is based on a strategy for the replication and transferal of project results nationally and internationally, as well as for the integration of the findings from prior European projects.
This action is essential, given the demonstrative nature of the project. Management techniques proven effective in other locations will be adopted, while also making use on the practical level of the results from other research projects.
Synergies will be established with similar projects to avoid redundant work and to maximise progress. Additionally, mechanisms for the exchange of information will be set in place with new initiatives facilitating the effective response and/or transferal of the measures developed during the project.
Making use of the results from other European projects.
Disseminating project results nationally and internationally, effectively transferring and replicating part of the actions developed.
General operation and monitoring of the project (F)
This action encompasses all works related to project coordination, management and monitoring, including those related to the financial and administrative aspects, necessary to ensure a proper and satisfactory execution. This action comprises also the drafting of project monitoring reports, as well as an external financial audit.
The action's description omits the list of responsibilities and obligations as Beneficiary, Coordinator or Associate, as those have been clearly defined in the Annexes to the Grant Agreement and full compliance is assumed.
The goals of this action are related to the suitable implementation of the project at different levels: coordination and management at the technical, administrative and financial levels.
Ensuring compliance with the requirements and regulations established by the EC for the Program, the Grant Agreement and its Annexes.
Ensuring goal compliance in due time and form.
Maintaining the communication flow with the EC and the External Monitoring Team. Implementing, where required, the necessary contingency plans.
After-LIFE is the planning document for the interventions to be carried out once the project has concluded, ensuring its continuity. Form B6 indicates which actions will have continuance after project conclusion, this Plan identifying the specific goals. The plan will include specific measures, as well as the multi-annual budget and the information concerning the required funding commitments.
Establishing measures to ensure project LIFE is maintained over time after its conclusion. The Plan must become a tool for the replication and transferal of the actions carried out. It should facilitate the dissemination of the experience acquired and the establishment of future collaborations. The plan will consider various geographical scopes, but it will focus on the international approach.
As a demonstrative project, the main goal is the transferal of project results in order to replicate it, disseminating the experience acquired and the benefits of the practices implemented, both locally and internationally. Additionally, the plan is also intended to:
Ensure the sustainability of the investments and efforts made.
Establish a consistent and feasible work plan containing the long-term commitment of the relevant authorities.