The conservation of Campo Branco's steppe birds





The Sustainable Castro Verde Program (SCVP), developed by LPN since 1993, began with the Project "Conservation of the Castro Verde Steppe Bird Fauna", co-funded by a LIFE-Nature Program of the European Union for Nature Conservation (1993 to 1999).


The Sustainable Castro Verde Program aims to promote the conservation of steppe birds of the Campo Branco region and their habitat. The pseudo-steppe or cereal steppe of this region is recognized nationally and internationally for its importance for several bird species such as the Great Bustard (Otis tarda), the Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), the Crane (Grus grus), the Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax), the Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis) and the Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus), among others. The first two are considered globally threatened species and are included in the group of birds considered a conservation priority by the European Union.


LPN has developed several LIFE nature conservation projects in Castro Verde, which have already won awards. But the conservation of these birds is dependent on habitat maintenance and, as such, LPN has also implemented several projects that address problems associated with the preservation of rainfed agricultural systems, soil and water conservation, improvements in agricultural technologies, waste recovery, environmental education and awareness, and rural socio-economics.


Great bustard; photo by Iván Vásquez




Agriculture in synergy with conservation

Bird conservation in the Campo Branco region, with some 80000 ha considered important for birds, is dictated by the individual decisions of several hundred farmers and landowners. A change in the type of agricultural activities or the abandonment of these activities would be the end of the chances for survival of the avifauna associated with the steppe ecosystem.

Thus, and in parallel with the actions of the Sustainable Castro Verde Program, LPN has promoted global conservation actions throughout the Campo Branco region, working with the Campo Branco Farmers Association to understand the main difficulties encountered in the implementation of the Castro Verde Zonal Plan (currently designated as Castro Verde Integrated Territorial Intervention).

The Castro Verde Zonal Plan is an Agri-Environmental Measure, prepared specifically for the Campo Branco region (covering about 60000 ha), whose philosophy is based on the payment of a landscape and threatened bird conservation service to farmers who practice an agriculture compatible with the conservation of the natural heritage. The Castro Verde Zonal Plan began in 1995 and the voluntary adhesion of farmers is contracted with the Ministry of Agriculture, Sea, Environment and Spatial Planning Environment for a period of 5 years. The commitments, which farmers are obliged to make when joining this measure to ensure the conservation of birds, have associated additional costs and some loss of income. The commitments include a ban on agricultural work (plowing and mowing) during the bird breeding season and on sowing legume crops for the birds.


Roller; photo by Ivan Vasquez




At the Environmental Education Center of Vale Gonçalinho, LPN welcomes numerous tourists of various nationalities, mainly foreigners interested in birdwatching. Through specialized technicians, LPN provides information about the species, the places where they can be observed, the best times of the year and also the best day to observe them!


Female Kestrel; photo by Nuno Lecoq





LPN carries out the following Activities:


  • Guided tours, on foot or by all-terrain vehicle, in LPN's Biodiversity Reserves and throughout the Castro Verde SPA (Special Protection Area);



  • In shelters placed at strategic points for bird watching in LPN's Biodiversity Reserves. TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE.



These activities can be complemented with others, according to the visitors' interests:

  • Visits to get to know the historical and cultural heritage of the region;
  • Contact with gastronomy and handicraft, among other activities.
Castro Verde Biosphere Reserve

Castro Verde Biosphere Reserve

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