The 11th Biosphere Reserve in Portugal recognized by UNESCO and the first one south of the Tagus.


The Castro Verde Biosphere Reserve is located in the heart of the "White Field", in the long and extensive plains of the Baixo Alentejo. A flat land of gentle relief, where the view is lost to the horizon, it has a great diversity of natural and cultural values, which are unique and of great interest on a regional, national and international scale. These values are the result of an ancient human-nature relationship, whose historical process of land use and occupation has given rise to an agro-ecosystem of high conservation value.


Given the gentle orography, the characteristics of the predominantly schistose and thin soils and the typically Mediterranean climate, land use in Castro Verde has always been associated with cattle breeding and later with the cultivation of rainfed cereals. Farming practices evolved into a traditional plot rotation scheme, in which after two years of cereal cultivation, the land is left fallow (i.e. uncultivated) so that it can recover its fertility and function as meadows for the cattle. Here, on this vast plain, agriculture and pastoralism have coexisted for a long time, shaping a landscape of rare beauty and high conservation value: the cereal steppes.


Among the extraordinary biodiversity that occurs here, a structured and diverse bird community stands out, with around 200 species, including the emblematic steppe birds, such as the Great Bustard, and birds of prey, such as the Iberian Imperial Eagle. With an area of 569.4 km2 and an approximate population of 7,500 inhabitants distributed in around twenty small and very small towns, the Castro Verde Biosphere Reserve has a rural character, which is reflected in the cultural traditions and customs that are still present today and mark the identity of the people of this territory.


Castro Verde's vast plain includes a mosaic of ecological systems, rich in habitats and species, specific to the Mediterranean Biogeographical Region. Generally speaking, the steppe ecosystem is predominant, being present in a large proportion of the territory, only being discontinued by the valleys of the streams that "tear", here and there, the cereal steppes. In the southernmost part of the Biosphere Reserve there are a few patches of cork oak forest and denser scrubland. There are occasional wetlands (natural and artificial), forest stands of stone pine or holm oak (pure or mixed) and a few areas of permanent crops (namely patches of traditional olive groves and recent vineyards), as well as a few kitchen gardens.


Of the habitats present, special attention should be paid to the sub-steps of grasses and annuals of the Thero-Brachypodietea, the areas of holm oak forests (Quercus rotundifolia) and the Mediterranean temporary ponds, whose safeguarding is a priority for the conservation of populations of wild fauna and flora, especially in the territory of the European Union.


Biosphere/Castro Verde


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