New LIFE project wants to protect barrier islands

The project is coordinated by the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA)

Protect the barrier islands, «without which the Ria Formosa would not be what it is today». This is the main objective of the new LIFE project that will be presented this Tuesday, February 4th, at the Marim Environmental Education Center, in Olhão.

The project is coordinated by the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA) which will work together with the RIAS/Aldeia, Animaris, the Institute for Nature and Forest Conservation and the Universities of the Algarve and Coimbra.

The initiative is launched in the week that celebrates the International Day of Wetlands (2 February) and after the first meeting of the IPCC, at the University of Algarve.

The barrier islands are a set of five islands (Barreta, or Deserta, Culatra, Armona, Tavira and Cabanas) and two peninsulas (Ancão and Cacela) which, as the name implies, form a barrier between the sea and the Ria Formosa.

“The contours of these extensive dune bodies are constantly being redefined by natural agents of coastal dynamics,” explains SPEA.

This LIFE Barreiras Islands project will serve to assess “how this dynamic could be affected by climate change – important information for the conservation of the Ria Formosa, for the people living on some of the islands and for the species that depend on this special ecosystem”, he adds.

«In addition to their importance in maintaining the Ria Formosa, the barrier islands are themselves an important refuge for some sea birds: Deserta island is the only place in our country where the Audouin's gull nests, and the islands are home to populations important twitter.

LIFE Ilhas Barreira will study the state of the populations of these species, as well as the dynamics between the gulls and the dunes and assess the need for conservation measures. The project will also promote the sustainable use of these islands among local communities and visitors, aiming to involve all schools in the five municipalities of Ria Formosa in hundreds of environmental awareness activities.

Off the barrier islands, the endangered Balearic Sparrow and several seabirds look for food in important fishing areas. In this project, researchers and environmentalists will work closely with fishermen to prevent these birds from becoming trapped in fishing gear.

The Nature and Forest Conservation Institute, through the Regional Directorate for Nature and Forest Conservation of the Algarve, states that «this is yet another project that adds scientific knowledge, involving and empowering civil society to safeguard and protect natural values ​​in the Ria Formosa».

“These islands are much more than a protection. They are a source of life that attracts tourists and chirps, and supports fishermen and seagulls. Together, we can guarantee that they will continue to be so,” says Joana Andrade, coordinator of the project and SPEA's Marine Conservation Department.