20 years of Footprints of SEO/BirdLife at Ebro Delta
As 2014 is the 60th anniversary of SEO/Birdlife in Spain and the 20th anniversary in Catalonia, perhaps now is the moment to stop, remember and reflect on certain key aspects of our history in this huge wet area and on the mark that our people have left in the sands of the Delta.
SEO/BirdLife started conservation action of the Delta "in situ", in 1994, beginning with a Conservation Campaign which culminated in a Conference on Sustainable Development and Conservation of the Ebro Delta, which was summarized in the edition of PLA DELTA XXI in 1996. The importance of the rice fields continued existence was stressed as a key factor for much of the Delta’s ecological system.
The next step for reassessing the full value of this crop and its environmental aspects was to establish the Life-Natura (1997-1999) ecological rice research project. To show the possibility of recovering natural systems, 6 hectares of rice fields were bought to be restored into a wet area: the Reserva Ornitológica de El Clot (El Clot Ornithological Reserve).
In January 2001 the company Riet Vell SA was set up and acquired a site of 55 hectares for producing ecological rice.
On acquiring this land the Riet Vell Reserve was created to recover marshlands, biodiversity and scenic quality, always considering the rice fields as a true wetland. 7 hectares of rice fields were transformed into a freshwater lake, 2.5 hectares into reed beds and 1.5 hectares into a salt marsh, modifying the contour of the land and management of water resources, planting indigenous riverside trees or lengthening the period of flooding for some of the rice fields to favour aquatic fauna. The Plan de Gestión de Riet Vell (Riet Vell Management Plan) was introduced in 2002.
Over the years lots of conservation action has taken place in the two SEO / BirdLife reserves: repopulation of borders with lilies, creating a nursery of riverside trees and protected plants, a seed bank and nest boxes for birds, among others.
Since 2002, the programme for general public use by visitors, educational use of the reserves and scientific and environmental volunteer work has been developed. In twelve years there have been more than 1,700 volunteers both foreign and those resident in the Hogar del Voluntario de Riet Vell (Riet Vell Residence for Voluntary Workers).
In 2003 the Swarowski observatory was built at the Riet Vell lagoon, which is open to the public and is a reference for ornithological tourism in the area.
In 2004 the Barraca Tradicional – Centro de Visitantes de Riet Vell, (Traditional cottage - Riet Vell Visitors Centre) with reception, exhibition room and multi-purpose room, with various activities taking place for the general public as well as educational programmes and different sensitization programmes like “Delta Birds with your family”.
The campaign to include the Delta rice fields in the Natura 2000 Network, in 2006, made it possible for more than 6,700 hectares of rice fields to obtain this level of protection, which has not led to agricultural limitations, but to support of the recognition of natural value of the Delta rice fields as multi-functional systems.
Since 2005, SEO/BirdLife has participated in a procedure for the Ebro Delta Natural Park to be granted the European Charter for sustainable tourism. Our association is responsible for encouraging ornithological tourism and traditional tourism (in conjunction with Josep Polet) a member from the charter.
One of the latest projects, in conjunction with DeltaPolet, has been Arrosvolució 000, which is also based on volunteer work and consists of manually farming ecological rice and processing traditionally without the use of fossil fuels, achieving an exceptional gourmet product, a pre-industrial brand name, and all with the participation of visitors, making it one of the most popular activities at Riet Vell Reserve.
This whole journey, where people have left their mark, traces a path which forces us to look ahead. In 2014 we are prepared to continue working, basically in four foreseeable areas:
With environmental volunteer work against invasive species which put the natural environment and agriculture on the Delta in danger.
In improving and exposing agriculture and ecological food as key elements in developing the Biosphere Reserve.
In environmental education and awareness, with the Plan for Public Use of the Riet Vell Reserve, among other tools, bringing satisfaction to visiting families and ornithological tourists.
Supporting the land to obtain an authentic plan for a sustainable river basin which brings the flow of water and enough sediment to save the Delta from the impending danger of marine poverty, salinization, collapse and regression.
We encourage you to get to know and take part in our project!
Our forthcoming activities are:
Festival of Natural and Cultural Diversity at the Ebro Delta
Time: 10am to 2pm
Traditional local and international cultural activities and biodiversity of the Delta
The International Day of Birds
Time: 10am to 6pm
Bird watching and ringing and traditional activities and nature games.
Saturday: Harvesting Arrosvolució 000.
Sunday: Ringing at Clot de L’Encanyissada.
Time: 10am to 2pm
Activities related to cultivating rice fields: traditional constructions, bird watching and photographing, bird ringing, nature games technical discussions.
Ecological paella (price to be announced soon).
Waders having fun
Time: 10am to 2pm
Traditional activities and wintering birds’ courtship rituals
Find our main activities for the public throughout the year on:
- “Riet Vell Reserva de SEO/BirdLife” Facebook
- The SEO/BirdLife calendar at www.seo.org
All of the information on our nature reserve at www.seo.org/catalunya/reserva-natural-de-rietvell-tarragona, or you can ask for information at firstname.lastname@example.org