He decline of Doñana In terms of birdlife, it is already being surpassed by other wetlands in the Andalusian region itself. The Spanish Society of Ornithology (SEO/BirdLife) has indicated that during the spring of 2023 the Natural Area and Biosphere Reserve of Marismas del Odiel (Huelva) has become “the main” breeding area for waterfowl in Andalusiasurpassing the reproduction figures of the Doñana National Park”, with less than 3,000 pairs, “immersed in an unprecedented biodiversity crisis due to water scarcity”, he indicated in a note.

The organization has explained that, according to the monitoring data provided by the Junta de Andalucía in this space, during this year a total of 5,561 breeding pairs of 24 different species of waterfowl.

And this coastal wetland located in front of the city of Huelva “hoards some of the most important tidal marshes on the Iberian Peninsula”, which makes it a place “of enormous importance” for migratory birds in the Mediterranean basin. Despite this, SEO points out that “tidal marshes are among the ecosystems most threatened by the impact of human activities and climate change, with a confirmed loss of biodiversity, which is why they need special attention.”

Precisely, in January 2023 the SEO/BirdLife Office in Doñana launched the project Protecting Biodiversity in the Marismas del Odiel Biosphere Reserve with funding from the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA). This project aims to contribute to improving the conservation of this emblematic Huelva natural space through volunteering, “with special interest in the participation of people residing in the municipalities integrated into the Biosphere Reserve.”

Breeding birds “that now cannot breed in Doñana”

SEO/BirdLife indicates that the “optimal” flooding of coastal wetlands such as The Odiel marshes are allowing the populations of breeding birds to be welcomed “that now cannot breed in Doñana”. Most of the censused pairs are part of a large colony of 4,200 pairs of common flamingos. and two pairs of dwarf flamingos.

In this sense, the organization has highlighted that the flamingo colony of the Odiel marshes is “the only one that has been successful this year in all of Andalusia“In addition, 155 pairs of spoonbills have nested, as well as several species of herons and common blackbirds.

The little tern has had the largest colony on the Huelva coast, with 289 pairs —mainly in the dredging ponds managed by the Port Authority of Huelva— and 175 chickens. This area is home to the only common pratincole colony that exists in Huelva, which this year had 26 pairs and 23 chicks.

Aerial view of the Huelva wetland

On the other hand, the organization has stressed that the Odiel marshes are the main area of ​​Andalusia for the reproduction of the osprey. This year six pairs have nested, obtaining a total of ten chicks. Furthermore, the value of this space “is multiplied by the presence of a very rare breeding species in Andalusia, a pair of common terns that this year once again raise a pair of chicks.”

According to the SEO/BirdLife technician in the Doñana Office and responsible for the project in the Odiel marshes, Carlos Molina, “the conservation of coastal wetlands such as the Odiel marshes are essential for waterfowl” since “Its role is crucial to shelter the species of other wetlands in crisis, without the capacity to host their usual populations of breeding birds, as is the current case of the Guadalquivir marshes”.

SEO/BirdLife actions in the area

SEO/BirdLife has highlighted that, in its first year, the Protecting Biodiversity in the Marismas del Odiel Biosphere Reserve project has allowed the implementation of a “wide” range of environmental conservation and restoration activities.

Among these activities, numerous days of eradication of invasive exotic vegetation with the removal of more than 10,700 liters of donkey grass volume, Oenothera drumondii, and garbage cleaning activities in different parts of the area’s coastline in which about 750 kilos of garbage have been collected. There has also been a day of planting native vegetation with 200 specimens of myrtle, junipers, wild olive trees, strawberry trees and cork oaks.

Odiel marshes wetland

Regarding the conservation of biodiversity, there have been days of protection and monitoring of breeding bird colonies, marking an area of ​​about two hectares with more than 70 signs. The scientific ringing program has allowed the marking of more than a hundred birds belonging to 20 species, as well as the capture of ringed birds in Estonia and Belgium.

All of these activities have included social participation, reaching a total of 85 people who have been able to collaborate throughout these first 12 months, “generating nearly 300 participations.” The activities have had the collaboration of other entities, such as the Sustainability Classroom of the University of Huelva, the Red Cross or Tragsatec.

On the other hand, the project includes an education and awareness campaign through the social networks of the SEO/BirdLife Office in Doñana, where publications covering different topics are periodically uploaded. In this line, it was developed Playas de Vida, a guide to good practices for coastal tourism during the breeding season in the Marismas del Odiel Biosphere Reserve in English and Spanish. The guide is available and downloadable for free both from the SEO/BirdLife website and through a QR code printed on the signs placed around the bird colonies.


Contact of the Environment section: [email protected]