Medartsal celebrates the Earth Day: The breeding season in salinas is here!

CVP -Bahía de Cádiz

It is in April, in the middle of spring, when birds begin to settle in their favourite places for breeding. In the case of shorebirds, they naturally breed on beaches and estuaries. However, human pressure on these habitats has forced birds to choose other breeding sites as the Salinas, specifically the artisanal ones.

So how come these human-modified habitats are so attractive for birds? Numerous scientific studies have shown that Salinas have favourable characteristics for their feeding, rest and reproduction, which turns them into sites of great importance for these delicate birds. Due to the appropriate management of the floodgates in saltpans it is possible to maintain stable water levels in ponds of different depths, which favours the diversity of prey from which the waders feed. In addition, the high salinity makes it possible for a small invertebrate like Artemia sp to grow in large numbers with very few predators, so the birds can find abundant, affordable and predictable food. Isn’t that perfect? This convenient way of finding food is one of the reasons why species such as pied avocet, little tern, black-winged stilt and kentish plover choose the Salinas to form their nests. Furthermore, the substrate on which they settle prevents the eggs from becoming embedded in the ground because of moisture and promotes their camouflage, which also protects them from aerial predators. As an example of the importance of Salinas for breeding is the Cádiz Bay, where more than 70% of nests are found in Salinas. That is why the actions of improvement and maintenance of the structures of the saltpans are crucial to be able to receive these birds during the breeding season, which lasts until the end of summer. 

Another fundamental aspect to bear in mind is the need to conciliate salt extraction efforts with the survival of these valuable nests. During the breeding months, salt workers pay special attention and care not to disturb or damage nests. This can be achieved through the proper signalling of the breeding areas, as well as the temporary compatibility of both activities. In this way, artisanal Salinas are a clear example of the integration of biodiversity with the local economy and culture. It is important to respect the environment in order to continue enjoying the natural resources it offers in a sustainable way.

If you are a birdwatcher and you are planning to visit a saltpan during the spring and summer months, please do not enter the designated breeding areas so as not to disturb these feather families, and use the indicated safe paths. In addition, if you have patience and return to the Salina in September you can enjoy spectacular images of these birds about to embark on their migratory routes, as well as the salt harvest process. Ah, and don’t forget to take some of the artisanal products obtained in the Salinas, such as fleur de sel or edible algae, to remember this experience when you are back home.

Article written by: Yana Korneeva, Researcher at University of Cadiz, Department of Biology

Image: Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrines) (c) Ferran Pestaña CC BY-SA 2.0)