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GIS-supported habitat mapping and monitoring at opposite ends of the Mediterranean

Natura 2000 habitats of the Ria de AlvorExperience is being developed by A Rocha in the use of GIS (geographic information systems) to support the mapping and subsequent monitoring of habitats in protected areas at the two ends of the Mediterranean basin.

In Portugal, the estuarine areas of the 1500 ha Ria de Alvor "Natura 2000" site in the Western Algarve have been mapped at fine scale according to the Annex 1 habitat types of the European Habitats Directive. These comprise 15 habitats including two of highest priority (fixed "grey" sand dunes and coastal lagoons). The mapping was conducted from autumn 2004. It involved delineating habitat boundaries using a GPS (global positioning system) on the ground, and introduction of the data into the GIS on a geo-referenced aerial photograph basemap. Initial notes were made on indicators of habitat quality. The map will be used as a baseline for future monitoring of habitat extent and condition, and to set realistic habitat restoration targets within the context of a Natura 2000 management plan for the area.

The GIS platform used was ArcView 8.3, provided by ESRI’s (the Environmental Systems Research Institute) Conservation Grant Scheme.

A GIS programme was established in Lebanon in 2004 for A Rocha’s Aammiq Wetland study area. A 1:25,000 topographical map and aerial photography provided the basemaps upon which to develop a habitat map of the wetlands according to the MedWet (Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative) habitat classification, as well as 30 other datasets for Aammiq and Lebanon, ranging from bird transect routes to areas of burned reed bed in 2004. A "GIS Atlas" is being produced to enable the user to navigate and store relevant associated data.

The GIS is to support a programme, established at the start of 2005, with the aim of monitoring the quality of the wetland ecosystem for wildlife in response to human activities and successional processes. Using MedWet protocols, the programme encompasses habitats, important plant species, birds and mammals. A number of factors could potentially decrease the quantity and quality of habitat, including inadequate management of the water levels, burning and high grazing pressure affecting the reedbed areas, vegetation succession affecting areas of open water in the marsh, and cutting and burning affecting stands of trees on the wetland margins. The habitat monitoring component includes annual mapping of burned reedbed and maximum winter flood extent, twice-yearly vegetation analysis along 150 m transects, and re-mapping of all habitats on a three to five-year cycle.

The GIS platform used by A Rocha Lebanon is ArcView 3.1.

Habitats of the Aammiq Wetland
Habitats of the Aammiq Wetland

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Project leaders: Helen Baker (Portugal) and Marius Teeuw (Lebanon). For further information contact A Rocha Portugal or A Rocha Lebanon.

Partner: ESRI Conservation Grant Scheme

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