2nd Project meeting in Valencia: time to play, reflect and visit the Albufera lake

Our project partners held a fruitful meeting in Valencia, Spain, last November 12-13. Hosted by the Politechnical University of Valencia, our team gathered to fulfil the ambitious agenda, that included a workshop and a field trip.

This is the second meeting to discuss the progress of the SUSTAIN project.

The SUSTAIN had their meeting in Agromuseu de Vera, a beautiful venue and museum. It is located in the old mill of Vera Channel, built in the XV century and belonging to the ancient irrigation system of La Vega de Valencia, which was built by the Moorish in the XI century and still manages the irrigation water around the city of Valencia. The mill was restored in 2006 by the Valencian Government and was transferred to the Universitat Politècnica de València for its management during the next 50 years. The museum hosts a unique library with very valuable agricultural books and a permanent exhibition of traditional agricultural tools. This ethnographic museum is also used for meetings and workshops.

 

 

 

The meeting began with a presentation of the three learning modules on sustainable landscapes that are in development by the Dutch, Spanish and Cypriote team: the program of the modules, the contents and the exchangeability of them, between the countries. Next, we exchanged ideas about the toolkit that will be developed for both the secondary school pupils and the teachers and discussed the contents given of the three modules on sustainable landscapes. At the end of the day, the Dutch, Spanish and Cypriote team pitched the network of stakeholders that are or will be involved in the SUSTAIN project and we discussed afterwards how we want to involve them in the project. It was a day of lively discussions and good to learn from each other about the differences between countries concerning education, local nature conservation and policies, that are of value to the SUSTAIN project.

                                          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the second day, the SUSTAIN team visited the Albufera lake. The lake lies approx. 12 km south of the city Valencia, the third greatest Spanish city with approx. 700,000 inhabitants. The shallow lake is separated by a sand barrier from the Mediterranean Sea. The fresh water lake covers a surface of 27 sq. km. Six small islands are lying in the Albufera Lake.   Our SUSTAIN team visited this area to get more insight in the issues that play a role in the management of the area

The Albufera is one of the most important wetlands in the Iberian Peninsula. In 1986, an area around the lake with a size of 211 sq. km was declared a Natural Park- Parque Natural de l´Albufera de Valencia-  by the regional authority. And in December 1989, Albufera Lake and its surrounding wetlands were nominated as Ramsar site. Furthermore, the area was declared as a bird protection area, because till 250 different bird species have been living here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The great diversity of natural habitats makes the Albufera Natural Park a very attractive space for a large number of plants, fish, invertebrates and birds. Waterfowl are, without a doubt, the most numerous and outstanding group of species in this area throughout the year, and that justifies that l'Albufera is included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance according to the criteria of the Ramsar Convention. Throughout the nesting period, l'Albufera receives a high number of birds, the most numerous being different species of gulls and terns, waders and herons, totaling over 7,000 breeding pairs. During the winter this space also receives a large number of birds – above 20,000!- and especially Anatidae, the scientific name for the biological family of birds that includes ducks, swans and geese, as well as herons,  waders and seagulls. The SUSTAIN team had the chance to experience the wonders of the lake, spotting a big number of birds along the way with rarities like the purple swamp-hen* and booted eagle**!

 

                

            

 

 

                             Photo: Richard Taylor                                                                                                                    Photo: Juan Lacruz

 

Other important ecosystems with a high ecological value that we can find in the surroundings of the lake are the beach, the dunes, the “malladas” (temporary small lagoons between the fringes of dunes), the wetland and the Mediterranean forest.

A highlight was the educational tour during which we were informed on the actions of Tancat de la Pipa by one of their ecologists. Tancat de la Pipa is a Nature Reserve within the Albufera de Valencia Natural Park, located on the north shore of the lake and is the result of a process of ecological restoration carried out in 2007 by the Jucar Hydrographic Confederation. Forty hectares of rice fields were transformed into a freshwater wetland habitant that now functions as a biodiversity reserve thanks to the continual process of water improvement that takes place in its green filters and lagoons.

 

The reserve is open to the public and to educational organizations. The SUSTAIN group had a brilliant guided tour in which we were introduced to how the vegetation that is grows in the green filters improved the quality of the water, and how the fauna that thrives the benefits from this. The existence of Tancat de la Pipa is possible because of the collaboration of various organisations such as Accio Ecologista-Agro and SEO/BirdLife that monitor its wildlife, vegetation and biodiversity as well as carrying out extensive work in the areas of environmental education and awareness via tours and citizen science projects with local schools in which pupils are involved in the monitoring of invertebrates and other wildlife.

 

 

After the fantastic visit at Albufera, the SUSTAIN group had a training session about “Lego Serious Play”, a facilitation methodology created by The Lego Group with the goal of fostering creative thinking.  After some warming-up exercises, we used the Lego to visualise the different stakeholders in the SUSTAIN project. Each member of the team then visualised the connections between stakeholders and the tools we need to address that specific stakeholder to get them involved in the SUSTAIN project. The Lego Serious Play turned out to be a very inspiring and fruitful way to discuss the theme. At the end, we had a list of dissemination tools we need to develop to address our stakeholders.

This winter and spring, secondary school pupils and teachers in each of the three countries will run and test the three learning modules on sustainable landscapes. They will also use the toolbox. After this first run, we will evaluate the three modules and the two toolkits and improve them where needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* and **: Pictures from Swamp-hen and Booted eagle from Wikimedia Commons.

Swamp-hen from Richard Taylor, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Booted eagle from Juan Lacruz, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.