🇪🇸 [Spain] 🐦 Where is biodiversity on the beach?
Far from being a barrier to tourism, the biodiversity of beaches represents a major appeal to tourists eager to enjoy breathtaking scenery and nature.
Today is World Environment Day and, in 2020 the theme is biodiversity. As the UN states it: “Recent events, from bushfires in Brazil, the United States, and Australia to locust infestations across East Africa – and now, a global disease pandemic – demonstrate the intrinsic relationship between humans and the webs of life, in which they exist.”
The example of the Carchuna beach in southern Spain shows that we have much to learn about this relationship and how we can improve it. A relationship determined by global, national, local, as much as personal decisions that can affect the most vulnerable, in this case, a little bird.
The Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) is a bird that goes unnoticed, not only because we do not see it when it conceals its nest among the vegetation and the beach dunes, but also because we do not see how its population disappears. And now Carchuna is the only beach in the province of Granada and one of the few in the Mediterranean, where it manages to reproduce.
The habitat of the plover has been altered or definitely lost in the last decades in many beaches by permanent constructions or temporary facilities. In Carchuna, between the greenhouses, bars, hotels, palm trees and sports fields, some last hectares have been conserved where 8-9 pairs can lay their eggs. And every year some clutches and chicks are lost due to mechanized cleaning machinery or due to disturbance by beach users. All this results from the lack of simple protective measures that are perfectly compatible with visitor access to the beach!
It is incredible that in the year 2020 some local administrations still see biodiversity as a threat to tourism. Does every square meter of the beach have to be “cleaned” with heavy machinery, cleared from vegetation and utilized? What if on 4 kilometers of beach some natural areas were left untouched with umbrellas occupying only the closest part of the sea and tourists passing through enabled footbridges? Such simple measures would allow coexistence with the exceptional and fragile fauna and flora surrounding us.
The good news is that in the province of Granada there are nature-lovers who carry on the census of the plover population, identify the factors that threaten it and propose measures for its conservation. And thanks to these activists, the most vulnerable of the vulnerable has a chance to survive!
What can we do to save the beach birds?
- Respect the marked areas and natural vegetation of the dunes to avoid stepping on nests and chicks.
- Access the beach only on foot.
- Access the beach only via the special footbridges or, in the absence of these, on regularly used paths.
- Do not collect wild plants or animals.
- Keep dogs on a leash, especially during the breeding season (15th of February to 15th of August).
- Do not organize parties, large gatherings of people or fires in the breeding season on natural beaches. The worst period for plovers in Spain is the night of Saint John in late June when thousands of bonfires are made on Spanish beaches.
What to demand from municipalities and beach managers?
- Define areas on the beach dedicated to protect sensitive flora and fauna and separate these from the busiest areas using wooden poles and ropes.
- Inform tourists using posters, information brochures and specialized personnel.
- Do not use heavy machinery in the nesting areas, as well as in low light hours.
- Do not clear natural vegetation during the breeding season (15th of February to 15th of August) to avoid destroying nests and killing chicks.
- Do not plan permanent constructions and temporary installations in sensitive areas for fauna and flora, dunes, etc.
Far from being a barrier to tourism, the biodiversity of beaches represents a major appeal to tourists eager to enjoy breathtaking scenery and nature. So rather than destroying those fragile ecosystems, we can contribute to saving them and add value to our environment!