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Eurosite members protecting Mediterranean coastal birds

The Life+ ENVOLL project aims to protect and secure the breeding success of nine coastal bird species known as colonial Charadriiformes: four species of gull and four species of tern, as well as the pied avocet.

These birds all nest in coastal colonies and build their nests on the ground. They also require very specific habitats: sandy, well-drained soil, with very little vegetation, where they are protected from predators. However, due to the fixing of coastlines, the sandy islets favoured by the birds are disappearing and as a result, the species targeted by the project are endangered. Their reproduction rates are now so low that it is not possible for the populations to sustain their numbers. The yellow-legged gull also poses a threat to these species by arriving at suitable sites earlier than the colonial Charadriiformes and preventing them from nesting on these sites.

In order to tackle these problems, the Life+ ENVOLL project is creating a network of suitable nesting sites along the Mediterranean coast. Since 2007, two types of nesting site have been developed and found to be successful. The first are sites where the water level can be controlled. This means that the water level can be raised to make the sites unsuitable when the yellow-legged gulls arrive and then drained again to allow the target species to use the sites when they arrive.

Nest rafts have also been developed for sites where there is no infrastructure to control the water level. These floating structures are set up on lakes and have been particularly effective with the terns. Colonial Charadriiformes do no reuse their nesting sites and so it is important to create new sites along the entire Mediterranean coast. So far, six structures have been installed as part of the project, involving a network of partners. The project also works with site managers outside of the project who are managing sites suitable for the birds, thereby helping to guarantee to long-term viability of the species.

As well as the creation of new nesting sites, Life+ ENVOLL also aims to raise public awareness, improve the knowledge base, facilitate communication and transfer know-how. Eurosite members Tour de Valat and Aten have been involved in these elements of the project. Aten, along with the Mediterranean Lagoons Transfer Unit (Pôle Relais Lagunes Méditerranéennes), has been creating tools to train managers and stakeholders in ornithological monitoring. Eurosite members Conservatoire du littoral and Agence des aires marines protégées are also partners in the project.

You can find out more about the project on the Life+ ENVOLL website and Facebook.