GNF - First Project Meeting in the frame of the EU-Programme Leonardo da Vinci

Lake and Wetland Restoration






Topic of the meeting:

Albufera de Valencia, Spain


27 February – 2 March 2012


Lake and Wetland Restoration


Project Implementation

The first project meeting took place at Lake Albufera near Valencia, Spain. It was organized by the Spanish partner organization Fundación Global Nature (FGN) in close cooperation with the Albufera Natural Park (Parque Natural de l´Albufera de Valencia).

Albufera 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, its maximum depth measures 1.5 metres. Six small islands are lying in the Albufera Lake. 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. In 1986, an area around the lake with a size of 211 sq. km was declared a Natural Park by the regional authority. 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. There are 13 municipalities with part of their areas inside of the Natural Park of l´Albufera. Some of the villages are traditionally linked to Albufera Lake, many inhabitants work as fishermen, farmers or are dedicated to host services for the visitors of the Natural Park, such as restaurants or camping sites. Agricultural land, mostly used for rice fields (as a typical Valencian crop) and a small part for citrus fruits and vegetables, lies around the lake and the wetlands. The rice fields cover a surface of overall 145 sq. km. the use of fertilizers or pesticides causes water pollution of Albufera Lake and the wetlands.

Site Visits

A boat trip to a restored vegetation island Manseguerota gave the participants the first inside into the situation at Lake L’Albufera and its water quality. Manseguerota, is an island in the middle of the lake and currently in a critical condition. The project aimed to the reconstruction of a new sector attached to the west and subsequent re-vegetation. The filler material of the new section comes from the dredging of the bottom sediments of the lake. The discharge is direct to the area to regenerate.


The visit to the green filter of Tancat de Milia was guided by the FGN-expert Antonio Guillem who explained the functioning of the filter, its advantages and problems faced.

During the excursion to the Devesa del Saler and to the LIFE Dune project Devesa de El Saler with the “Seducción Ambiental” project the idea of restoring natural habitats in a zone destined to become a big touristic complex was explained. 


The southern sector of the Devesa is one of the best conserved and most biologically diverse areas of the Albufera Nature Reserve. As a consequence of the execution of part of an urban development plan for the Devesa, which started in 1965 and was stopped in 1978, the dune area closest to the sea (the seaward dune system), which had dunes that were up to 10 meters high, was razed to make way for a promenade, car parks, other infrastructure and housing. The dune slacks called mallades, unique environment that are subject to temporary flooding in the rainy season, were filled with sand from the destroyed dunes and replanted with eucalyptus to dry them out. The inland dune area, known as the pinada (or pine wood), was also broken up and altered by the urban development work. In contrast to the northern area, in this southern sector no buildings were constructed.


Over the last 30 years a range of actions has been carried out with the aim of restoring the whole area. The outer dune area has been completely recovered: the old infrastructures have been eliminated and the dunes have been reconstructed. In the mallades the eucalyptus have been extracted. In the inland dune area the car parks and unused infrastructures have been demolished. Part of the inner road system has been maintained to provide access for the fire services. The roads have been reduced in width and length so as to integrate them better into the environment.


Several presentations on the area, the Albufera Natural Park, green filter systems in the region and generally in Spain, as well as the restoration practices were given. International participants presented experiences in wetland restoration in their countries. Several possibilities of bettering the water quality in the Albufera lake were discussed, as well as activities for water monitoring were and land Stewardship as management tool in lake areas.


During the concluding discussion a list of alarming issues & recommendations was composed by national and international participants.

Alarming Issues

  • Lack of engagement / cooperation from land owners, farmer, politicians.
  • Rice fields and amount of fertilizer put on (lack of restrictions and the implications) should be controlled.
  • There are equal regulations throughout the EU but the control on site is very difficult also in Spain; Farmers are not motivated to do real conservation measures.
  • Under water framework directive requirements, Spain must account for lacking implementation -> the amount of fines grows. It is not a priority at the moment because of the current economic crises.
  • Difficulty in transmitting information to population.

Challenges & Chances

  • Commitment to 3 MAIN AIMS: more water; better quality; best practices. 
  • Highly divergent opinions on water quality are to be mentioned - politicians versus environmentalists.
    → Should have a scientific check on quality!
  • Option of use rice fields as filters for the lake water:
    → Stop using fertilizers and use nutrients from Albufera water;
    → Substitute cost of pumping water back into the lake for buying fertilizers.
    Issue: cost of pumping water to lake; land owners don’t want bad quality water.
  • Need to create a public standard for what the quality of the lake should be
    → Force politicians publically to act
    → Peer pressure – compare good examples.
  • Planning and implementation of pilot projects for using rice fields to do soil experiments.
 Manseguerota Island in the Albufera Lake
 Boat trip to the island
 Reed areas
 Green filter of Tancat de Milia
 Explications in the dune system of Devesa del Saler
 Trip field in the dune system of Devesa del Saler
 Rice fields along a channel