Thursday, 23 October 2014

The project is finished, but the work goes on...

The LIFE+ Sustainable Laurel Forest finished in July 2013, but SPEA's effort to protect the Azores birds and their habitats goes on in several locations of the archipelago.

In July 2013 a new project started in SPA Pico da Vara / Ribeira do Guilherme: The LIFE+ Lands of Priolo project. This project will allow to maintain and increase the conservation efforts as well as to reach new areas and promote sustainability in all the territory. To know more about this project visit

The LIFE+ Sustainable Laurel Forest finished in July 2013 having accomplished the main objectives defined. Read the Laymans report on the project to know more about its results here.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Summer activities continue in a good pace

SPEA continues to organize activities in the SPA Pico da Vara / Ribeira do Guilherme, through the program Biology in the Summer. These free activities provide an opportunity for the participants to know some of the priority habitats of the Azores, as well as its flora and fauna and the actions taken by LIFE projects coordinated by SPEA and partners to conserve these areas and species, such as the Priolo.

This weekend there were two activities. On Saturday, July 27, it took place a visit to the conservation actions undertaken during the LIFE Sustainable Laurel Forest project in the activity "Meet a conservation project", with 9 participants. In an enjoyable atmosphere, everyone got to know the intervened areas in the Graminhais Plateau, an area of ​​peatland, and Serra da Tronqueira, where you can observe the Laurel forest. We also observed some priolos in the end of this activity, presenting the participants with their presence.

Given the large amount of requests, there was a walk on Sunday to Pico da Vara, one of the most popular hiking trails on the island of São Miguel and that provides natural landscape of great beauty. Altogether there were 8 people that walked throught the trail of Graminhais - Pico da Vara - Graminhais, with a shy sunny day but with pleasant temperature. This trail crosses the plateau area of Graminhais intervened by the LIFE Sustainable Laurel Forest Project to restore peatlands found there. Nowadays it is possible to make part of this route, about 1.5 km, in a requalified trail for the protection of rare species of moss that can be observed in this area, as well as the convenience of walkers.

In August there are several proposals of activities for everyone, keep an eye out and participate in these activities, learn a little more about the Azores and its biodiversity during your vacation.
SPEA thanks all participants and invites them to participate in new activities.

SPEA received the Nordeste's Medal of Municipal Merit

The Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA) received on July 18, during the celebrations of 499 years of the municipality of Nordeste, the Medal of Municipal Merit linked to the environment. This medal is to recognize the work done by SPEA in environmental terms, especially in the preservation of Priolo, endemic bird of Nordeste and Povoação.

SPEA began regular work in Nordeste 12 years ago and throughout this period has developed two LIFE projects covering this county. These projects were dedicated to the recovery of the natural heritage of great value in this region, including the recovery and conservation of the laurel forest and Priolo.

This restoration work on the Laurel Forest, which has allowed the preservation of Priolo, has focused on the SPA Pico da Vara / Ribeira do Guilherme, in the municipalities of Nordeste and Povoação. The LIFE Priolo project was first undertaken by SPEA in this county and had a significant economic and environmental impact, and even won several awards such as "Best of the Best - Nature". It was followed by the LIFE Sustainable Laurel Forest Project, that ended in June 2013, dedicated to the recovery of the two priority habitats existing at European level here, the natural laurel forest and the Peatbogs, promoting the recovery of a greater number of areas in the SPA.

These projects have assumed great importance since they create anual jobs in the municipalities of Nordeste and Povoação, has reached more than 150 companies in the Azores and have an impact on the region's GDP, estimated in 2008 at about € 350,000 annual contribution. Also in terms of the recovery of natural areas that provide important services to the population (quality and quantity of water and soil protection, for example). Another strong point is the promotion and dissemination of the Azores and its natural heritage that has been a major point of attraction on the tourist level.

Looking once again to combine the conservation of natural values ​​with the promotion of sustainable development for the municipality, SPEA together with other partners, including the CMN and the Regional Government, managed under the LIFE Sustainable Laurel Forest Project, the assignment of the European Charter for Sustainable Development for the Lands of Priolo (municipalities of Nordeste and Povoação).

The assignment of CETS resulted in the development of a joint action plan for public and private companies for the contributing for the development of sustainable tourism, but also benefitingcfrom the conservation of Priolo and its habitat. This Charter also allowed the inclusion of Nordeste in the European network of more than 100 natural areas in 13 countries.

Also under this Charter, this year it began the implementation of the Priolo Brand for tourist-oriented businesses, that has been joined by nearly two dozen entities, looking through a joint effort to increasingly make Nordeste and the Lands of Priolo in a nature destination, boosting the local economy and providing new sustainable alternatives for thje people of Nordeste.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Ornithological Tourism actions held in São Miguel and Terceira

It was held last week in São Miguel and Terceira two editions of the Workshop "Potential and Development of Ornithological Tourism. Basics notions and recommendations for its implementation". These workshops were designed to establish a knowledge base on the subject that serves to train future professionals to integrate their activity in the ornithological tourism component, being administrative technicians, tourism or biology students, hoteliers, guides or businessmen of all types.

It is important to know in what this "new" activity consists to achieve a quality offer and have competent professionals, respectful of the environment and that undertake a sustainable activity. The workshops had a theoretical component and a day of field visit, that in São Miguel consisted on visiting the Priolo's Environmental Center.

It was possible for participants to know and understand some of the important issues in the development of this type of turism, beyond the great potential that exists in the Azores.

This action is part of the project IPOT - International ornithological tourism Project in protected areas in the Mediterranean 2011-2013 Leonardo da Vinci II, Innovation Transfer Project, 2011.

The organization was a partnership between SPEA and ART - Regional Tourism Association of the Azores, and counted with the support of the Bensaude Group.

Pictures by: Domingos Leitão

SPEA celebrated International Biodiversity Day with an endemic plantation

SPEA celebrated in São Miguel island the International Biodiversity Day organizing an endemic plants plantation activity with the students of Teaching Centre of the Basic School of Povoação. With the help of the students from this center we were able to plant 500 endemic plants in one of the areas interventioned by the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project.

The Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project has, throughout this school year, maintained a partnership with the Pedagogical Centre of Povoação which includes weekly volunteer work in the Projects nurseries.
Since the work usually done in the nursery are done, we went with this class of 10 students to the field in order for them to know one of the intervention areas of the LIFE Laurel Forest Project.

In the visited area they were intervened and controlled invasive species such as the Australian Cheesewood, the Ginger Lily and the Madeira Sweet Pepperbush. After applying the herbicide, plant by plant, it takes some time before planting, so that the herbicide action doesn't harm the plants.

So with enthusiasm and very tired at the end, these students planted about 500 plants, among laurel, Fayatree, Leontodon filii, Picconia and Azorean Plum Tree, some of the students even got blisters on both hands from grabing the hoe.

These visits aim to show in first hand to these students the work made by SPEA regarding the control of invasive species and then the planting. It should also be noted that some of the plants used in this plantation were pricked by these students.

SPEA thanks the collaboration and the availability of the Basic School of Povoação, which among many activities already pricked about 5000 plants and planted over 1000 in the intervention areas.

The Project's Greenhouse has new tenants

The LIFE Sustainable Laurel Forest Project Greenhouse, located on the road of Lomba do Loução, in Povoação, has 4 new tenants.

The Sustainable Laurel Forest Project technicians found in the middle of the Laurel Laurus azorica, existing in the greenhouse, a nest of Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea with 4 foals that have no more than two days. This is an azorian species and can be seen in virtually all habitats of the Azores, in particular, pastures, streams, forests, among others, showing preference for open habitats and nearby areas with water.

This is not the first time something like this happens, however it is always fantastic to see up close a phenomenon so common in nature. In previous years there was a successfully breeding of this species in the nursery area.

The Project Team welcomes these new members of the Grey Wagtail family and hopes that your stay in our nursery is enjoyable!

The work will continue but will always bear in mind these special occupants so as to minimize the disturbance.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Tronqueira : A Treasure to unravel

In the last weekend, SPEA Azores has organized another activity for the public of the island of São Miguel and in which 13 nature lovers participated. The activity “Tronqueira – A treasure to unravel” was thought for those who have curiosity in knowing more about the original forest of Azores – The Laurel Forest – and habitat of Priolo (the Azores Bullfinch), as well as all the work done in 10 years by SPEA and partners, in São Miguel, to preserve Priolo.

The morning started a little cold and with a dime light but with the continuation the conditions improved with the shy sunlight rays and the enthusiasm of the participants.

The road of Tronqueira is one of the areas of São Miguel where one can still find areas of this fossil forest as well as some interventioned areas by the LIFE project that is concluding this summer, coordinated by SPEA in Azores – Sustainable Laurel. This project has several partners such as the Regional Government, through the actual Natural Resources Secretariat and the Municipality of Povoação.

In this activity, it was possible to observe the evolution of areas recovered in the previous LIFE Priolo project (concluded in 2008) and conservation actions in areas of forest of low-mid and high altitude. About 350 hectares have been targeted in 10 years of work. In both projects 150 thousand endemic and native plants  have been used in these areas, some of which were seen in this activity.

It was a morning well passed with children and adults and in which Priolo, a bird that sometimes hides from sight, has not appeared.

SPEA thanks all participants, specially those who join the montly suggestions of activities  more often.

To get mores information about our activities, please register to receive our newsletter at

Friday, 19 April 2013

5th grade students visit the Projects Greenhouse

On April 17, students from the 5th grade of the Escola Básica da Povoação visited the nurseries of the LIFE+ Sustainable Laurel Forest Project, located in povoação. This visit is part of the Priolo's Environmental Center (CAP) School Program and has often been conducting various activities on the importance of the natural habitats of the Azores, with schools of the municipalities of Povoação and Nordeste.

The students form the class 5ºB

The students had the opportunity to get to know the tasks performed in the nursery production of native plants, from the collection of fruits and seeds in the forest, the different treatments to which they are subjected to be sown. In the seed boxes it was possible to see the plants that germinated, fruit of this work.

The Students from the class 5ºA

After germination, it was explained to the students that these plants are moved to pots and containers where they stay for a certain amount of time, which varies to the plant's rate of growth, and where they get to develop under the optimum conditions of temperature and humidity provided by the greenhouse.

After this phase and after the plant has reached some size, these plants are placed outside for an adjustment period for the minimum time of 3 months, and only after that will these endemic and native plants be ready to be planted in the natural habitats that are being recovered by the project.

SPEA thanks the students and the teachers for the interest shown. This was another contribution of the CAP and of the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project, to raise awareness  in the students about the natural habitats of Azores.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Birdlife International highlights Priolo's conservation in Brussels

Birdlife International promotes a meeting today, April 17, in Brussels aimed at technicians and the responsible sector of the European Commission under the topic "How can Nature leverage other sectors?". One of the highlights of this event is the Priolo's conservation, in the Azores, as an example of the economic impact that the nature conservation projects can have on local economies.

This meeting is organized by the European division of Birdlife International, joining the technicions from the conservation projects and responsible for the development and implementation of European policies on environment, agriculture, cohesion and marine. Thus it is intended to share best practices and results showing the importance of nature conservation in Europe as a way to develop other sectors in a more sustainable way.

The Priolo's conservation, which will be presented by the project's coordinator Joaquim Theodosius from SPEA, has been a good example of the importance of these projects to foster a comprehensive and more integrated the economies of the rural areas. The importance of the project is reflected for example in terms of job creation, with about 20 direct jobs annually in the municipalities of Nordeste and Povoação, or on the over 150 companies already covered by the project in Azores, as well as its impact in the Region's GDP, estimated in 2008 at about € 350,000 of annual contribution. Also in terms of the recovery of natural areas that provide important services to the population (quality and quantity of water and soil protection, for example).

Another important aspect has been the promotion and dissemination of the Azores and its natural heritage that has been a major point of attraction on the tourist level. At this level there is the process that led to the awarding of the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism to the Lands of Priolo (counties of Nordeste and Povoação), as well as the Priolo Brand (who has recorded 20 applications for membership from businesses). The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism and the Priolo Brand Priolo are excellent examples of good practice in the management of nature and public participation, allied to local development, being the subject of interest from several participants of this seminar. These participatory processes ongoing in the Azores are still quite pioneering in Portugal.

At the end of last week, the Ornithological Tourism in the Azores and the socioeconomic impact of the Priolo's conservation projects and its habitat in the region, were highlighted at the seminar organized by the Castro Verde League for the Protection of Nature devoted to "Tourism Potentials ornithological for sustainable development of rural areas in Portugal".

For Angelo Caserta, European Division of BirdLife International Director and knowledgeable of the Priolo's conservation project, "the work done to save the Priolo has been an example not only on preserving a European and world natural heritage but also in getting clear benefits for the local people". This is one of the five examples to be presented at the meeting today in Brussels to which for the Director of Birdlife are "examples to be repeated across Europe."

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

School Program takes students to visit the Laurel Forest

Last week, students from the municipalities of Nordeste and Povoação visited the laurel forest accompanied by their teachers and some technicians from the Priolo's Environmental Center (CAP). This visit is part of various activities that constitute the CAP School Program "Knowing Ecosystems, Secure the Future," a partnership with SPEA and the Ciência Viva Agency.

Azorean Heather (Erica Azorica

In total, 36 students were able to discover the Laurel in a different way and in direct contact with many of the plants that are part of Priolo's Habitat in whitch he depends on to survive. On April 10, the students from the 10th grade from the Basic and Secundary School of Nordeste went to the viewpoint of Pelado in the locality of Fazenda in order to identify some of the plants that exist in this coastal forest. Having observed, among many others, the Fayatree and the Azorean heather. Later the group went to the priolo's Environmental Center where they observed the Altitude Laurel Forest, consisting on other species of endemic and native plants. Here we can find species like the Azorean Juniper, Azorean holly, Azorean Plum Tree, Buckthorn among others.

Labaçal - one of the interventioned areas by the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project

On the next day, Thursday April 11, it was time for a class from the Basic and Secondary School of Povoação, one of the counties that are part of the SPA Pico da Vara / Ribeira do Guilherme and where we can find Laurel forest. These students performed a slightly different route, having visited one of the first areas recovered by the LIFE Sustainable Laurel Forest Project. After a short walking route, these young povoacenses watched closely the result of the recovery actions developed by the team of SPEA and after the removal of the exotic plants, like Ginger Lily and Australian Cheesewood, they can more easily identify several endemic and native plants. In this activity, students identified species like Hawkbit, Lily of the Valley Tree, Azorean Plum Tree, Azorean Juniper, Azorean heather, Common Heather, among others that can be seen in this area located at the beginning of the Serra da Tronqueira near the regional road - Nordeste to Povoação.

Part of the class that made the "Discovering Laurel Forest" activity

The CAP team and the LIFE Sustainable Laurel Forent Project thank the participation of all the students and teachers being expected more of these activities in April and May.

Azorean Plum Tree (Prunus Azorica)

Learn more about the activities of the Center School Program HERE