The project

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Wetlands are ecosystems widespread around the world. However, their long-term exploitation and draining reduced their extension to thousands of hectares. Nevertheless, awareness of the conservation of these areas rich in biological diversity has been rising during the past decades. The salt marsh of La Pletera is no exception: its coastal location links directly to the urban development due to tourism.

In April of 1986, the urban plan of La Pletera was approved, and the draining and urban process was initiated, with the dumping of piles of rubble. In August of 1988, the first phase of the urban plan was completed, and subsequently, the urban process was stopped. Meanwhile, the Generalitat de Catalunya approved the Natural Areas Law (1985) and the Natural Areas Plan (1992) even though La Pletera was not protected by any legal entity.

In March of 1998, the Direcció General de Costes changed the limits of the maritime-terrestrial public domain from behind the urban zone, considering the whole area as salt marsh area to be protected under the Coastal Law 22/1988. Thus, it was declared non-urban zone and was included as EIN (Interesting Natural Space). In 2016, the Generalitat approved the areas that were included in the Nature 2000 Network, where La Pletera was included. In 2010, the law for the creation of the Natural Park of the Montgrí, Medes Isles and Baix Ter was approved, with the same limits of the area ES5120016 Nature 2000.

The main objective of the LIFE Pletera project is the building deconstruction of the coastal lagoon system and the restoration of its ecological functionality, which is currently altered by abandoned infrastructure, one promenade, and streets. This objective includes developing a good response to climate change (sea level rise and more storms) and the ecological functioning of the entire system, over both short and long term. The actions planned in order to achieve this goal are the deconstruction of the built-up areas and the restoration of the previous wetlands and their ecological functioning.

The second objective is the dissemination of the results. On the one hand, the project seeks to demonstrate, both to the local population and to tourists, the importance of the conservation of these ecosystems in order to reduce the ecological footprint. On the other hand, the project seeks to demonstrate how an area that has been critically harmed by the urban expansion can still be restored ecologically.

The third objective is the increase of the capacity of carbon fixing of the coastal systems and the reduction of CO2 emissions.

STRUCTURE AND FINANCIAL ORGANISATION

Coordinating beneficiary: Torroella de Montgrí Town Council
Associated beneficiaries:
Generalitat de Catalunya – Parc Natural del Montgrí, les Illes Medes i el Baix Ter
Empresa de Transformació Agrària – TRAGSA
University of Girona – Càtedra d’Ecosistemes Litorals Mediterranis
Co-financier: Diputació de Girona

Budget:

Total: 2.528.148 €
UE: (75%) 1.896.111 €
Torroella de Montgrí Town Council: 263.136 €
Generalitat de Catalunya: 131.569 €
TRAGSA: 131.569 €
University of Girona: 45.763 €
Diputació de Girona: 60.000€

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“A zone strongly punished by urbanistic interest can be restored”

Current estatus

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15 %

The project is currently in this state.

Preparation: A.1

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ADAPTATION OF THE EXECUTIVE PROJECT AND SETTING UP ENTRANCE AREAS

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The proposal was planned in 2007 by the and the ABM Serveis Enginyeria i Consulting SL Company, commissioned by the ; however, it has never been executed. The proposal established the criteria for the ecological functionality of the system: The bands are parallel to the coast, according to the typical structure of the Mediterranean salt marsh: a first band of coastal dune, a second band of fore dune, a third band of coastal lagoons, and a fourth band of salt marsh. Since the executive project was drafted, some weather events generated a geomorphologic dynamism that has changed a few of the future criteria designs of the area. Nevertheless, the associated beneficiaries couldn’t take part in the elaboration of the project; therefore, a joint adaptation to the new situation is needed.

Who: Torroella de Montgrí Town Council
Predicted cost: 9434 euros

Preparation: A.2

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TOPOGRAPHY UPDATING AND IMPROVING GROUNDWATER CIRCULATION KNOWLEDGE

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The 2007 project will be updated with the changes in topographic heights that may have been caused by the sand intrusion into the salt marsh. The cartography of the groundwater circulation is anticipated to identify the flow of freshwater and saltwater. Hydrological and topographic information is essential because any intrusion of freshwater in the La Pletera zone could harm the Iberian toothcarp (Aphanius iberus) population, while any intrusion of saltwater inland could damage cultivable lands.

Who: University of Girona
Predicted cost: 9434euros

Preparation: A.3

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PREPARATION OF REPLANTATION AND SUPPORT TASKS

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The actions consist of three kinds of works:

  1. Nursery with halophilic species, plants, and seeds
  2. Nursery with psammophilic species, plants, and seeds
  3. Invasive species control

 

  1. Halophytic species nursery: in case the soil quality doesn’t allow the natural growth of plants, plant reinforcement may be necessary.
  2. Dune species nursery: to support the dune restoration traps by replanting dune species.
  3. Invasive species control: the existence of new soils favours the new invasive opportunistic species. Continuous controls must be carried out to avoid possible sprouts or new colonization. The control of the existing rods of the cane (Arundo donax) area will be needed.

Who: Generalitat de Catalunya
Predicted cost: 29635 euros

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Restoration: C.1

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CORRECTION OF THE AFFECTED SERVICES

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The restoration project includes the demolition and removal of services, and their replacement if necessary. The sewage system and potable water network only provide service to the , thus the entire non-useful section will be eliminated. As for the supply of electricity, the medium-voltage line located in the area not only serves the urbanized area but also allows continuity. In addition, there is a low-voltage derivation that serves the adjacent area. For this reason, it will be necessary to act on the distribution line and the two existing transformation centres.

Who: TRAGSA
Predicted cost: 69225 euros

Restoration: C.2

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CREATION OF THE LAGOON SYSTEM

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This action consists of two phases:

  1. Removal of the promenade and artificial elements: dismantling of the promenade and transporting the waste to the authorized recycling centre or place of use.
  2. Excavation and design of a lagoon system (third band) and the recovery of the marshland communities (fourth band). In the first case, a new system consisting of three temporary flood lagoons will be created, interspersed with three permanent flood lagoons on different levels. The creation of a new lagoon to the west of Fra Ramon—where there is currently an area with a pile of rubble—is also planned. In the second case, the salt band will be recovered on three different levels: north, centre, and south. The marsh will occupy a total area of 10.9 hectares. Three terraces will be formed at different levels in the first parcel; this will allow the establishment of a transition zone between the urban area and the lagoon and marsh system.

At the same time, the existing hillock that confines the lagoon of Fra Ramon will be removed so that in periods of flooding, the water can drain into the marsh zone.

This is the main action of the project, from the to the restoration.

Who: TRAGSA
Predicted cost: 1.360.996 euros

Restoration: C.3

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Improvements

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It will be needed to correct and improve the recovery works of the system of lagoons and marshes. However, the inherent uncertainties of a pilot project require taking into account a high probability of unexpected events that could imply some corrections, especially in the topography and the hydrological functioning. For this reason, this action is postponed until the C1 and C2 have been executed, in order to correct the morphology of the restored area, know the needs of the lagoon system, and ensure its good development.

Who: TRAGSA
Predicted cost: 173786 euros

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Restoration: C.4

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RESTORATION OF THE DUNE SYSTEM

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The pre-existing dune system between the beach and the marsh area is unstructured and lacks vegetal coverage. The dune system is affected by important degenerative processes that damage its stability. This degradation increases during heavy sea storms. The main objective of the action .

Three work areas are established: northern sector, central sector, and southern sector. Wind traps will be placed so that the sand is retained and the vegetation can be installed. In summers, it is expected that the perimeter of dunes will be protected from the swimming area in order to not be stepped upon and damaged.

Who: Generalitat de Catalunya
Predicted cost: 35.918 euros

“The beach-dune system is affected by important degenerative processes that damage its stability. This degradation increases during heavy sea storms.”

Restoration: C.5

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ORGANISATION OF ITINERARIES AND ACCESS

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The construction of itineraries and the limitation of access to the area are planned to control the traffic and public use of the space. The access of motorized vehicles will be restricted to the far north and to the far south. Pedestrian access will be designed along the perimeter, parallel to the coast, with entrances to the beach; in this way, traffic will be channelled, ensuring the maximum protection. It is also planned to construct some elevated steps with wood footbridges in areas of frequent flooding or that require water circulation.

Who: Generalitat de Catalunya
Predicted cost: 70.718 euros

Monitoring: D.1

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MONITORING OF ECOLOGICAL INDICATORS

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The monitoring of the ecological state has two purposes:

  1. Analyse whether the ecological characteristics of the new coastal lagoons are similar to those of the existing lagoons.
  2. Determine whether the removal of the embankment alongside the Fra Ramon lagoon has the expected effect of improving the ecological status.

Due to the ecological dynamism, a monthly sampling is during the first and third year (before and immediately after the actions). The monitoring is also planned, once the actions have been carried out, especially of the new lagoons. During the second and fourth year, monitoring will be done quarterly. Samples will be collected for the analysis of nutrients, and the biomass of bacterioplankton, phytoplankton, and zooplankton will be quantified. The monitoring of macroinvertebrates as indicators of water quality will also be completed.

Who: University of Girona
Predicted cost: 64.884 euros

Monitoring: D.2

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MONITORING OF VEGETATION

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One of the main objectives of the is the recovery of the vegetation of the marsh area and the dune system. For this, a comparative study of the diversity, composition, and structure of the vegetal cover of the disturbed zones and well-conserved marsh areas will be carried out. These studies will be done before and after the actions of removal of the building land. Monitoring of vegetation will be done through randomly established transects of a minimum of 4 square plots of 1 m2, where the composition and abundance of the species of these ecosystems will be registered. It is expected to be able to study the evolution of plant communities through orthophotomaps, aerial photographs, and geographic information system data.

This action is complementary to action A3, which is based on the preparation of the seed crop and seedlings for revegetation.

Who: University of Girona
Predicted cost: 62.934 euros

Monitoring: D.3

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MONITORING OF WATER LEVELS AND SALINITY

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Water level and salinity meters will be installed in the marsh land area. The fluctuation of the surface aquifer that is in contact with the lagoons will also be measured. Knowledge of these variations in the level and salinity of water in such dynamic ecosystem is very important in order to know how the ecosystem develops in the medium and long term.

Who: Generalitat de Catalunya
Predicted cost: 16.177 euros

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Monitoring: D.4

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Carbon balance

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Coastal wetlands and marshes are considered to be much more valuable sinks of carbon dioxide than any other type of wetland, due to high carbon absorption rates and low methane emissions. Therefore, the restoration of marshes is important in the context of climate change because it contributes to the mitigation of global warming. The aim is to analyse the carbon content of plant biomass and the soil of the disturbed zone before and after restoration compared to a reference marsh area. Four zones of 1 m2 will be established, and all the plant biomass and representative samples of radial biomass will be collected from these zones. The carbon content will be analysed, among other elements.

Who: University of Girona
Predicted cost: 65.837 euros

Monitoring: D.5

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MONITORING OF IBERIAN TOOTHCARP

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The restoration of the coastal lagoons will directly benefit the Iberian toothcarp, an endangered species of endemic fish from the Mediterranean area. This fact, together with the fact that one of the few populations in the Spanish Mediterranean coast is located in La Pletera, makes monitoring necessary. Monitoring will be carried out by traps once a year, specifically at the end of summer, when the water level is lower and, consequently, the density of individuals higher. Biometric data will be collected from the captured individuals to analyse populations’ size and distribution. This monitoring will reveal if the populations of this species have an adequate structure.

Who: Generalitat de Catalunya
Predicted cost: 6160 euros

“La Pletera has one of the few populations of Iberian toothcarp on the Spanish Mediterranean coast.”

Monitoring: D.6

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MONITORING OF SOCIOECONOMIC IMPACT

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A series of indicators have been designed to quantify the socioeconomic impact of the project on two levels: on the one hand, the degree of knowledge and use of the area and its ecological values, and on the other, the influence of the conservation of the territory in the context of the socioeconomic development of nearby populations.

It is planned to design surveys for the local population to identify the degree of knowledge of the work area and its ecological values. Visitors will also be asked specific questions to assess their the knowledge and valuation of the space. For the latter, a significant sample of tourists housed in the municipality will be used. The surveys will be carried out in two phases, coinciding with the first and fourth year of the project. In relation to the economic aspects, a study of the evolution in the past years of a series of socioeconomic indicators will be conducted; this study will allow evaluating the evolution of the local economy.

Who: Torroella de Montgrí Town Council
Predicted cost: 12.060 euros

INCREASING SENSITIVITY: E.1

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INCREASING LOCAL SENSITIVITY

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A very important part of the project is the dissemination of the results on different levels and sectors of the population, in order to make the project known and increase the awareness among all audiences of the ecological values of these ecosystems and the importance of their recovery. The dissemination will focus on two different target audiences: the local population and the tourist population.

of the dissemination actions that will be carried out will be organising conferences and guided tours channelled through Can Quintana, creating an explanatory website, editing and printing explanatory leaflets in several languages, establishing a presence on social networks, and maintaining permanent contact with the media, among others.

Who: Torroella de Montgrí Town Council
Predicted cost: 63.400 euros

INCREASING SENSITIVITY: E.2

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Demostrative project

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The demonstrative nature of the project focuses on showing the results of the actions as an example that a degraded and partially urbanized space can be reconverted into an ecologically functional space. The two target audiences are the schools and the scientific-technical public, as well as the general public. The actions will be differentiated for each audience:

  1. For schools, it is planned to create an educational project that will allow developing environmental educational activities in the context of the LIFE Pletera project and the Natura 2000 Network. The project will be aimed at different age groups and different educational materials.
  2. For the scientific-technical public, it is planned to publish two specialized books, one on dune systems and the other on coastal lagoons, addressed to managers of natural areas. In addition, two technical seminars will also be organized upon publication of the aforementioned books. Seminars to disseminate the project results, as well as meetings for professionals, will be organised. Finally, an exhibition is planned once the project is complete, to show the results of the actions carried out over the course of four years.

Who: Torroella de Montgrí Town Council
Predicted cost: 144.148 euros

PROJECT MANAGEMENT: F.1

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PROJECT MANAGEMENT

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Good project execution requires a good organizational structure, together with good coordination. In the case of LIFE Pletera, the City Council of Torroella is the leader, coordinator, and main disseminator of the project; the university carries out the scientific monitoring and direction; Tragsa is responsible for the execution and control of the works; and the deals with aspects related to spatial planning, vegetation control, and dune restoration.

The following project management figures are required to ensure between partners:

– Director Council: governing body of the project comprising a representative of each partner and the co-financing entities. The Council meets at least once a year and establishes the guidelines of the project, approves the budgets of the actions envisaged, and evaluates the results.

– Executive Committee: is composed of at least a technician from each partner, who is in charge of the daily management and the technical decisions of the project. The composition of the Commission is flexible during the course of the project, and includes the presence of technicians external to the Commission as needed.

– Scientific Director: is a member of the (University of Girona). This member deals with the definition of the strategic lines and the criteria of application in the work to be carried out during the project, as well as scientific monitoring, analysis of the results, and coordination of scientific reports.

– Executive Director: is in charge of the administrative and communication functions. The Director manages the administrative tasks, , and keeps track of the tasks and timings. The Director also deals with promoting networking and, if necessary, expanding the set of stakeholders that can participate directly or indirectly in the project, as well as searching similar projects to exchange proposals and ideas.

– Chef of Works: is a member of Tragsa and is ultimately responsible for monitoring and controlling the execution of the works.

– Chef of Dissemination: performs communication- and dissemination-related tasks (publications, organization of conferences, content of leaflets, etc.)

An external audit is also foreseen for the verification of the expenses.

Who: Torroella de Montgrí Town Council
Predicted cost: 159.210 euros

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Project management: F.2

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CONSERVATION PLAN AFTER THE LIFE PROGRAMME

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As required by the LIFE programme, a conservation plan is planned at the end of the project, and includes all the necessary management actions to conserve the ecological values of the area. The project is considered a definitive restoration, which will not require human intervention, although at the end of the project, it is likely that vegetation will not have acquired its potential status yet.

However, the high anthropic pressure in the work area, especially during the summer, requires that maintenance actions be taken to avoid degradation. Therefore, the Conservation Plan should include maintaining the infrastructure, cleaning the area, monitoring the levels of water and salinity, monitoring the status of the populations of species and habitats, surveilling the invasive species, and monitoring the educational programme.

Who: Generalitat de Catalunya
Predicted cost: 0 euros

Projecte management: F.3

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EXCHANGE OF EXPERIENCE WITH OTHER PROJECTS

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It is expected to interact with the managers of other lagoon restoration projects, in order to share experiences and examples of best practices. The exchange of experience will be done at two levels, technical and socioeconomic.

Who: Torroella de Montgrí Town Council
Predicted cost: 8.800 euros

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