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LIFE15 NAT/ES/000757

Project of conservation of an only species to the world

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Evolution

Evolution of the project Life Tritó Montseny

 

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Iñaki Relanzón

End of the project

07/07/2023 13:47 h.

Guaranteeing the survival of the Montseny newt

Now that the Life Tritó Montseny project has been closed after six years, the work to conserve the Montseny newt (Calotriton arnoldi), an endemic species in danger of extinction, continues with several actions, such as the creation of a recovery plan to be approved by the Generalitat de Catalunya and several actions, financed by the European Next Generation programme, to maintain the ecological flow in the streams where it lives, in the upper Tordera basin, in a context of climate change with less rainfall. A document, the Layman Report, compiles all the actions carried out during the European project as well as the results obtained.

The Montseny Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve wants the experience gained with Life Tritó Montseny, for example in environmental policies, to be the norm for the Natural Park. For this reason, it is working to apply all this knowledge to the Protection Plan that is currently being drafted. Likewise, it hopes to be able to add more synergies with the people of the territory. Within the framework of the so-called "After life", which has a duration of five years, some actions included in the European funding of Next Generation will be carried out.

For its survival, the newt faces two problems: "climate change, which is difficult to tackle locally, and the threat of man and human activity, which is the only one we can try to tackle", says biologist and coordinator of Life Tritó Montseny, Daniel Guinart. The Natural Park is willing to work on this human factor.

 

Conservation

Among the main conservation results obtained thanks to the European project, we have the involvement of the local population and the improvement of the habitat where it lives, as well as the creation of supervised management agreements in farms where the newt lives. So far, three have been made. This line of work is to be continued by the Montseny Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve in order to guarantee the application of good environmental practices, such as ensuring that water extraction does not compromise the ecological flow and, therefore, its habitat.

As a result of Life's work, a recovery plan has been drawn up and is now on public display at the Generalitat de Catalunya. In this sense, the plan establishes a roadmap to mark the actions to be taken to protect the species. Thus, it states that it will be obligatory to respect the critical management areas. On the other hand, all these conditions will be included in the Montseny protection plan that is currently being drawn up.

Another direct action resulting from Life Tritó Montseny has been the drafting of Las enfermedades infecciosas en amfibios. Manual of good practices in educational activities of discovery, since the transmission of diseases, especially fungi, is one of the main threats to amphibians worldwide. This protocol is an example for other protected natural areas.

Likewise, the management of the riverside habitat and forest management will be conditioned, as these are key issues that threaten the survival of the Montseny newt. Other conservation actions include improving breeding centres, increasing the number of individuals and the distribution area of the species.

The first reintroductions of the Montseny newt began in 2010. According to Sònia Solórzano, biologist at the Montseny Natural Park, "to assess their success, the reintroduced individuals must have offspring. The only thing that can be said at this point is that, with the monitoring that is carried out annually, the newts that were released have been found; in at least one stream, it has been verified that they have reproduced, but more time is needed to see the results of the Life actions".

This year's drought is not a good ally for conservation actions, but between 2010 and 2022, and after carrying out studies to assess the ideal areas where they can live, newts have been released in eight locations, five of them within the framework of the Life project. In fact, a committee of experts decides where and when the reintroductions will take place according to the studies and surveys carried out. The problem is that the natural populations do not have the possibility of extending their area of distribution because it is a species that moves very little throughout its life and the fragmentation of its habitat due to human causes does not facilitate this.

Thanks to the European programme, the genetic reserve is being consolidated worldwide, with more than a thousand specimens between the Torreferrussa breeding centre, the Pont de Suert breeding centre, Chester Zoo and Barcelona Zoo; there is a commitment from the breeding centres to continue working once Life is over.
 

Habitat management

One of the main objectives of the Montseny Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve is to promote the sustainable use of water in streams. Likewise, the aim is to favour the riverside habitat with good forestry practices and the improvement of ecological connectivity. "Life has pointed out these problems and is solving them," explains Daniel Guinart. Actions have been taken to guarantee the ecological flow and then the supply to the farms, with the installation of water distribution boxes. In total, more than fifty water catchments have been located in the upper Tordera basin.

In the context of drought, the aim is also to promote the collection of rainwater, as is already being done on the Fontmartina estate. In this sense, work is being done to ensure that all the municipalities in the Biosphere Reserve install rainwater collection tanks. There is a political commitment to find the means to continue to improve water catchments and to ensure an ecological flow, such as that of the town of Montseny, with a subsidy from the Catalan Water Agency. Custody agreements have also been signed on three farms and work is being done to extend them to the other nine farms in the area. The aim is for landowners to reduce as much as possible the need to take water from the streams. It is a change of mentality, since the abundant rainfall in Montseny has meant that traditionally no one has had water storage tanks, as was already the case in drier areas.

In terms of connectivity, Life Tritó Montseny has carried out a series of actions with the aim of improving the ecological connectivity of the species' habitat. Several types of bridges or water crossings have been built and some forest tracks have been eliminated, such as those that were traditionally used for the tasks of deforestation. Another action has been the removal of plantations of exotic species that are fast-growing and need a lot of water, such as Douglas fir. "Some landowners have already seen that these species will not thrive with climate change and are cooperating," explains Guinart.

 

Research

The means offered by the Life programme have made it possible to achieve several milestones to improve knowledge about this endemic amphibian. Thus, since the species was discovered in 2005, "many questions have been raised about this species, but without many answers, and this has led many research centres and universities to actively participate in the project, and they have become much more involved beyond Life", explains Solórzano. One example is the study on the diet of the Montseny newt based on the analysis of its excrement, collected with a device called "caga triton".

Other studies have been carried out on the species, its habitat and hydrology, among others. There has been a very positive collaboration with the researchers, since the existing knowledge for the management of the species and its habitat has been greatly expanded, and at the same time the results have been published in articles of impact, congresses, meetings and master's degrees. Limited resources have prevented further research collaborations.

"We have also counted on the park staff, who have been very involved," explains Jordina Grau, Life Tritó Montseny technician. In addition to the biologists, the rangers and maintenance staff have worked hard and have also learned new ways of working. In this sense, the Montseny staff have been trained in bioengineering techniques and the training has been extended to the other parks of the Natural Parks Network of the Barcelona Provincial Council. The collaboration between scientists and workers of the Montseny Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve has also led to the establishment of several weather stations.

 

Dissemination

"The great success of the project has been the avalanche of people interested in doing something for the Montseny newt," confesses Daniel Guinart, the project coordinator. According to Grau, he also values positively "the coordination between five entities (Diputació de Barcelona, Diputació de Girona, Barcelona Zoo, Generalitat de Catalunya and Forestal Catalana) regarding the dissemination of a conservation project focused on an endemic amphibian of Montseny that cannot be seen in the wild".

As a result of Life's work, a didactic unit linked to the Montseny newt has been created within the educational programme El Montseny a l'escola, an educational classroom has been created and is fully operational at Barcelona Zoo, and a travelling exhibition has been created, which will be updated with the results once the European project has been completed. This exhibition can currently be seen in several libraries of the Barcelona Provincial Council's Municipal Library Network.


Life Tritó Montseny

Closure of LIFE

09/12/2022 11:54 h.

Experts, researchers and managers took stock of six years of work

On Thursday, December 1, the closing day of the European project Life Tritó Montseny took place in the Multipurpose Hall of Seva. It served to review all the advances in the work to conserve this endemic amphibian of Montseny that is critically endangered and to lay the foundations for further work on its conservation beyond the European project.

During the conference, the management and conservation work for the improvement of the newt's habitat in the upper Tordera basin was presented, where the aim is to guarantee both the ecological flow and the hydrological quality of the streams it inhabits. The threats to this habitat, linked to the conservation of riparian forests, were also discussed. Thus, it was concluded that some traditional works, such as the extraction of wood and water, must be changed so that they do not affect its habitat.

Likewise, the conference devoted special attention to captive breeding at the Barcelona Zoo, at the Wildlife Center of Pont de Suert, at Chester Zoo and from 2021 at the Center for Research and Environmental Education of Calafell (CREAC). The aim of the breeding is to maintain a genetic reserve of 300 individuals. In these years, more than 5,700 larvae have been reared and 2,600 individuals have been released.

In the presentation of the conference, the representatives of the administrations showed their willingness to continue working and provide resources for the continuity of the actions initiated by the European project, with the aim of adding new partners who wish to become involved. In this way it will be possible to increase the capacity for action and reaction in the preservation of the habitats of the Montseny.

The project coordinator, Daniel Guinart, conservation technician of the Montseny Natural Park, pointed out that after six years we know much more about the Montseny newt and its conservation status, but it is still in a critical state and in the future, with climate change, this animal will have a very difficult time. The current situation of its population is stable but drought, rainfall deficit and high temperatures do not benefit its conservation.

The head of conservation and knowledge of the Barcelona Zoo, Juli Mauri, also remarked the importance of the newt in the new zoo model, since in one species it brings together elements such as species conservation, research and education.


Six years of actions for the conservation of the Montseny newt and its habitat

The European Life Tritó Montseny project began in September 2016 and was due to end in December 2020, once the objectives set for a total of forty-nine planned actions had been achieved, with which to solve the main threats to the species and ensure conservation. Once this date was reached, a two-year extension period was granted for twenty-five actions that had not been possible to achieve.
During these years, a large number of actions linked to research and dissemination have been developed, as well as interventions in the territory to, for example, try to guarantee river connectivity, restore riverbank habitats or ensure the flow of torrents.
Amphibians are one of the most endangered species and their presence is a basic environmental indicator to know the quality of the water and the natural environment of these territories. Thus, the work carried out all these years has shown that, mainly due to the effect of the hydrology of the area and climate change, the situation of this amphibian remains in critical danger of extinction, although its population is stable.

 

End of the project

The closing day brings to an end the six years of the European Life Tritó Montseny project. In total, the 49 actions planned for the Montseny newt and its habitat have been achieved. Since its inception, the technicians involved in the project have been regularly monitored by the European Commission and have submitted annual audit reports. At the administrative level, the project ends in March 2023 with the delivery of the final report to the European Union.

Although the project is coming to an end, the newt breeding centers will remain active and staffed with newt breeders. During the first months of 2023, the methodology to be followed to continue preserving this Montseny endemism and its riverside habitat will be defined.

Regarding the communication of the project, the web page will continue to be active and all its contents will be available for consultation. Since the beginning of the website, 143 news items and 15 quarterly newsletters have been disseminated in electronic format, in three languages: Catalan, Spanish and English. Although from 2023 onwards no more news will be generated, you can still consult the news that have appeared in the media, press releases and all the communication resources disseminated on the website since the beginning. The twitter channel will stop broadcasting tweets, but the Youtube channel is still active and you can continue to watch the videos and capsules of the project.

 


Iñaki Relanzón

Final Day

20/11/2022 17:17 h.

Life Tritó Montseny project comes to an end in December

Six years after its inception in September 2016, this December ends the Life Tritó Montseny, a project for the conservation of a unique species endemic to the Montseny, Calotriton arnoldi. To close the program, on Thursday December 1 in the Multipurpose Hall of Seva a conference is organized to review the objectives, actions and studies carried out by the team of scientists, experts and collaborators who have worked throughout this time. Access is free, with prior registration. In addition, on December 2, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., there is the possibility of visiting the new breeding center of the Barcelona Zoo.

The day of December 1 runs from 9.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and access is open to everyone. The session begins with opening speeches by representatives of each of the entities involved. From 10.15 a.m. and for the rest of the morning, three large blocks of presentations are offered around the three main themes of the program. On the one hand, block 1 is dedicated to the knowledge and conservation status of in situ populations of the Montseny newt, with communications on the legal status of this amphibian, monitoring of populations, intensive monitoring during the years 2019-2021 of an eastern population, the diet of the newt and environmental DNA.

On the other hand, block 2 focuses on the knowledge and management of ex situ populations with presentations on breeding centers, new facilities, breeding protocol, pair management, biosecurity, and individual marking, etc. The captive breeding program of the Montseny newt and the results of the breeding centers as well as research applied to the conservation of the species and research will also be discussed. Another section is dedicated to the genetics of the Montseny newt with contributions on the genome, the strategic release plan and the preliminary results of the new populations created. The third block of the morning is dedicated to monitoring the habitat of the newt, with contributions on the geological characterization and hydrological characterization of the streams.

In the afternoon, it is time to address aspects related to communication, education and dissemination of the Life Tritó Montseny project, with a review of the dissemination made through news and social networks as well as everything related to the educational field (the traveling exhibition "My name is Calotriton and I only live in Montseny!", the audiovisuals, the program "El Montseny a l'escola", the Biosafety Manual, etc.) and the management of the Environmental Education Classroom of the Barcelona Zoo.

The last block of the day is dedicated to the management and improvement of the Montseny newt habitat, with contributions on territorial and administrative planning for conservation (custody agreements, supervised management, protection plan...). The Manual of good practices and the results of the management of water resources and recovery of ecological flows are also discussed. A round table and debate close the day.

 

Six years of actions for the conservation of the Montseny newt and its habitat

The European Life Tritó Montseny project began in September 2016 and had to end in December 2020, once the objectives set for a total of 49 actions planned to solve the main threats to the species and ensure conservation have been achieved. Once this date was reached, a two-year extension period was granted for 25 actions that had not been possible to achieve.

During these years, a large number of actions linked to research and dissemination have been developed, as well as interventions in the territory to, for example, guarantee river connectivity, restore riverbank habitats or ensure the flow of torrents.

Amphibians are one of the most endangered species and their presence is a basic environmental indicator to know the quality of the water and the natural environment of these territories. Thus, the work done all these years has shown that mainly due to the effect of the hydrology of the area and climate change the situation of this amphibian remains in critical danger of extinction, although its population is stable.


Iñaki Relanzón

Herpetological Conferences

20/11/2022 16:35 h.

The newt of Montseny in the XVIII Catalan Herpetological Conference

Organized by the Societat Catalana d'Herpetologia (SCH), the XVIII Jornades Herpetologiques took place in Vallbona de les Monges, in Urgell, on 21, 22 and 23 October 2022. The event was addressed to all those interested in amphibians and reptiles, but especially to students, naturalists and scientists and gathered a large number of communications and activities around the herpetological fauna.

Throughout the conference, several oral communications had the Montseny newt (Calotriton arnoldi) as protagonist. Thus, on Saturday afternoon, October 22, a communication on the number of individuals or population size of Montseny newts, one of the most important parameters according to the IUCN to catalog the species within the various categories of threat, was heard. Fèlix Amat, Albert Montori and Daniel Fernández, from the Museum of Natural Sciences of Granollers and CREAC/GRENP, in the presentation -titled "How many newts are there? Estimation of the population size of a critically endangered species, the Montseny newt (Calotriton arnoldi)", the total adult population of Montseny newts was estimated to be between 2,538-2,567 individuals, with data varying in strength between populations (from 18 to 689 individuals).

That same afternoon, "Dispersal capacity of Calotriton arnoldi in an eastern core stream" was also presented by Albert Montori, Daniel Fernández-Guiberteau, Fèlix Amat, Adrià Jordà and Marc Franch, from CREAC/GRENP, Museum of Natural Sciences of Granollers and PECAT Research Group of the University of Girona. The communication dealt with the monitoring of an eastern population using the capture-mark-recapture methodology and the results obtained.

Finally, on Sunday 23 October, in the poster block, Daniel Guinart, Jordina Grau, Sònia Solórzano and Fèlix Amat presented "The LIFE project of the Montseny newt: an opportunity to restore the riparian habitat of Calotriton arnoldi, an endemism of the Montseny". They were able to explain how the results obtained from the interventions carried out (elimination or remodeling of 19 water catchments, conditioning of 10 facilities for the use of rainwater, 26 restorations of the ecological connectivity of streams and 18 forestry interventions to restore the riparian habitat) are quite satisfactory to conclude that the restoration of the Montseny newt habitat is possible.

 

Communications related to the Natural Park Network

Another topic presented at the Conference was the "Analysis of emerging ailments of amphibians in 7 parks of the Natural Parks Network of the Diputació de Barcelona". In the communication, held on Saturday morning 22, researchers from CRAC and SCH (Albert Martínez-Silvestre, Alejandro García Salmerón, Eudald Pujol Buxó, Oriol Baena Crespo, Fernando Loras Ortí, Joan Maluquer- Margalef, Barbora Thumsova and Jaime Bosch Pérez) presented the results and conclusions of the health monitoring for the detection of ailments that threaten amphibians carried out in several parks of the Natural Parks Network during the years 2021 and 2022.

"Water storage structures and their impact on wildlife in the Foix and Garraf parks", by Antonio Burguillos Huertas, was the subject of another poster presentation on Sunday 23. In the work, Burguillos carries out a diagnosis of the problems of traditional water storage structures, often abandoned, in the area of the Foix and Garraf parks that act as a death trap for wildlife. It also elaborates a proposal for the management of the detected structures (118 between 2018 and 2021) in which a total of 201 terrestrial vertebrates were found trapped inside.

The main objective of the Catalan Herpetological Conference is to promote the study, knowledge and conservation of herpetological fauna in the Catalan area as well as to help disseminate the work and projects on this type of fauna and stimulate new studies.


Life Tritó Montseny

Review 2022

17/06/2022 12:23 h.

The Life Tritó Montseny project is reviewed before it does not end 

During the month of June, those responsible for Life Tritó Montseny received a visit from Audrey Thenard (CINEA), a monitor from the European Union's external team. The aim of the visit was to monitor the programme and discuss various technical and financial aspects. The Barcelona Provincial Council team leading the project presented the development of the different actions carried out in the territory and the difficulties encountered during its implementation.

On the one hand, on Thursday 2 June, a field trip was made to see the actions carried out in the Montseny area with the aim of improving the riverside habitat of the species. A few days later, on Wednesday 15 June, the technical and financial meeting was held telematically. During the session, details were given of the actions on which the greatest efforts are currently being made to complete them within the project's timeframe.

Thenard's visit will help to define the aspects to be worked on during the last months of the project. The effort of all the people and entities involved in Life Tritó Montseny during these almost six years of the project has been considerable. Now, in the final phase of the programme, work must continue in order to conclude all the planned actions and present the results at the final closing conference of the project.

 

Two-year extension

Life Tritó Montseny began in September 2016 and was scheduled to end in December 2020. At the planned date, the planned objectives had not been achieved and an extension period was granted for 25 actions, 9 of them due to a delay in their execution and the other 16 as a result of the close link with the previous 9. The new end date of the project is 31 December 2022.

The studies and actions carried out within the framework of Life Tritó Montseny with European funding have shown that the situation of this amphibian remains in critical danger of extinction, despite the fact that its population remains stable, especially due to the effect of the hydrology of the area and climate change. The project aims to achieve all the objectives set at the beginning in order to resolve some of the main threats to this endemic species of the Montseny.

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