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ENGLISH SUMMARY

LIFE09 NAT/ES/000516
Conservation of Oxyura leucocephala in the Murcia Region. Spain

White-headed Duck is an endangered duck present in Spain. The main objective of this project, promoted by the General Directorate of Natural Heritage and Biodiversity of the Murcia Region is the conservation of White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) and its habitat in three wetlands in the Murcia Region: Campotéjar Lagoons (Molina Segura), the Moreras Lagoons (Mazarrón) and Alhama de Murcia Lagoons. The LIFE project associated beneficiaries involved are the municipalities of Alhama de Murcia, Mazarrón and Molina de Segura.

The species
The White-headed Duck, Oxyura leucocephala, is a globally threatened species classified as Vulnerable by IUCN (Groombridge 1993) and BirdLife International (Collar et al. 1994). It is listed on Annex I of the EU Wild Birds Directive. It has recently been placed on Appendix I of the Bonn Convention, and it is listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention and on Appendix II of CITES. It is listed as Endangered at European level by BirdLife International (Tucker & Heath 1994).
Oxyura leucocephala is resident in Spain, Algeria and Tunisia. A larger population breeds primarily in Russia and Kazakhstan, and also Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan,Tajikistan (likely small and declining), Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, andMongolia (believed to be increasing in this latter). Its status in China is unclear, but it appears to be rare. It occurs on passage/in winter in the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and central and south Asia.
The White-headed Duck is the only stifftail (Oxyurini) indigenous to the Palearctic, and has attracted a great deal of interest from the international conservation community in recent years. Concern over marked declines of the species led to the production of national (Spanish) and international conservation plans in the late 1980s.
For its identification we can say that an adult measures about 43-48 cm, it is a chestnut-brown diving duck with long tail, often cocked vertically. male and female can be differentiated because male has white head, black cap and blue bill, swollen at base and female has pale face with dark cap and cheek-stripe and blackish, less swollen bill.
White-headed Ducks prefer freshwater or brackish, alkaline, eutrophic lakes, which often have a closed basin hydrology and are frequently semi-permanent or temporary. Breeding sites have dense emergent vegetation around the fringes and are small or are enclosed areas within larger wetland systems. They typically have extensive areas of 0.5–3 m depth (Matamala et al. 1994). Stable water-levels during the incubation period are vital for successful breeding. Wintering sites are generally larger, deeper and often have little emergent vegetation (Anstey 1989). Freshwater habitats are used more in winter than in the breeding season. The availability of chironomid larvae is likely to be a key feature in habitat selection (Green et al. 1993).

NOTE: Part of this information has been extracted from ACTION PLAN FOR THE WHITE-HEADED DUCK (Oxyura leucocephala) IN EUROPE (A. GREEN and B. HUGHES, 1996).

Project objectives
The main objective of this Project is the conservation of the White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) and its habitat in the wetlands of the Murcia Region. For getting this, it is expected that the population keeps in balance in the long term, through the establishment of a number of individuals within a distribution range such that allows its survival with the least human intervention possible.

Conservation actions
The specific conservation actions are these:
• Increase of physical habitat availability for White-headed Duck in Campotéjar, Moreras and Alhama de Murcia lagoons.
• Environmental correction of impacts that affect its habitat, like the correction of power lines to avoid collisions.
• Regulation of public use in the wetlands where the Project is applied.
• Regular monitoring and census works of White-headed Duck and other species of birds related to wetlands. Control of basic environmental parameters.
• Control and elimination of Oxyura jamaicensis individuals and its hybrids.
• Evaluation and monitoring of possible epidemiological problems, especially possible botulism outbreaks.

The expected results of the specific conservation actions are these:
• Substantially increase of the species permissible habitat in the three wetlands where White-headed Duck breeds. An increase in the population size is expected.
• Reduce mortality due to power lines collision of this and other waterfowls.
• Improving wetlands conservation when public use is regulated.
• Give the information, monitoring and maintenance staff from Moreras lagoons with facilities and material resources necessary to carry out their work.
• Periodic monitoring of White-headed Duck population in the Murcia Region and other species of birds related to its habitat. Know habitat characteristics that allow O. leucocephala being established as breeding.
• Ensure that Oxyura jamaicensis does not settle in the Murcia Region, and it is not a spreading place or passageway for this species and its hybrids.
• Prevention of epidemiological events that can occur under certain conditions in wetlands and quick action in case of detecting onset of these episodes.

Also is important in this proyect the public awareness and dissemination of results, so it will be a knowledge diffusion and environmental education program developed by the Regional and Local Administrations involved in the project in order to raise conscience, increase knowledge and generate a positive attitude of Murcian society in general and local population in particular, about how to preserve these wetlands.

Sites
The main objective of this Project is the conservation of the White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) and its habitat in the wetlands of the Murcia Region. For getting this, it is expected that the population keeps in balance in the long term, through the establishment of a number of individuals within a distribution range such that allows its survival with the least human intervention possible.

 

Campotéjar lagoons (Molina de segura)

Moreras lagoons (Mazarrón)

Alhama lagoons (Alhama de Murcia)