The RURALtXA! project is being carried out in nine pilot areas located in the Spanish regions of Galicia and the Basque Country (known as Euskadi in the Basque language). They are distributed in key mountain locations with semi-natural Habitats of Community Interest, such as Atlantic wet heaths, bogs, mires and fens, and dry heaths on limestone substrates, mountain grasslands, and mesophilic grasslands growing on shallow, rocky soils.
All of these pilot areas are located within the Natura 2000 network, or in zones where expansion of that network or additional connectivity for it have been proposed. The pilot areas are also classified as significant for their vegetation diversity according to the 2014-2020 Spanish Vegetation Conservation Strategy.
The RURALtXA! project will be actively working in 34 municipalities in Galicia and Euskadi with fewer than 5,000 residents, which includes producers, landowners, and managers who perform their activities in natural spaces. The majority of these spaces are included within the Natura 2000 network, and some are protected as Natural Parks or Biosphere Reserves.
It is expected that the results obtained from the project, and the experiences gained, can be applied to other mountainous areas in northern Spain that are confronting similar types of issues.
This Special Area of Conservation (SAC) is a mountain range in Galicia, near the Cantabrian Sea and located in the provinces of A Coruña and Lugo, reaching up to 1,000 metres in elevation. This area receives a constant supply of moisture in the form of fog and rain. This cold, wet climate supports the presence of large areas of blanket bog, raised bog, and wet heathlands, in addition to mixed Atlantic deciduous forests. Extensive cattle grazing and traditional management of the bands of wild ponies present in the area are the most representative traditional activities still practiced in the Serra do Xistral.
This SAC is found in the northern part of Lugo province, just inland from the Cantabrian Sea. Because of its location it has characteristics similar to those of the Serra do Xistral SAC, although this range of mountains is smaller with its peaks reaching lower altitudes.
This is a range of mountains located in northern Spain in the provinces of A Coruña and Lugo. Although it has not been added to the Natura 2000 network yet, these mountains do contain a good representation of priority habitats that merit protection.
Located in the southern part of Pontevedra province, near the Atlantic Ocean and close to the mouth of the Miño River and Spain’s border with Portugal, these granitic mountains have gentle slopes covered by shrubland vegetation and large forest plantations, with a scattering of small but very interesting areas of bog habitat. The traditional wild pony management practices are maintained, with more than a thousand rounded up during the events known as curros, which take place twice each year in the locations of A Valga, Torroña, and Mougás.
This Special Area of Conservation is located in the provinces of Bizkaia and Álava. The extensive grasslands found near the mountain peaks and on the upper northern slopes contrast with the heath vegetation and indigenous forests widely distributed on the southern slopes, which explains the existence of differing models for traditional uses and livestock raising in each zone.
This SAC contains some of the highest mountains in Euskadi, where limestone peaks emerge above extensive grassland zones. At lower altitudes, these grasslands are replaced by forested slopes. This is one of the areas within Euskadi with the most longest and most extensive herding traditions, with large numbers of sheep still grazing in this area during the summer and autumn months.
The broad plain that exists in the higher elevation areas of this SAC is covered by an extensive series of mountain grasslands, which reflect use of this area for livestock grazing for thousands of years.
This is a very large SAC, with great diversity and contrast in its landscapes. A sharp reduction in use of some areas for livestock grazing has caused a pre-forest vegetation stage to develop over time in areas that were previously grasslands, with a resulting increase in wildfire risk.
This is limestone mountain range characterised by high plains and slopes that are used for extensive grazing by cattle, sheep, and horses, except when winter weather conditions prevent this.