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European Rewilding Network

Greater Côa Valley

Shaping the Greater Côa Valley

The Côa Valley has the potential to become one of the main migration routes for wildlife in this part of the Iberian Peninsula.
Juan Carlos Muñoz Robredo / Rewilding Europe
The Greater Côa Valley is ecologically connected to similar natural, wild areas in other parts of the Iberian Peninsula, through the Natura 2000 network
Juan Carlos Muñoz Robredo / Rewilding Europe
By bringing back grazing – this time not with livestock but with (semi-) wild herbivores such as wild horses and Tauros – Rewilding Europe and its local partners can significantly reduce the risk of fire in the Greater Côa Valley rewilding area.
Juan Carlos Munoz
Rewilding Europe is working with its local partners to shape the Côa Valley through the development of a 120,000-hectare wildlife corridor – the Greater Côa Valley – that connects the Malcata mountain range in the south with the larger Douro Valley in the north.
JUAN CARLOS MUÑOZ / Rewilding Europe

Rewilding Europe is working with its local partners to shape the Côa Valley through the development of a 120,000-hectare wildlife corridor – the Greater Côa Valley – that connects the Malcata mountain range in the south with the larger Douro Valley in the north. Innovative land-use models will be applied in a region with one of the highest land abandonment levels in Europe, transforming threats of landscape degradation, rural depopulation and economic downturn into new opportunities based on rewilding principles.  Furthermore, the Portuguese subpopulation of Iberian wolf south of the Douro river is currently fragmented and highly isolated from the rest of the Iberian population due to geographic, ecological and social barriers. The LIFE WolFlux project aims to promote the ecological and socio-economic conditions needed to support the viability of this wolf subpopulation.

Project: Greater Côa Valley
Region: Western Iberia (Portugal)
Type of protection: Different Natura 2000 sites along the Côa valley, targetting especially raptors and other cliff nesting birds
Habitat types: Extensive penillanura areas of Dehesas (series hystrucus-Querceto Holco rotundifoliae Genisto sigmentum), which highlights the holm oak (Quercus ilex spp. ballota), cork oak (Quercus suber), the gall oak (Quercus faginea) and ash (Fraxinus angustifolia), besides the jara scrub (Cistus), the broom (Cytisus multiflorus) and lavender (Lavandula stoechas).

There are also valuable Thermo shrublands and pre-steppe, sub-steppe areas with grasses and annuals of Thero-Brachypodietea, thermophilic ash trees forest (Fraxinus angustifolia), Galician-Portuguese oak woods with Quercus robur and Quercus pyrenaica, gallery forests of Salix alba and Populus alba, alluvial forests (Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior) (Alno-padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae), gallery forests of Salix alba and Populus alba and siliceous rocky with pioneer vegetation of the Sedo-Scleranthion or of the Sedo albi-Veronicion dillenii.

Valleys and basins (Arribes of Duero, Arribes of Agueda, International Tajo River, Vale do Coa or Ucles and Huebra rivers still held without hydraulic dams) that connect the mountain with piedmont areas.
Keystone species: Rabbit; Iberian wolf; wild boar; Egyptian vultures; griffon vultures
Fauna (mega) species present: Roe deer, mongoose, civets, martens, polecats, ferrets, wild cats, foxes, and birds like booted eagle, red kite, black kite, golden eagle, eagle owl and Bonelli’s eagle.
Type of project: Creating space for wilder nature, Fostering the development of nature based economies, Increasing interest in the wild through communications, Magnification of rewilding impact and practices, Supporting wildlife comeback
Aim and vision: Favor the comeback of large animals and support reintroduction of still missing species. Involve local communities and establish new business opportunities linked to the wildlife presence.
One of the most exciting wild areas of the Iberian Peninsula, where a large part of the landscape is now regulated mainly by ecological processes. Here wildlife thrives in natural densities and the previous very active land management has taken a clear step back towards non-management.
Uniqueness of the project: Portuguese "Montados" are traditional wood pastures from the middle ages with a savannah-like appearance, shaped by large grazers, especially cattle.
Other activities: Community involved, Eco tourism, Education, Recreational activities, Research, Sale of sustainable products
Results so far: Western Iberia has transitioned from traditional ways of biodiversity management and farming to a more rewilding-focused approach incorporating rewilding enterprise development. A total of 1,000 hectares (ha) is now under management on both sides of the Côa River.
In 2016 a five-year partnership agreement was signed with the board of Portuguese NGO Associação Transumância e Natureza (ATN) regarding the development of the Côa Valley as a major rewilding initiative.
In 2019 the LIFE WolFlux project "Decreasing socio-ecological barriers to connectivity for wolves south of the Douro River" started.
A feasibility study on the reintroduction of roe deer, red deer and Iberian ibex in the Côa Valley has been prepared by the University of Aveiro.
87 Garrano horses, 35 Sayaguesa cows and 27 Maronesa cows currently graze in the two sections of the Faia Brava Reserve. The existing herd of 45 Garrano horses living in the Faia Brava Reserve has been added to the European Wildlife Bank.
In the newer section of the Faia Brava Reserve (200 ha on the opposite bank of the Côa River) a new natural grazing project has started, with small herds of semi-wild Garrano horses and Maronesa cows.
In 2017 ATN started the so-called Zebro Project, selecting and cross-breeding Sorraia horses to maximise wild characteristics. These will eventually be released as a herd at a site close to Faia Brava.
Wildlife Portugal, a wildlife watching business, became the fourth enterprise to receive a REC loan. It is part of a "cluster" of complimentary enterprises, which also includes Star Camp, Casa da Cisterna and Miles Away. Integrated collectively in various tourism programmes offered by the European Safari Company, local hotels and operators, they have also been presented at various tourism fairs.
Inspirational value: Here in Western Iberia, we are in a Mediterranean ecosystem. The use of land and the general management done by farmers around is such different than the one we do. In spite of that, in some cases, we can inspire them in the sense of showing them alternative ways of use of these resources, and that it's possible to obtain profits from them: by providing accommodation or selling visitors local products, or others. Maybe in some cases they have the opportunity to set aside a part of their land to restore the natural processes, avoiding the use by their domestic animals, for a start. Or even their whole farm, by considering it can be a way to earn a living.
Experience you would like to share: One interesting experience in Campanarios is the curiosity from wild horses (Retuerta horses) about humans. Even being wild animals, if you are around them, and you are quiet and respectful, in many cases they finally come near you. Not so close as to touch them, but quite close. It´s a great experience of interaction.
Experience you would like to gain: We’d like to know about the experiences in different places related to the opinions and feelings of locals about the rewilding projects, and how it has been managed in order to improve them (in case needed). Also, experiences regarding the wellness and health of the animals released in the different areas, and if they are managed in some way in the sense of giving supplementary feeding or watering during specific periods of the year, or vaccinating or other kinds of human intervention.
Map
Country
Portugal
Start year
2011
Size (ha)
100000
Area type
Mediterranean vegetation
Natural process
Natural grazing
Flagship species
Lynx, Vulture, Wolf
Greater Côa Valley
Member of:
European Wildlife Bank
Rewilding Europe Capital
European Safari Company
The Côa Valley has the potential to become one of the main migration routes for wildlife in this part of the Iberian Peninsula.
Juan Carlos Muñoz Robredo / Rewilding Europe
The Greater Côa Valley is ecologically connected to similar natural, wild areas in other parts of the Iberian Peninsula, through the Natura 2000 network
Juan Carlos Muñoz Robredo / Rewilding Europe
By bringing back grazing – this time not with livestock but with (semi-) wild herbivores such as wild horses and Tauros – Rewilding Europe and its local partners can significantly reduce the risk of fire in the Greater Côa Valley rewilding area.
Juan Carlos Munoz
Rewilding Europe is working with its local partners to shape the Côa Valley through the development of a 120,000-hectare wildlife corridor – the Greater Côa Valley – that connects the Malcata mountain range in the south with the larger Douro Valley in the north.
JUAN CARLOS MUÑOZ / Rewilding Europe

Rewilding Europe is working with its local partners to shape the Côa Valley through the development of a 120,000-hectare wildlife corridor – the Greater Côa Valley – that connects the Malcata mountain range in the south with the larger Douro Valley in the north. Innovative land-use models will be applied in a region with one of the highest land abandonment levels in Europe, transforming threats of landscape degradation, rural depopulation and economic downturn into new opportunities based on rewilding principles.  Furthermore, the Portuguese subpopulation of Iberian wolf south of the Douro river is currently fragmented and highly isolated from the rest of the Iberian population due to geographic, ecological and social barriers. The LIFE WolFlux project aims to promote the ecological and socio-economic conditions needed to support the viability of this wolf subpopulation.

Map
Country
Portugal
Start year
2011
Size (ha)
100000
Area type
Mediterranean vegetation
Natural process
Natural grazing
Flagship species
Lynx, Vulture, Wolf
Specification
Project: Greater Côa Valley
Region: Western Iberia (Portugal)
Type of protection: Different Natura 2000 sites along the Côa valley, targetting especially raptors and other cliff nesting birds
Habitat types: Extensive penillanura areas of Dehesas (series hystrucus-Querceto Holco rotundifoliae Genisto sigmentum), which highlights the holm oak (Quercus ilex spp. ballota), cork oak (Quercus suber), the gall oak (Quercus faginea) and ash (Fraxinus angustifolia), besides the jara scrub (Cistus), the broom (Cytisus multiflorus) and lavender (Lavandula stoechas).

There are also valuable Thermo shrublands and pre-steppe, sub-steppe areas with grasses and annuals of Thero-Brachypodietea, thermophilic ash trees forest (Fraxinus angustifolia), Galician-Portuguese oak woods with Quercus robur and Quercus pyrenaica, gallery forests of Salix alba and Populus alba, alluvial forests (Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior) (Alno-padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae), gallery forests of Salix alba and Populus alba and siliceous rocky with pioneer vegetation of the Sedo-Scleranthion or of the Sedo albi-Veronicion dillenii.

Valleys and basins (Arribes of Duero, Arribes of Agueda, International Tajo River, Vale do Coa or Ucles and Huebra rivers still held without hydraulic dams) that connect the mountain with piedmont areas.
Keystone species: Rabbit; Iberian wolf; wild boar; Egyptian vultures; griffon vultures
Fauna (mega) species present: Roe deer, mongoose, civets, martens, polecats, ferrets, wild cats, foxes, and birds like booted eagle, red kite, black kite, golden eagle, eagle owl and Bonelli’s eagle.
Description
Type of project: Creating space for wilder nature, Fostering the development of nature based economies, Increasing interest in the wild through communications, Magnification of rewilding impact and practices, Supporting wildlife comeback
Aim and vision: Favor the comeback of large animals and support reintroduction of still missing species. Involve local communities and establish new business opportunities linked to the wildlife presence.
One of the most exciting wild areas of the Iberian Peninsula, where a large part of the landscape is now regulated mainly by ecological processes. Here wildlife thrives in natural densities and the previous very active land management has taken a clear step back towards non-management.
Uniqueness of the project: Portuguese "Montados" are traditional wood pastures from the middle ages with a savannah-like appearance, shaped by large grazers, especially cattle.
Other activities: Community involved, Eco tourism, Education, Recreational activities, Research, Sale of sustainable products
Achievements
Results so far: Western Iberia has transitioned from traditional ways of biodiversity management and farming to a more rewilding-focused approach incorporating rewilding enterprise development. A total of 1,000 hectares (ha) is now under management on both sides of the Côa River.
In 2016 a five-year partnership agreement was signed with the board of Portuguese NGO Associação Transumância e Natureza (ATN) regarding the development of the Côa Valley as a major rewilding initiative.
In 2019 the LIFE WolFlux project "Decreasing socio-ecological barriers to connectivity for wolves south of the Douro River" started.
A feasibility study on the reintroduction of roe deer, red deer and Iberian ibex in the Côa Valley has been prepared by the University of Aveiro.
87 Garrano horses, 35 Sayaguesa cows and 27 Maronesa cows currently graze in the two sections of the Faia Brava Reserve. The existing herd of 45 Garrano horses living in the Faia Brava Reserve has been added to the European Wildlife Bank.
In the newer section of the Faia Brava Reserve (200 ha on the opposite bank of the Côa River) a new natural grazing project has started, with small herds of semi-wild Garrano horses and Maronesa cows.
In 2017 ATN started the so-called Zebro Project, selecting and cross-breeding Sorraia horses to maximise wild characteristics. These will eventually be released as a herd at a site close to Faia Brava.
Wildlife Portugal, a wildlife watching business, became the fourth enterprise to receive a REC loan. It is part of a "cluster" of complimentary enterprises, which also includes Star Camp, Casa da Cisterna and Miles Away. Integrated collectively in various tourism programmes offered by the European Safari Company, local hotels and operators, they have also been presented at various tourism fairs.
Exchange
Inspirational value: Here in Western Iberia, we are in a Mediterranean ecosystem. The use of land and the general management done by farmers around is such different than the one we do. In spite of that, in some cases, we can inspire them in the sense of showing them alternative ways of use of these resources, and that it's possible to obtain profits from them: by providing accommodation or selling visitors local products, or others. Maybe in some cases they have the opportunity to set aside a part of their land to restore the natural processes, avoiding the use by their domestic animals, for a start. Or even their whole farm, by considering it can be a way to earn a living.
Experience you would like to share: One interesting experience in Campanarios is the curiosity from wild horses (Retuerta horses) about humans. Even being wild animals, if you are around them, and you are quiet and respectful, in many cases they finally come near you. Not so close as to touch them, but quite close. It´s a great experience of interaction.
Experience you would like to gain: We’d like to know about the experiences in different places related to the opinions and feelings of locals about the rewilding projects, and how it has been managed in order to improve them (in case needed). Also, experiences regarding the wellness and health of the animals released in the different areas, and if they are managed in some way in the sense of giving supplementary feeding or watering during specific periods of the year, or vaccinating or other kinds of human intervention.
Greater Côa Valley
Member of:
European Wildlife Bank
Rewilding Europe Capital
European Safari Company
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