Improving the conservation of the El Hito lagoon, objective of a European LIFE

On March 18th, 2022 the LIFE project for the expansion and restoration of El Hito Lagoon is presented, with funding from the European Union and the Regional Government of Cuenca, as well as the participation of the Municipalities of El Hito and Montalbo and the Government of Castilla-La Mancha. The implementation of the LIFE is a boost to the conservation of this natural area of high biological diversity and of great importance for waterfowl, integrated in the Natura 2000 Network, included in the Ramsar List of the United Nations and Natural Reserve since March 1st, 2002.

The presentation ceremony was attended by public representatives of the local and regional administration, together with the media, farmers, traders and neighbors of El Hito at the viewpoint of the town.


Objective: to protect the wetland

The project proposes the recovery of El Hito Lagoon natural area, including 100% of its priority habitats, in collaboration with the main actors involved in local development. “The objective is to protect biodiversity and wintering birds, which is why the European Commission has granted this LIFE,” says Eduardo de Miguel, Fundación Global Nature director. “We are aware that the El Hito lagoon is a passage for cranes and other key migratory birds in the center of the Peninsula.”

Both the wetland and the surrounding saline areas and crops are of vital importance for numerous bird species, with special relevance for steppe birds. Grazing, rain-fed cereal cultivation, uncontrolled dumping and small drainages have destroyed or reduced part of their priority habitats.

Land adquisition

One of the first measures contemplated in the project is the purchase of plots of land located around the lagoon to protect the so-called buffer zones of high ecological value. These include some of albaardine and Limonium meadows, species similar to esparto grass and evergreens, most representative of the Mediterranean salt steppes of Castilla-La Mancha.

“The acquisition of farms has been consolidated in Spain as a strategy to protect biodiversity, especially in critical areas for vulnerable species,” says Eduardo de Miguel.

The project involves the acquisition of 500.54 hectares (ha) of land, where priority conservation species of interest for the Habitats Directive and the European Union’s Birds Directive are found, and which represent more than half of the area protected by the Natura 2000 Network. The natural values of this area of the Natura 2000 Network have motivated the support of the LIFE program of the European Union, co-financing 65% of the budget of this project, which exceeds 3 million Euros. The Cuenca Provincial Council also supports this project, co-financing 352,895 €.