A large group of social, environmental and economic agents of La Mancha Alta of Cuenca is participating in an opinion survey on the state of conservation of El Hito Lagoon and the potential of this emblematic area of the Natura 2000 Network.
The objective is to know the assessment of the people who are directly related to the environment where the LIFE project for the enlargement and restoration of El Hito Lagoon is being developed. According to those responsible for the study, the aim is to determine the problems of the area and the benefits that the wetland can bring to the economic and social development of the region.
Most of those surveyed value this natural area as a refuge of “very important” (68%) or “quite important” (11%) biodiversity in the region, which offers fundamental ecosystem services for agriculture, livestock and purification and recharge of aquifers.
Furthermore, 70% of those surveyed said they were familiar with European nature conservation projects such as LIFE El Hito and the need to recover this jewel of La Mancha’s nature. 41% of the participants understand that the El Hito Lagoon is in a “fair” state of conservation, while 22% consider it to be “bad” and 7% “very bad”.
One of the main objectives of LIFE El Hito is to carry out its ecological restoration. However, to achieve this, it is first necessary to remove all the obstacles that degrade the environment and have a negative impact on the priority habitats of this emblematic area of the Natura 2000 Network.
Increased frequency and intensity of droughts
Water scarcity is one of the main problems facing the area, due to the overexploitation of aquifers and the increase in droughts related to climate change. The participants consider that actions to adapt to climate change will be essential to ensure the future of the lagoon.
Lack of knowledge and lack of appreciation of the lagoon and its environment is another problem identified by the participants. Almost 60% of those surveyed consider that environmental awareness and education will play a very important role in ensuring the lagoon’s conservation in the future.
Agriculture and conservation
Agriculture is shown as another problem for the conservation of the area, mainly due to the increase in agricultural intensification and water pollution caused by the abuse of phytochemical fertilizers. The need to implement measures to make agriculture compatible with the presence of birds, especially cranes, in the area also appears among the concerns of the participants.
The consultation has been well received by the surveyed population, most of them agents involved in the local development of the region who were contacted by telephone.
The participation process is completed with face-to-face meetings between people who live and work in the lagoon’s surroundings to discuss its values and state of conservation and to express ideas so that in the future the lagoon is well conserved and becomes a source of economic and social wealth. The first of these meetings took place on Saturday, October 15, in the Library Room of El Hito Town Hall.
The steppe zones and the saline wetland of El Hito Lagoon constitute an oasis of extraordinary biodiversity, with valuable endemic species and highly threatened plant formations. To halt the decline suffered in recent years, El Hito LIFE project is working on the restoration and conservation of this emblematic nature reserve of Castilla-La Mancha.