Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 12, pp 3333–3344 | Cite as

Identifying new buffer areas for conserving waterbirds in the Mediterranean basin: the importance of the rice fields in Extremadura, Spain

  • J. M. Sánchez-Guzmán
  • R. Morán
  • J. A. Masero
  • C. Corbacho
  • E. Costillo
  • A. Villegas
  • F. Santiago-Quesada
Original Paper


The impact of wetland loss on migratory waterbirds can be mitigated by the presence of anthropogenic habitats such as rice fields. In the Mediterranean basin, wetlands have been drained and altered to such a degree that their very existence is threatened. It is, therefore, essential to identify key buffer areas in the basin to develop conservation strategies for migratory waterbirds. In Extremadura, continental SW Spain, 30,000 ha of new rice fields have created since the 1960s. The present study describes for the first time the waterbird community associated with these inland rice fields, and addresses the question of the potential value of this area in buffering the loss of natural wetlands for populations of waterbirds using the East Atlantic Flyway (EAF). The waterbird community studied consisted of 45 species, with population levels reaching values of international importance (>1% of the biogeographical population using EAF) for the Common Crane Grus grus (19%), Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa (1.2%), Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus (1.2%), and Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis (1%). The presence of these rice fields may be modifying the wintering and/or feeding sites of some waterbird species such as the Common Crane and Black-tailed Godwit. Unfortunately, there is no legal protection for this area. We propose the designation of these rice fields as a Special Protection Area for birds.


Anthropogenic habitats Black-tailed godwit Common crane East atlantic flyway Rice fields Shorebirds Waterbirds 


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We thank persons assisting in the field and data compilation, especially Pepo, Jesús, Desi, and Arturo. We also thank two anonymous referees for their useful comments, and the Dirección General de Medio Ambiente de la Junta de Extremadura and Confederación Hidrográfica del Guadiana for providing us with the counts of birds.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. M. Sánchez-Guzmán
    • 1
  • R. Morán
    • 1
  • J. A. Masero
    • 1
  • C. Corbacho
    • 1
  • E. Costillo
    • 1
  • A. Villegas
    • 1
  • F. Santiago-Quesada
    • 1
  1. 1.Grupo de Investigación en Conservación, Área de ZoologíaUniversidad de ExtremaduraBadajozSpain

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