IBERDROLA AND BIODIVERSITY
We protect ecosystem biodiversity as a source of sustainable development
Iberdrola group is committed to encouraging ecosystem biodiversity by establishing new and sustainable projects in a way that fosters harmonious coexistence and conserves, protects and promotes the development and growth of natural heritage.
Fostering economic and social development, respect for the environment and promoting biodiversity are Iberdrola's priority corporate values, which are totally in line with Sustainable Development Goals six, thirteen, fourteen and fifteen. Iberdrola group manifests its commitment to safeguarding and promoting the biodiversity of ecosystems according to the action principles set out in its Biodiversity Policy.
- Integrating biodiversity conservation into the group's strategy and in decisions on infrastructure projects.
- Integrating biodiversity into the group's environmental management systems (EMS).
- Avoiding the siting of new infrastructure in protected areas or those of high biodiversity value.
- Protecting species and habitats, focusing on prevention and a positive conservation management strategy, and fostering the restoration of natural capital. Participating in research, conservation, education and awareness-raising projects.
- Providing information on the group's activities relating to biodiversity.
Iberdrola is committed to environmental knowledge and fostering the restoration of natural capital, participating in the carrying out of various studies to learn about the behaviour of species in the habitats in which it operates, such as the “Bird Migration” project, whose object is to study the migratory movements of birds in Spain, and studies centred around the assessment of ecosystem services, like the Cumbernauld Living Landscape Pilot Project: Natural Capital Assessment.
Also worthy of note is its collaboration in the production of the Practical Guide to Ecological Restoration, a method-based tool designed to aid decision-making in the fostering of Ecological Restoration in activities for the strengthening and recovery of natural capital.
INITIATIVES, PROJECTS AND ACTIONS
By signing this Pact, Iberdrola underlines its commitment to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. The Pact is sponsored by the Spanish Business and Biodiversity Initiative, created by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment (Magrama) and the Biodiversity Foundation, of which Iberdrola is also a member.
Iberdrola, through its Distribution subsidiary i-DE, will invest around 200 million euros to adapt and correct some 234,000 electrical supports in order to minimise the impact of overhead lines on birdlife. ALETEO project, as it is called, will be carried out in Spain between 2018 and 2025 and will affect one third of the supports the company has installed in the nine autonomous communities where it operates (Madrid, Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha, the Valencian Region, Castilla y León, La Rioja, Navarre, the Basque Country, Murcia Region and Cantabria).
Work on overhead power lines to protect avian fauna in Villalba (Madrid, Spain). Video voice transcription (Spanish version) [PDF]
Priority will be given to modifying the pylons in Spain's Special Bird Protection Areas (ZEPAS), although those located in protection zones established by the Autonomous Communities themselves will also be adapted.
The improvements to be made to the power lines will consist of covering the different phases and connections on the supports, increasing the safety distance — changing the insulators to lengthen the chain or installing other long rod type ones —, replacing the crossarms with others specially designed to protect the birds and installing anti-nesting devices, among other measures.
Over the next two years, the company expects to adapt 25,000 supports on distribution lines to protect birds from electrocution. So far, 4,127 have already been adapted, and a further 6,659 and being processed for adaptation.
Adaptation of electrical supports in Albacete (Spain). Video voice transcription (Spanish version) [PDF]
This ambitious project, under way since 2011, and developed by Fundación Iberdrola España in conjunction with SEO/BirdLife, is a result of Iberdrola's commitment to achieving bird-friendly energy.
The program aims to preserve Spanish birdlife by expanding knowledge of bird migratory and bird breeding habits through the latest geolocation and remote-monitoring technologies. Different species have been equipped with GPS devices to gather the details about their migratory trips, the duration, what route they follow, at what speed and altitude they fly, where they rest and feed and if the routes are the same year after year, which make it possible for all of us to see their movements www.migraciondeaves.org. In addition, they help us anticipate any possible threats that could endanger them, while providing fundamental information to prepare relevant scientific studies.
The MIGRA program currently has 1,083 birds of 32 different species tagged, and useful information has been gathered from 633 birds of 31 different species.
November 2019 marked the publication of Migration and spatial ecology of the Spanish population of the Bulwer's Petrel, which is the fourth monograph to be produced as part of the MIGRA program in collaboration with the Fundación Iberdrola España. Bulwer's Petrel is a small seabird that nests in the Canary Islands and is catalogued as endangered, since in Spain only an estimated 1,000 breeding pairs remain. Knowing the current distribution of these populations will allow, amongst other things, the preparation of a model of the effect of global warming on the distribution of this species, as tropical birds will be the first to suffer the impact of climate change.
The production of this monograph has involved the study of the migration routes of 105 birds fitted with geolocators. In addition, it has been possible to monitor movements during reproduction thanks to the fitting of GPS devices during breeding, which has allowed 59 complete feeding trips to be recorded.
The species the Migrate program is focusing on in 2019 is the Montagu's Harrier, a migratory species classed as vulnerable in the Spanish Catalogue of Endangered Species. We know that the Spanish populations winter in the African Sahel, but until 2018 they had not marked with high-resolution GPS systems to learn in detail about the movements and the migration of this endangered bird of prey, its feeding areas in Spain, its wintering areas in Africa and the places it stops off at on its migratory journeys.
In 2018, 10 examples of adults were tagged in Andalusia, Castilla y León, Catalonia and Galicia, and in the spring of 2019, 13 further harriers were tagged in Albacete, Cáceres, Huelva, Madrid, Palencia, Salamanca and Segovia. In this way, with more than 250,000 locations obtained, it will be possible to know, for example, which zones and habitats are the most important for the species on its migratory routes and where it over-winters. This information will eventually reveal whether some of the conservation problems resulting in the decline in its population arise from these areas, in order to try and resolve them.
Another case is the white stork. After several years studying its migration (more than 50 specimens have been tagged with a GPS device), SEO/BirdLife experts have observed a change in the behaviour of this protected species: the growth of peri-urban dumps has changed their migration patterns and more and more storks remain on the peninsula all year round due to the easy access to food from the dumps.
One example is the pair of white storks nesting in Manzanares el Real (Madrid, Spain), which were banded in 2013. Experts from SEO/Birdlife have been observing them for more than five years, which has allowed them to learn about the life of these birds in great detail. Between the end of July and beginning of August the storks leave for their wintering grounds in Rivas-Vaciamadrid, some 50 kilometres from their nest, instead of migrating to Africa as they used to do until a few years ago.
A pair of white storks.
SEO/BirdLife and the group for the Rehabilitation of Autochthonous Fauna and its Habitat (GREFA) have also marked more than 80 lesser kestrels across Spain, enabling Spanish specialists to track the movements, their migratory paths, their African wintering areas and real-time location of these birds of prey in full detail for the first time.
Nano-GPS systems have been used to track the birds. These state-of-the-art devices weighing less than five grams are attached to the kestrel's back like a sort of backpack to reveal their movements day and night and monitor their migratory habits. This system has been used to mark 13 lesser kestrels in Cordoba, nine in Cuenca, 12 in Gerona, nine in Huesca, five in Jaen, 29 in Madrid and nine in Zamora.
Nano-GPS trackers have been attached to the lesser kestrels' backs to record their migratory habits.
In the same way, to celebrate the 2018 World Migratory Bird Day, the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/BirdLife) has tagged four peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) chicks, a species listed as Vulnerable in the Community of Madrid Catalogue of Threatened Species. The tagging, which was made possible through cooperation with Iberdrola, will provide greater knowledge of this species, which is recorded as having at least 38 pairs in the region, of which 23 are in the mountains, three on the plain and 12 in the centre of Madrid.
This organisation has been monitoring the peregrine falcon population of Madrid for many years. In 2007 a pair was spotted at the General Gómez Ulla Hospital and after a nesting box was placed there to encourage them to reproduce it was occupied by a pair of birds. Since then peregrine falcons have been breeding there.
Tagging a peregrine falcon nesting at the Gómez Ulla Hospital in Madrid.
SEO/BirdLife has also presented the publication titled Migración y Ecología Espacial de las Poblaciones Españolas de Pardela Cenicienta (Migration and Spatial Ecology of the Spanish Populations of the Scopoli's/Cory's Shearwater), the third monograph in the Migra program edited by SEO/BirdLife in partnership with Iberdrola. The work was possible thanks to the banding of 460 examples across 13 breeding colonies throughout different Spanish regions, namely the Balearic Islands, Castellón, Murcia, Almería, Chafarinas Islands, the Atlantic Islands of Galicia and several of the Canary Islands. Given the magnitude of the registered positioning database, with its 1,017,029 tracked locations, considering not only the number of individuals but also the number and distribution of included colonies, in addition to the number of years of the study, this work is by far the most ambitious to date in addressing the movement ecology of Spanish species using the lastest remote tracking devices.
Migrating Cory's Shearwaters. © Pep Arcos.
Another publication in SEO/BirdLife's MIGRA Program was the Migration and Spatial Ecology of the Spanish Population of Booted Eagle. To carry out the study, 21 eagles have been tagged with GPS and over 83,000 locations have been obtained from the more than 194,000 km covered by the birds on their journeys. The study data reveals that international cooperation is essential to create safe areas for booted eagles on their migratory journeys to sub-Saharan Africa: during their autumnal migration, these birds travel between 2,400 and 3,400 km, arriving in Savannah areas of the African Sahel. This trip lasts about three weeks and there are days when they fly as far as 400 km at a maximum speed of 72 km/h.
Booted eagle tagged with GPS.
During 2019, the MIGRA program has 1,038 birds marked from 32 different species. Another important initiative of the Iberdrola Spain Foundation is the signing of a partnership agreement with the Bearded Vulture Conservation Foundation for a new project to study the influence of climate change on this and other Alpine birds. The study is continuing by installing further traps and collecting eggs for breeding and subsequent release. Three specimens have been released in the Picos de Europa.
Some of the latest findings of the program include the case of the swift, a summer migratory bird par excellence, which can travel 20,000 kilometres on its migratory flight to Africa. The common swift is one of the most characteristic birds in our towns and cities at springtime. Every year, starting in March, thousands of birds flood the sky every year with their characteristic screeching sounds, and they begin to abandon their nests towards the end of July to migrate to Africa. 41 swifts in Nuevo Baztán (a municipality of Madrid) were banded for this study.
A common swift banded and ready to be tracked. Video voice transcription (Spanish version) [PDF]
In the specefic case of the Spanish pallid swift, through the use of GPS devices we now know about its migratory habits and overwintering areas. In one case, we attached an emitter weighing 0.6 grams to a bird of this species in 2015, which revealed the secrets of its journey: a trip of over 3,600 km, from Zaragoza to Benin and Nigeria, where it would spend the winter.
Pallid swift equipped with a geolocation device.
Furthermore, the MIGRA program by SEO/Birdlife, in collaboration with Iberdrola, has published a monograph about the Audouin's gull, a species native to the Mediterranean with a relatively small population, 90% of which nest in Spain during their reproductive season.
For the study on the Migration and Spatial Ecology of Audouin's Gull in the Western Mediterranean and North-East Africa, 221,931 spatial locations of more than 15,500 different specimens were analysed. Its 100 pages contain the movements, phenology and spatial ecology of the Audouin's gull at its breeding grounds, on migratory routes and in wintering areas. The study likewise reveals 15 areas of great value for the species on the African coasts that deserve to be identified as Important Bird Areas (IBA).
The program for the conservation of this autochthonous and emblematic species in danger of extinction in the Cantabrian Mountain Range has involved active work between 2010 and 2016 with the two-fold objective of halting its decline and fostering its recovery.
At the start of the project, it was estimated that only some 400 specimens remained between Asturias, León and Cantabria. To contribute to the recovery of this species, the European LIFE+ Cantabrian Capercaillie Project, coordinated by the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing, Food and the Environment, with the support of Fundación Iberdrola España and the Autonomous National Parks Organisation, a series of urgent conservation, social participation, awareness raising and dissemination actions have been carried out.
Some of the main actions carried out since 2010 include:
- Forestry treatments in over 500 hectares to improve the Capercaillie's habitat.
- Removal or marking of 60 km of dangerous fences to eliminate the risk of electrocution.
- Control and monitoring of the deer population, due to its direct effect on the availability of food for the Capercaillie.
- Breeding in captivity programme as a complementary measure to the management of the habitat and re-introduction of Capercaillies into the wild.
- 19 land custody projects thanks to 29 voluntary agreements between owners, non-profit organisations and other public and private agents.
- Environmental awareness-raising and educational activities, with school workshops, in which 2,000 students have participated.
This project has laid the foundations for the future conservation of the species, based on the experience and technical know-how acquired during the execution of the different actions.
Iberdrola has been implementing biodiversity programs and plans for years, the management of which is ongoing. As well as assessing environmental impact, these initiatives also aim to prevent and/or mitigate it, restore natural capital, develop relations with stakeholders and raise awareness amongst society. The Group's work in Spain, the UK, U.S., Brazil and Mexico can be viewed in the Action plans section.