Field StationHerdade da Ribeira Abaixo
The Field Station of the CBA occupies the “Herdade da Ribeira Abaixo” (HRA), a state property with an area of 221 ha owned by the Ministry of Agriculture (“Direcção Geral de Hidráulica e Engenharia Agrícola” - IHERA). It is located in the eastern slope of Serra de Grândola (Baixo Alentejo), 100 km south of Lisbon (latitude: 38º 05’ N - 38º 08’ N; longitude: 8º 33’ W - 8º 38’ W).
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The Field Station is mainly covered by cork-oak woodland (“montado”) and is crossed by several temporary small streams. The “montado” is a typical Mediterranean woodland ecosystem resulting from the traditional human use of the landscape and constituting one of the best examples of the relative harmony between long-standing human activities and the conservation of biodiversity. This ecosystem is considered a habitat of EU interest not only from the botanical point of view, but also because it supports a fauna of high conservation importance. In fact, the first biological characterization of the Field Station [M. Santos-Reis & A.I. Correia, 1999: Caracterização da Flora e Fauna do Montado da Herdade da Ribeira Abaixo, Centro de Biologia Ambiental, Lisboa, 262pp.], showed that its floristic and faunistic communities are considerably rich and diverse, with over 200 species of mushrooms, 400 species of plants, 130 species of vertebrates and about 140 species of insects recorded, several of them of conservation concern. The overall goal of the Field Station is to provide a location and other facilities for students, researchers and visiting scientists to undertake their research in the area of Ecology. Furthermore, educational programmes promoting public awareness of the importance of cork-oak woodlands are also being carried out.
Currently, the Field Station has two recovered buildings - one for the accommodation of researchers and students (with 8 beds) and another (the “Ecoteca”) for teaching and research. The latter is a multi-functional space that includes laboratories, offices, an exhibition room and a conference room. The official opening of the main building occurred on the 5th October 1996, while the “Ecoteca” was inaugurated on the 10th October 2001. The main building has been effectively occupied, since 1996, having allowed the development of several R&D projects and training activities.
Over the years, the Field Station has been used for undergraduate (with about 40 visiting students/ year) and post-graduate courses (10 students/ year). Furthermore, more than 40 students have undertaken their final year graduation courses at the Field Station, and 6 MSc. and 10 Ph.D. students have used it as the base for their research programmes. Their work resulted on average in 8 publications/ year in international journals, as well as 15 to 20 communications/ year in international scientific meetings.
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The Field Station has also been used for teaching and recreational activities for Grândola Basic School children (about 2 visits/ year), and for the “Biology during the summer” activities (2 to 4 visits/ year). Furthermore, the “Ecoteca” was also used for open sessions for forest producers and for two technical courses directed to the local population. During 2004, the HRA was one of the case studies for the “Portugal Millennium Ecosystem Assessment”. Furthermore, 19 ha of the HRA are now a demonstration area for the project “Southern Portugal Cork-Oak forests landscape restoration”, of the WWF – Mediterranean Program. The HRA was also chosen as the presentation place of this project to the public, on the 30th November 2004, and was visited by governmental representatives of north-African countries that also maintain cork-oak woodlands – Morocco and Tunisia, as well as by World Wildlife Fund technicians from Portugal, Spain, Great Britain, Morocco and Tunisia. Since 2004 that the Field Station has been a demonstration area of sound silvicultural management practices as the result of a project funded by the “Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e Pescas” (INIAP) focusing on the regeneration of cork-oak woodlands.