The Mas del Peraire

The first and most emblematic of the Foundation´s projects was the purchase of land to create the Biological Reserve of "Mas del Peraire".

Situated in the north of the province of Castellón, in the municipality of Fredes - Pobla de Benifassà - these 240 hectares of relatively unspoilt land were acquired in 1997 by the Foundation with the aim of preserving their natural beauty.

Activities

The Enrique Montoliu Foundation took over the management of the Mas del Peraire Biological Reserve in 1997. The previously disturbed environment has been allowed to recover naturally and at its own pace, aided only by carefully chosen conservation management techniques. The most significant activities being carried out are outlined below.

The request to prohibit hunting in the reserve was officially recognised on the 14th August 1998 by the Local Governmental Department of the Environment and Sustainable Development, published as Article 3345 of the D.O.G.V (The Official Bulletin of the ‘Generalitat Valenciana’) on the 6th October 1998. The land was then officially declared a Biological Reserve, with the banning of all hunting activities within its boundaries.

Signposts and barriers have been placed throughout the reserve to help restrict public access and inform the public of the reserve’s status. Motorised vehicles are only allowed to enter after having acquired the necessary permits, for research, official visits or surveillance. Nevertheless, the public can visit the reserve whenever they wish, as long as they do so on foot and respect the nature around them.

Evidence of past agricultural exploitation in the area is provided by the long, intricate stone wall-terracing network found throughout the reserve. The land was abandoned several decades ago and natural vegetation has been re-colonising these constructions ever since. The Foundation has restored some of the original damaged walls using traditional masonry techniques, with the aim of preventing erosion and maintaining soil fertility, thus aiding the natural colonisation of the terraces by native wood species. Other ancient constructions found within the reserve include a traditional oven made of juniper resin and many small wells. The wells, which had previously supplied local inhabitants and their livestock with water, were all found in very poor condition. Inner walls which had caved-in, restricting the flow of water, are currently being restored. In addition to this, a small part of the old farmhouse is being reconstructed for use as a refuge and research centre.

All work being carried out in the biological reserve is ecologically sound, causing minimal impact on the environment and preserving traditional landscape features, whilst providing the necessary infrastructure to be able to achieve the Foundation’s objectives of scientific research and conservation. Great care is taken in choosing the appropriate construction materials and methods for acquiring energy and water supplies.

Three small parts of the reserve were declared 'micro-reserves' as part of
the LIFE Project ¨Floral Conservation within the Community of Valencia¨ and
the entire area was declared a Wild Animal Reserve on the 18th January 2005.

Finally, various scientists have been carrying out research within the reserve:
- A doctoral thesis on the vegetation of the region was completed by Dr. Arnoldo Valsangiacomo, in collaboration with the Botanical Garden of Valencia.
- Research on the bear berry (Arctostaphyllos uva-ursi) by Dr. Patricio García Fayos includes investigating the species’ reproductive cycle and its possible use in the prevention of soil erosion. 
- Various research and monitoring programmes for the reintroduction of endangered floral species are being carried by the environmental department of the local government.
- Dr. Juan Bautista Miguel Gil has written a paper concerning management of the Mas del Peraire Biological Reserve.

- Various species of vulture are being monitored by Dr. Juan Bautista Miguel Gil and Dr. Enrique Errando Mariscal, in particular the lammergeiers (Gypaetus barbatus), with the aim of reintroducing them into the reserve.

Description

The area covers a wide range of altitudes, from 700 metres above sea-level in the deepest ravines, to 1.300 metres above sea-level at higher ground. The vegetation is distributed according to these variations, with Scotch pines (Pinus sylvestris) dominating the higher areas, and kermes oaks (Quercus ilex) the lower areas.

The majority of the area is currently recovering from the negative effects caused by long-term human exploitation such as severe deforestation of pines during the 1960s and the felling of large numbers of Kermes oaks for the charcoal industry in the 1950s. Despite these drawbacks, the area is very well conserved.

Flora

Various native trees flourish amongst the Scotch pine and Kermes oak woods including the black pine (Pinus nigra), the Valencian oak (Quercus valentina), the holly (Ilex aquifolium) and various maple species (Acer spp.).

The forest undergrowth is dominated by the following species: the common juniper (Juniperus communis), the bear berry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), the service berry (Amelanchier ovalis), the box tree (Buxus sempervivens), ivy (Hedera helix), white rock roses (Cistus albidus) and heather (Erica multiflora).

Some plants found in the reserve are of particular interest as they are either endangered, endemics with a very reduced distribution or representatives that are found at the extreme limit of the species´ overall distribution. Examples of these include: Salix tarraconensis, Sorbus aria, Taxus baccata, Antirrhinum pertegasii, Pinguicula grandifloradertosensis, Paeonia officinalis and Thymus willkommii.

Fauna

The variety of Mediterranean fauna is exceptionally well represented in this reserve due to three main reasons: its location in the heart of one of the least-populated areas on the Iberian Peninsula; the large diversity of habitats found within a small area because of significant variations in altitude; and certain parts of the reserve being virtually inaccessible to man. These factors mean that Mas del Peraire has become one of the few remaining places where certain animal species can still live and reproduce successfully.

Since even a basic knowledge concerning Mediterranean amphibians and reptiles is lacking, the protection of the reserve is vital so that it can be used as an area for research and the establishment of species management plans and reintroduction programmes. This is especially important for endemic and threatened species such as the Spanish Ribbed Newt (Pleurodeles waltl), the Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) and Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni). 

The reserve boasts a great variety of birds, especially birds of prey, including: Griffon Vulture(Gyps fulvus) the Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), the Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), the Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) and the Tawny Owl (Strix aluco)...

Some other birds deserve a special mention as they are relatively rare in Spain: the Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis), the European Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), the Siskin (Carduelis spinus), the Citril Finch (Serinus citrinella), the Common Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), the Gold Crest (Regulus regulus) and the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus minor). These species are more common in Central Europe, but can be found in the reserve during the winter or when breeding thanks to the unique ecosystems found there. In addition, the reserve is an important ‘stop-over’ and resting area for migratory birds, owing to its proximity to the coast, but its isolation from major urban developments.

The Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica) is probably the most emblematic mammal species inhabiting the reserve. The last few remaining individuals (a few dozen) took refuge in these mountains over 20 years ago. With the introduction of strict protective and conservation measures the population began to recover and now has spread throughout the north of the province of Castellón. In addition to the Spanish Ibex, large numbers of wild boar (Sus scrofa) are found in the reserve and there is also a rich diversity of carnivorous mammals.

The identification of a wild cat (Felis sylvestris) population in the area is of great importance, considering the vulnerable status of the species according to the Spanish Red List of Vertebrates (a list used to describe species which are vulnerable, threatened or on the verge of extinction). Good size populations of badgers (Meles meles) and beech martens (Martes foina) are also found in the reserve.

Two other mammals deserve a mention here because of their possible recovery from extinction in the area.

  • Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) disappeared from the area over a century ago, when the last captured individual was recorded. During the summer of 1998, a roe deer was accidentally run over in the area, which may indicate natural re-colonisation by this species.
  • The Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) is considered to be one of the carnivores most threatened with extinction in the world. This species inhabited the area until the 1950s, and the possible recovery of lynxes in the reserve is of vital importance for the overall conservation of the species.

Cadastral data:

Zone: Date land registry: Value € Area: Pol: Plot: Land registry reference:
Cervera. La Pobla de Benifassà
21/07/1997 254.228 € 516.136 m2
12 2 12093A018000020000WD
Peraire. La Pobla de Benifassà
1.282.750 m2 18 3 12093A018000030000WX
Peraire. La Pobla de Benifassà 459.495 m2 19 6 12093A019000060000WK

 

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