This action aims, on the one hand, to evaluate the achievements and improvements in biodiversity obtained from the conservation actions carried out in the demonstration olive groves and, on the other, to provide the scientific basis for drawing up certification protocols for olive oils that contribute to halting the loss of biodiversity. In short, the aim is to answer the questions:
To this end, the following questions will be addressed:
Diversity, complexity and connectivity of the landscape, with special attention to the changes achieved after 4 years in the pilot plots as a consequence of the actions carried out.
We intend to compile this GIS information, as in previous actions, provided that orthophotos were available from Andalusia after 3 or 4 years of the landscape diversification actions (estimated for 2019-2020). In any case, the transverse and height growth of hedges, boundaries, etc., that have been installed, as well as the cover in the case of island copses, will be assessed.
In April 2019, field work began to monitor biodiversity indicators (D1). In addition to replicating all A2 work in the post-operational phase, new biodiversity sampling not originally planned was carried out to assess the effects of restoration actions. The information from these surveys has complemented the information obtained on biodiversity recovery and informed the small-scale impact of the restoration actions.
The fieldwork was completed in the first quarter of 2020, at which point the data obtained was analysed.
These data were passed through different recovery indices, based on the difference between post-operational and pre-operational biodiversity for each demonstration farm and its control. These were calculated separately for the two main components of biodiversity (species richness and abundance). Absolute and standardised recovery indices (RI and Std RI) were constructed, the latter being truly comparable between groups of organisms, and we examined: (i) whether recorded recovery depended on the agricultural practices (intensive, extensive and extensive ecological management of herbaceous cover) that each farm was implementing prior to the implementation of the restoration plans and (ii) the influence of landscape heterogeneity and intensification on recorded recovery. The main results, conclusions and messages of this action are (1) Overall, the Andalusian olive grove continues to host a wide biodiversity – 10% of the Iberian flora, 30% of bird species and 20% of ant and bee species – and therefore remains an important refuge for Mediterranean biodiversity. (2) If properly managed, this agro-ecosystem would significantly improve local and regional biodiversity. Despite the short time elapsed since the implementation of the Olivares Vivos restoration plans (three years), a rapid recovery of species richness and abundance was scientifically demonstrated (on average 7% increase in species richness and 18% increase in abundance in only three years). (3) Olive groves severely degraded by intensive agricultural practices show the greatest short-term improvements, with an average of 12% recovery in species richness and 70% in abundance. (4) Landscape homogenisation and loss of agricultural mosaics due to olive grove expansion hinder biodiversity recovery. (5) Recovery of each group of organisms is highly scale-dependent (e.g. ants respond positively to small-scale restoration actions, whereas birds are strongly influenced by farm-scale changes. The component of biodiversity (abundance or richness) favoured also varies substantially between organisms. (6) Simple indicators such as richness and abundance of birds (and of specific groups: insectivorous, farm and common birds), grass cover and rate of nest colonisation by solitary bees achieve the best recovery scores in olive groves.
A questionnaire was sent to the managers of the demonstration olive groves to collect information on the different practices involving operating costs in each grove, estimates of average production in recent years and estimates of production costs per hectare. The economic benefit provided by the operation was also questioned, in subjective terms.
After analysing the results of this previous work, a procedure was established to determine this evolution.
Additional work was carried out in collaboration with the Carlos III University of Madrid, which will strengthen the analysis of the economic and social impact of the project.
An external assistance collaboration was agreed with a prestigious company specialising in international olive growing. This facilitated the analysis of the project’s profitability indicators and included comparisons of the indicators of the different farms with reference values in neighbouring farms. These values, referring to harvest volume, fat yield, input costs and selling prices, made it possible to determine not only the evolution of these figures over the course of the project, but also their situation in relation to nearby competitors. This made it possible to identify the main strengths and weaknesses of each farm.
Most of the farms increased their production, maintaining costs or increasing them slightly, but to a lesser extent than production.
Therefore, the productivity of the farms was not negatively affected by the implementation of the Olivares Vivos model.
The analysis indicated that being part of Olivares Vivos offers a competitive advantage and generates a higher profit margin due to the differentiation of Olivares Vivos oils and because of the added value of the final product, which is directly related to the sustainable production of olives and the active restoration work that effectively increases biodiversity on these farms.
This action began in December 2018, once the EVOOs produced in the demonstration olive groves during that season were on the market. Since then, the collection of the information needed to measure the impact of the OV certification on the market and the degree of consumer satisfaction has been planned, and a company has been selected to analyse these issues with the EVOOs produced in the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 campaigns that have already begun to distinguish themselves as «participants», with the OV seal.
Prior to carrying out this study, a first market test was designed in February 2019 to analyse the influence of the label on EVOO consumer behaviour in real marketing situations (specialised shops, online platforms and large supermarkets). The test began in May 2019 and ended in September 2019. Its objective was to analyse the degree of recognition and notoriety of the Olivares Vivos seal, as well as the effectiveness of the communication strategy implemented. To this end, an online form was created consisting of a series of questions in 6 different categories: recognition of the seal, knowledge of the seal, preference for the seal, consumer opinion on the importance of caring for the environment and consuming products that preserve it, consumer understanding of the messages transmitted through Olivares Vivos’ communication channels, and consumer assessment of the communication of the Olivares Vivos seal.
A total of 1,242 responses were obtained, of which 999 were valid, in Spain, the UK, Germany and Denmark.
All aspects of the project that have an impact on the local population will be monitored and information will be collected in order to assess its social and economic impact.
Organisation of activities and events. The activities organised will be recorded and the participation of the local population in them will be counted.
The expenditure incurred by the project on professionals and companies in the different project areas, through the different external assistance planned, will be accounted for. An estimate will also be made of the future economic impact of this work based on different scenarios for the growth of olive groves subscribed to OOVV. The project will at all times seek to prioritise local contracting for external assistance.
The different actions carried out in the LIFE Olivares Vivos project have had an impact on various sectors of the local population, such as trade, awareness-raising among target groups, job creation or specialised training.
In order to assess this impact in the different areas of project implementation, specific objectives were identified, answering the following questions:
The results obtained indicated that the economic impact has been limited, mainly due to the dispersion of the geographical areas of the project. In this regard, the study identified the main business sectors that will be influenced by the extension of the project. Specifically, the environmental restoration field work sector (plantations, installation of wildlife structures, etc.) will benefit the most, followed by the hotel and catering industry and forest plant nurseries.
The replication of the project will increase the number of farms joining the certification procedure and will also improve the implementation of the Olivares Vivos Agri-environmental Plan.
Furthermore, the replication will foster the creation of green jobs in different fields of expertise, such as the sustainable management of agricultural land and the development of environmental restoration plans.
The social impact on the different target audiences has been significant. The awareness-raising campaigns have reached a large audience, especially through the school campaign. More than 2,700 pupils have participated in this campaign and, in addition, more than 86,000 pupils have received information about the project. The demand for these activities has been very high throughout the implementation of the project.
Likewise, the results obtained with the university community have been remarkable. Olivares Vivos has participated in the training of specialised professionals with a high potential for disseminating the work strategies of Olivares Vivos in the areas of environmental restoration, use of the ecosystem services of biodiversity and development of biodiversity-friendly agricultural models.
Finally, the great interest in the project among the olive sector is probably one of the most remarkable results of the project, as it indicates the great potential for replication of all the above-mentioned impacts. The number of olive producers who have expressed their interest and willingness to join the Olivares Vivos cultivation model has steadily increased, reaching more than 700 by the end of the project.
The ecosystem functions and services analysed were:
(i) Productivity of the herbaceous cover and its protective role against erosion.
ii) Improving the functional connectivity of the olive grove landscape.
iii) Seed dispersal by birds and mobility across the olive landscape, as mobile links between semi-natural patches in olive landscapes.
iv) Pollination of flowering plants by insects that promotes herbaceous cover and fertilisation of woody plants.
Most of these functions were examined considering two scales of land use intensification:
i) local scale, which considers the impact of agricultural practices within each demonstration olive farm, and ii) landscape scale, which considers the homogenisation and simplification of landscapes due to olive grove expansion.
The main conclusions and messages derived from all these analyses are:
(1) The productivity of the herbaceous stratum and ground cover, as well as the connectivity of natural elements at farm and landscape scale, recover rapidly after the implementation of the Olivares Vivos restoration plans.
(2) This recovery is more pronounced on intensive agriculture demonstration farms.
(3) Bird-mediated seed dispersal and its associated services (landscape connectivity and natural vegetation restoration) are at risk in olive-dominated landscapes.
(4) The seed dispersal service among the remnants of native vegetation would improve significantly (up to 4 times) with the recovery of unproductive forest patches in olive landscapes.
(5) Maintenance, restoration and promotion of forest patches should be a mandatory ecological scheme for the conservation of the seed dispersal service and to improve connectivity in olive landscapes.
(6) Insect-mediated pollination of wild flowering plants is an important service in olive groves as it is the starting point for self-regeneration and maintenance of native vegetation covers, which in turn are key to the sustainability of olive orchard productivity, given their multiple functions.
(7) Olive groves continue to support a diverse assemblage of insects that actively pollinate the herbaceous canopy of olive groves.
(8) Pollination service seems to be more influenced by the quality of the flowering plot than by local management and landscape simplification.
(9) Some solitary bee species, which are easy to detect and quantify/estimate with nest boxes, are favoured by extensive and ecological practices and could be used as bio-indicators of the impact of agricultural practices on pollination networks.
La Sociedad Española de Ornitología es la entidad conservacionista decana de España. Desde 1954, sigue teniendo como misión conservar la biodiversidad, con la participación e implicación de la sociedad, siempre con las aves como bandera.
SEO/BirdLife es la representante en España de BirdLife International, una federación que agrupa a las asociaciones dedicadas a la conservación de las aves y sus hábitats en todo el mundo, con representación en más de 100 países y más de 13 millones de socios.
Es el socio coordinador del LIFE Olivares Vivos+.