ECOQUARRY (LIFE04 ENV/ES000195) was a demonstration project carried out in 11 limestone quarries located in NE-E Spain (Catalonia and Valencia) and South Portugal. Scientific/technical orientation was provided by several academic institutions in both countries. The main objectives were i) to use the best available technologies in quarry restoration in a field scale trial, under Mediterranean climate conditions, ii) to improve restoration interventions, developing standardized quality control processes, iii) to promote the rational and sustainable use of natural resources and an increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide fixation, iv) to transfer processes directly to big and small mining companies.
The project was simultaneously implemented in all the quarries of the consortium: 1) Implementation of pilot plot, to test for the most appropriate herbaceous species for each vegetation zone, increasing the diversity of shrub species (through sowing and plantation) and of their spatial distribution. 2) Quality control: optimizing resources and maintenance (e.g. frequency and dosage of irrigation), monitoring vegetation development. 3) Evaluation of results (effectiveness and efficiency). 4) Establishment of an environmental quality system for restoration (quality protocols, restoration manual).
The main problems resulted from erosion and instability of slopes, poor-quality of supplies (low viability of seeds and seedlings, non-availability of autochthonous species) and non-specialization of workers carrying out the plantations. A severe drought on the first year also limited the actions and the interpretation of results.
The project promoted and demonstrated the use of local materials for substrates, native species, and minimum inputs (especially watering) in the perspective of cost-effectiveness. The handbook “Guidelines for limestone quarry restoration in Mediterranean climate” will provide practical assessment in limestone quarry restoration to the enterprises and technical staff in the cement and aggregate sectors. ECOQUARRY promoted co-operation between the mining sector and the scientists involved, so facilitating the exchange of experiences, and further contacts. Awareness of the relevance of restoration process has raised among quarry technical staff.
Catalonia, Spain, 41.5911589, 1.5208623999999418
Country or Territory:
Area being restored:
43800 meters squared
University / Academic Institution
Primary Causes of DegradationMining & Resource Extraction
Degradation was primarily driven by limestone extraction, with deep modification of topography and hydrology, as well as vegetation and soil removal. This degradation occurs within relatively small areas, but their proximity to highly valued natural areas explains that the main social concerns are aesthetical and recreational. In areas with high density of quarries, fragmentation of habitats becomes a potential problem. In some cases dust pollution is also a matter of concern for local populations.
Reference Ecosystem Description
Mediterranean scrub, dominated by evergreen sclerophyllous shrubs or, in earlier successional stages, by summer semi-deciduous shrubs; in some locations, tree forms were also dominant (Aleppo-pine, holm-oak).
The main objectives were i) to use the best available technologies in quarry restoration in a field scale trial, under Mediterranean climate conditions, ii) to improve restoration interventions, developing standardized quality control processes, iii) to promote the rational and sustainable use of natural resources and an increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide fixation, iv) to transfer processes directly to big and small mining companies.
These goals were defined by the scientific partners in the consortium, within the criteria framework of the funding programme (EU LIFE-Environment).
The project does not have a monitoring plan.
The project involved 10 extractive companies, with varying restoration experience, all interested in improving their restoration practices. Moreover, the project involved two industrial associations (extractive sector), in charge of the dissemination of results, and a government agency responsible for environmental control and legislation. In this demonstration project, most activities were planned by the scientific partners, according to the limitations presented by the quarry partners, who implemented the pilot-plots.
Description of Project Activities:
1) Implementation of pilot tests - preparation of plots (amended vs non-amended substrates); choice and hydroseeding of herbaceous and shrub species (commercial vs autochthonous); choice and plantation of autochthonous woody species (c. 10 species). 2) Quality control - testing seed viability; optimizing the frequency and dosage of irrigation (soil water monitoring); monitoring vegetation survival and development. 3) Evaluation of results (effectiveness and efficiency) - soil characteristics; plant cover, survival, diversity. 4) Dissemination of activities and results, including quality control protocols, a technical course (held in Barcelona in November 2007) and a restoration guide for Mediterranean limestone quarries.
Ecological Outcomes Achieved
Eliminate existing threats to the ecosystem:
More than 50% survival of introduced woody plants in most quarries; adequate herb cover.
Factors limiting recovery of the ecosystem:
Physical instability of substrates (slopes > 30%). Severe drought on the first year after sowing/planting (2005), leading to exceptional plot management actions (e.g. irrigation). Timing of seeding/planting. Use of some aggressive commercial herb species. Competition between herbs and woody plants.
Socio-Economic & Community Outcomes Achieved
Economic vitality and local livelihoods:
The project affected only very small areas within large quarries, with no direct effect in human well being. However, the improvement of restoration technologies benefits the social perception of mining activities, and provides economic opportunities for companies related to restoration, e.g. local forest nurseries, forest engineering companies, landscapers and environmentalists.
Key Lessons Learned
ECOQUARRY has developed a set of pilot restoration projects for limestone quarries under a large diversity of Mediterranean climate and substrate conditions, with the participation of scientists, technical staff of quarry companies, and environmental administrations from Catalonia and Valencia Regions (Spain) and Alentejo (Portugal).
Current (Mediterranean) quarry restoration approaches lacks quality control schemes and is focused on short-term greening of slopes, without a long-term ecological perspective.
The project developed control quality schemes for the various restoration phases with the perspective of recovering functional ecosystems, integrated in the surrounding landscape. Restoration ecology principles have been adopted for designing the minimum and necessary restoration actions to trigger natural succession in the middle term. In this framework, the project has promoted and demonstrated the use of local materials for substrates, native species, and minimum inputs (especially watering) in the perspective of cost-effectiveness. The elaboration of the handbook “Guidelines for limestone quarry restoration in Mediterranean climate” will provide practical assessment in limestone quarry restoration to the enterprises and technical staff in the cement and aggregate sectors.
The project contributed to significantly increase the awareness of quality control relevance in restoration projects for the limestone quarry sector. The direct involvement of mining companies and associations in the project ensured the immediate transfer of its technical achievements to the end users. The involved universities established collaboration contracts with some quarry associations and companies in order to make the follow up of restoration projects in the longer-term, and widen the application of the achievements to other companies in the limestone quarry sector.
The cause of degradation (limestone extraction) is no longer expected to affect the pilot areas or their close vicinity (post-extraction areas). No mid-term or long-term monitoring program exists (out of the scope of ECOQUARRY), although it would be of utmost importance; further monitoring will depend on the interest (and economic investment) of each mine company where the pilot plots were installed.
Sources and Amounts of Funding
960 416 Euros 50% from the European Union (LIFE-Environment Programme); 50% from the Consortium. Additional costs were also supported by the mining companies in the Consortium.