Lack of rain stops flamingos breeding

2016-08-31 10:00:00

The lack of rainfall and strong winds at the the Fuente de Piedra lagoon have resulted in a drought which has left very little water in the area, discouraging the flamingos that usually come to the area to reproduce.
Currently, there are only 500 birds remaining at the lagoon in Fuente de Piedra, living in a small patch of water of around 300 square metres, a very small part of the lake which normally covers an area of over 1,300 hectares. Many birds have arrived in the area, but the adverse conditions have caused them to migrate before attempting to breed in the reserve.
The main reason for this is that the area is currently being affected by a drought. Manuel Rendón, who is responsible for the Fuente de Piedra reserve, explains that the thin sheet of water which remains hasn’t reached the 30cm minimum depth that is necessary for the birds to settle there and breed.
“Another essential factor is that the water level needs to remain stable for some time, because the flamingo chicks stay in the area for a few months before flying away. This is something else which has not happened,” he says.
Not only has rainfall been low this year, with less than 286 litres instead of the usual average of 450, but the conditions have also been worsened by strong winds at the end of April, with gusts of more than 54 kms an hour.
“The lagoon at Fuente de Piedra is similar to a beach in character, meaning that the air moves across the area from one side to the other, and that causes the water to evaporate faster than if it were still” explains Manuel.
According to the Junta de Andalucía’s environmental delegate, Adolfo Moreno, since the wetland in Malaga was turned into a nature reserve 32 years ago, there have only been six occasions when the flamingos haven’t reproduced. The last time this happened was in 2012.
However, Manuel Rendón does not appear concerned that the birds are not breeding in the area this year, and explains that the wetland changes according to the seasons and that the situation depends entirely on the weather.
“In wetter years the water can be more than two metres deep, but when there is a drought it is like a saline desert. The conditions depend on nature, not on human intervention,” he says.
Manuel also points out that the whole ecosystem of this wetland in Malaga is prepared for these extreme conditions which come with the Mediterranean climate, in which there are years with plenty of rain and others with none at all, resulting in droughts.
In the dry periods, the vegetation sinks its roots deep into the ground in search of water and it is able to tolerate the salinity very well.
Additionally, the zooplankton, which the flamingos feed on, can withstand the periods when there is less rainfall.
“Zooplankton survives in the mud. For example, if I took some of the earth from the lake now and poured water over it, these micro-organisms would appear,” says Manuel.
Over the past 32 years 327,428 pink flamingos and common flamingos have settled in the area and raised 201,408 flamingo chicks.
“Flamingos are experts at surviving in conditions which fluctuate considerably,” says Manuel Rendón, who also points out that these birds are able to fly up to 1,300 kms a day, so they are easily able to move to other wetlands where the conditions are more suitable for them to breed and raise their chicks.
“If I found myself facing a drought situation, I would want to be a flamingo” jokes the manager of this nature reserve, who insists that there is no cause for concern.
“This is a cyclical situation, it is something that happens every so often,” he says. When the rain returns, so will the birds, and the Fuente de Piedra lagoon will be tinged with pink as usual.source surinenglish