Following the felling operations, a number of hauling roads were built in number and layout without causing any impact on the natural components (soil, non-living natural resources, upwelling, species, etc.). By establishing these roads, logging operation

The LIFE BACCATA Project is co-financed by the European Commission in the Framework of the LIFE Call. It will take place between 2016 and 2020 in fifteen Natura 2000 Network sites in the Cantabria Mountain Range located in Galicia, Castilla y León and the Basque Country. IBADER from the University of Santiago de Compostela is the lead partner of this project and the Castilla y León Regional Government, CESEFOR, Fundación HAZI and Grupo TRAGSA are the remaining partners.
The characterization of the ‛Mediterranean forests of Taxus baccata’ in the Cantabrian Mountain Range of Galicia was done according to the objectives set in the LIFE BACCATA Project. The study involves the characterization and diagnosis of the habitat aimed developing the technical planning for the specific conservation actions; assessing the habitat 9580* ex-ante situation; assessing the ethno-cultural elements of the yew woods; and establishing a methodology to assess the project effects.

This type of studies allows for the review of the habitat 9580* interpretation criteria and for the habitat 9580* updated mapping, which enable the correction of the existing mistakes in the Project Standard Data Forms (SDF) of the Natura 2000 Sites. More accurate mapping favours a more suitable analysis of its conservation status.

The objectives of this study were the following:
Help to make a clearer interpretation of the habitat 9580*  
Gather information for the local appraisal of the habitat 9580*  
Lessen the uncertainty level when developing the technical planning of the conservation actions.
Define the methodology used to follow up the Project effects on the habitat.
  • The study began with a literature review to clarify the distribution of the habitat type in the territory. This review has revealed that the interpretations made at national level have important deficits, while the Galicia Habitat Manual adopts the definitions of Interpretation Manual of EU Habitat, citing the presence of this type of habitat in Galician territories, both in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. According to the recommendation contained in the final paragraph of the definition of habitat 9580 * in the Interpretation Manual of EU habitats, and for the sake of biogeographic consistency with what is exposed in relation to the Portuguese yew, which are also considered to belong to this type of habitat, yew woods found in the rest of the Atlantic region of the Iberian Peninsula, and therefore Galician, should be included in this category. One of the main guidelines in the Interpretation Manual of EU Habitats indicates the fact that many of the types of habitats of Annex I are qualified by biogeographical terms, which means they have their main occurrence in a particular biogeographic region. It does not exclude the possibility of finding the same habitat type in other biogeographic regions since these often isolated presences have great scientific and conservation value, particularly in those areas where the habitat types are very fragmented and influenced by human activities

Con respecto a la información contenida en los SDF de Galicia, la aprobación del Plan Director de la Red Natura 2000 de Galicia mediante el Decreto 37/2014 ha traído consigo la disposición de una cartografía de mayor precisión y la actualización de dichos SDF, de forma que a partir del año 2016 éstos incorporan una información congruente con el Manual de Hábitats de Galicia.

With respect to the information contained in the SDF Galicia, the approval of the Master Plan of the Galicia Natura 2000 Network through Decree 37/2014 has led to the provision of more accurate mapping and updating of such SDF. This way, from 2016 they incorporate consistent information with the Galicia Habitats Manual. 

With regard to habitat characterization 9580* in Galicia, note that formations are occupying small surfaces, which are embedded in tree stands of greater extension. From the altitudinal point of view, these forests dominated by Taxus baccata are distributed over a wide range (630-1450 m), although most of them are mainly upper supratemperate distributed, i.e. they are above 1,200 m. Often they are located on slopes of steep incline and N component orientation. As far as lithology concerns, units of siliceous metamorphic rocks predominate, but are also represented carbonate rocks (limestones and dolomites). The soils are, almost without exception, characterised for its high stoniness and abundance of rocky outcrops, and can be included in the types of leptosols and Umbrisols of FAO soil classification.

They have been counted more than 90 species of vascular plants in Galicia yew woods, varying the number of species per inventory between 10 and 41 taxa. The diversity of the flora present in undergrowth is inversely proportional to coverage evergreen species reached in the canopy (yew, holly, laurel), or to the degree of structural complexity. The predominant biological types are hemicryptophytes (38.2%), phanerophytes (23.5%) and geophytes (27.9%), and clearly minority camephytes (5.9%) and therophytes (4.4%). It should be highlighted that the invasive species in Galicia yew woods are virtually absent, comprising only the presence of some Prunus laurocerasus allochthonous species as in formations located near population centres.

The added value

Apart from its intrinsic value as Western extreme representations in the European context of the type of priority habitat ‛9580* Mediterranean Forests of Taxus baccata’, included in Annex I of the CD 92/43/CEE (‛Habitat Directive’), Galicia yew woods have added value that comes from their accumulated biodiversity. Vascular plant populations (Narcissus pseudonarcissus nobilis, Ruscus aculeatus) protected by the European Community and regional provisions are among its botanical wealth. Regarding its fauna, the presence of these yew woods is associated with the conservation of some tree stands of great value in terms of feeding multiple protected and/or threatened-extinction vertebrate species that live in the Western end of Cantabria Mountains. At any rate and according to the definition of a favourable conservation status provided in Article 1 of the CD 92/43/EEC, some status indicators may be established for the Galicia yew woods. Dominance and co-dominance of yew trees in the tree canopy is an indicator of the structure and composition of the tree-lined formation and by extension, of the habitat 9580*. On the other hand, the presence of undergrowth species with low tolerability to browsing and trampling as well as the existence of the regenerated Taxus baccata itself reveal the type of habitat good conservation status. In this regard, the presence of frugrivore birds and micro-mammals in this type of habitat favours yew tree seed dispersal and germination. This helps to keep natural regeneration of Taxus baccata in yew woods.

Despite the vast majority of yew woods in Galicia is relatively far away from human settlements and located in difficult to access sites, these formations have been also subjected to human’s activity since time immemorial and until recently. This can be confirmed by looking at the many stumps and evidences of logging residues and pollarded trees found in these forests.

How local inhabitants used these areas occupied by yew trees and/or harvested the forests’ characteristic species (mainly comprised of yew trees, Taxus baccata) reveal the ancient nature of these formations and how they witnessed man’s adaptation to the territory hardship. Nevertheless the traditional uses that have been going on in these areas where the habitat 9580* of Mediterranean Forests of Taxus baccata is preserved do not seem to affect yew woods in particular. Likely the reason for this is the fact that yew formations are found at remote areas, relatively far from rural populations with difficult access.

The yew (Taxus baccata) is a tree species that the local population of Western Galicia respect and mainly this is due to its outstanding longevity and its toxicity in human beings. Therefore, many of these trees have been used to decorate meaningful places in the rural population’s daily life. For example, these preside over religious spaces (churches, graveyards), relevant gardens (houses, manor houses) and also public places (squares, fountains, etc.) This is a common aspect to other Iberian and European areas. Note that traditionally its use as windbreaker has been one of the most specific and widely known use in the North-western of Lugo. It has been used as windbreaker to protect their dwellings and the airas (threshing floor) in which the so-called palleiros (straw lofts) were produced.   

The emergence of other recent pressures and threats are to be mentioned, such as the excessive number of visitors (they are mainly tourists). As a result of that, vandalism signs can be seen in some branches of large Taxus baccata trees. The appeal of these long-lived individuals of yew trees sometimes urges visitors to climb its branches to snap a photograph that immortalizes their visit and in turn large branches are broken and pulled out. There are cases though when visitors made further damage by making wood carvings and inscriptions into their branches which lead to the tree debarking and wounds at xylem and phloem level.

In any event, the several trails left by the excessive influx of tourists stepping on some of the yew woods they visit restrict the growth of vegetation comprised of the undergrowth characteristic species. Not only that, in case of large parties, the high-pitched noise they generate results in a deterrent effect on wildlife. 

Additionally, yew woods have been scientifically appealing which is reflected by the large number of surveys conducted on its botanical, dasometric and ecological values. What, in itself, can be considered as a positive thing, occasionally it produces negative outcomes, and e.g. scientific non-biodegradable material (containers, bags, etc.) is left in the yew woods.  

In other cases, the side of a road/power infrastructure is present and this may lead to damage to the yew tree feet that make up the tree strata. On top of this, there is a source of contamination derived from uncontrolled waste dumped from the said infrastructures.

Current threats 

However, the severe fires occurring in summer time, which devastate large areas of the Western Galicia Mountains, are the main threat for these forests. Occasionally, these fires cause considerable damage to large areas of the types of habitat the European Community is interested in and which are included in Annex I of the CD 92/43/EEC. Actually the LIFE BACCATA Project recognizes them as one of the most severe threats these forests face and suggests carrying out Action C5 to mitigate the formations risk of caching on fire which consequently would cause important damage to its conservation status. As a result of this survey to diagnose pressures and threats, it is possible establish some action proposals:

Avoid silviculture practices that reduce the area occupied by habitat 9580* and which affect negatively the conservation status of the type of habitat, according to the Master Plan of Galicia Natura 2000 Network (Decree 37/2014).
Avoid silviculture practices that reduce the area occupied by habitat 9580* and which affect negatively the conservation status of the type of habitat, according to the Master Plan of Galicia Natura 2000 Network (Decree 37/2014).
Regulate the influx of tourists who visit the yew woods when they affect significantly the conservation status of the type of habitat. To this end, maximum quotas, seasons and routes should be established according to the estimated load capacity of these tree formations and according to the Master Plan of Galicia Natura 2000 Network (Decree 37/2014).
Conduct scientific activities in yew woods that are dully approved by the competent body in nature conservation affairs by establishing timelines, routes, visits, etc. Furthermore, leaving scientific material on the ground should be banned obviously and its removal should be an obligation, in virtue of the Master Plan of the Galicia Natura 2000 Network (Decree 37/2014).
Establish some control areas within yew woods (9580*) for the herbivory when it causes damage to the habitat (9580*) structure and floristic composition. This action would help to recover the vegetation made up of the undergrowth characteristic species and therefore the structure and composition of the type of habitat 9580*.
Avoid any silviculture actions in the tree canopy of yew woods that may involve an associated increase of the number/fast growth of the type of habitat 9580* non-characteristic tree species. These actions should be considered as non-appropriate for the maintenance of a favourable conservation status according to the Master Plan of the Galicia Natura 2000 Network (Decree 37/2014)
Implement actions to help minimizing the risk of forest fire occurrences that may affect significantly the conservation status of habitat 9580* to improve their future prospects and therefore to attain a favourable conservation status.