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Beech trees in the Ordunte Mountains

Acidophilic beech

Deciduous forests nearly exclusively dominated by the beech (Fagus sylvatica), growing on acid soils, in zones with rainy climates and at a height between 700 and 1,300 metres in the Basque Autonomous Community. The bush stratum is not very dense and is mainly made up of holly (Ilex aquifolium), tree heath (Erica arborea) and bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus).

In Ordunte, the acidophilic beech trees are to be found on all the slopes and occupy practically 20% of the surface area of the site. They are thick forests, where examples of pollarded trees and charcoal activity can still be seen as proof of the former forestry activity. The age-old and intense human intervention in these woodlands has simplified its structure over the years in terms of species and the variety of the age classes of the trees. Furthermore, the presence of livestock in these zones hinder the natural regenerated of the woodlands. Other problems associated to the Ordunte acidophilic beech trees are replacement by repopulating exotic species and the repeated fires, which have devastated large wooded areas to turn them into pasturelands.

Pyrenean oak groves

This habitat comprises the wooded areas dominated by Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica), that form acidophilic woods with open undergrowth with holly (Ilex aquifolium), common gorse (Ulex europaeus), heathers (Erica spp., Daboecia cantabrica, Calluna vulgaris) and numerous herbaceous plants.

Even though the potentiality for this habitat in Ordunte is important, it currently occupies a surface area of around 160 hectares (4.1% of the total), which is highly fragmented, scattered throughout the mountain area, particularly on the drier west-facing slopes. They are woodlands subject to the pressure from livestock and to burning to clear pastureland, which means that those forests cannot be correctly developed, leading to homogenous, dense wooded areas and with small shoots growing from stumps, with an inappropriate state of conservation.

Alder grooves

These trees are characteristics of the riverbanks, dominated by the alder (Alnus glutinosa), along with numerous bushes and herbaceous plants. The most characteristic ecological functions of those woodlands include the regulation of the hydrological cycle, slowing down erosion, maintaining the riparian eco-system and biodiversity, and the connector function as first-rate wildlife corridors are established.

In Ordunte, the majority of the streams are headwater streams, with sharp gradients and moderate low water levels, that still have stretches with well developed alder grooves, although they have been replaced by exotic species plantations in other areas. Linked to this habitat, the headwaters of the streams are home to the Trichomanes speciosum and Woodwardia radicans species of Paleo-tropical ferns, both of which are of Community interest according to the Habitats Directive and catalogue as of special interest for the Basque Country. These ferns are also conservation aspects of the Sustainable Ordunte LIFE+. Special mention should also be made of the presence of alders on slopes at points riddled with water or where it accumulates and forms small ravines.

The alder groves cover 30 hectares in the Ordunte SCI (Site of Community Interest).

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