Castro Marim: Salt marshes (sapal)

The salt marsh (sapal) of Castro Marim at the estuary mouth of the Guadiana river

Natural reserve between land and sea, located on the estuary mouth of the Guadiana river.

Situated by the mouth of the River Guadiana, the Sapal de Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António Nature Reserve is one of the most important wetland areas in Portugal and is recognised at the international level by the Ramsar Convention. This area gained its special protected status due to the fact that its ecology was highly representative of a wetland. It is formed by salty marshes with their special brackish waters, salt-pans and creeks, that are home to a diverse range of plants and animals. Dry areas of schist, red sandstone, stretches of sand and arenaceous rocks, and higher areas leading up to the Algarve’s upper reaches further serve to complete the biodiversity of this area in the eastern region of the Algarve.´

A natural habitat for a huge number of animal species, the Sapal de Castro Marim reserve is home to thousands of aquatic birds that come in search of its excellent nesting conditions or to use the area as grounds for seeing out the winter. Throughout the entire year, 153 different species, including flamingos, storks, avocets, dunlins, plovers and redshanks seek out this reserve, either as a permanent or seasonal place to stay or merely as somewhere to stop off at on their way to distant lands.

The rich environmental heritage of this area is further heightened by its importance as a breeding ground for numerous aquatic species. And these add up to a grand total of 34 different types of mollusc, ten varieties of fish, thirteen reptiles, eleven amphibious creatures and six kinds of crustaceans, demonstrating how this area effectively serves as a natural fish farm. Meanwhile, the drier and higher surroundings are home to other bird species, including birds of prey.

The great wealth of flora, with as many as 400 different types of plants, turns this site into a veritable botanical paradise. The vegetation typical of a tidal saltmarsh is dominated by halophilic plants, highly resistant to the dryness caused by the excessive saltiness of the soils. These include the morraça, a grassy plant that is able to survive long periods of time submerged under water.

This information is extracted with friendly permission of RTA from their website.

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