This week we travel to the Mas de Melons Nature Reserve, in the province of Lleida, to discover this protected area declared in 1987.

In a dry farming environment, this 1,431-hectare reserve is home to the main population of pin-tailed sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata) in Catalonia. This species, along with other steppe birds such as the little bustard, the stone curlew or the greater short-toed lark, find their perfect habitat in this area of the Lleida plains with its mosaic of fallow land, wasteland, barley crops, olive groves and almond trees.

At first sight, these landscapes might be considered to be of little biological interest, either because of their aridity and flatness. But nothing could be further from the truth: climatic and orographic conditions, as well as traditional livestock and agricultural activities have shaped this territory which, today, preserves a unique fauna and flora and shows that, following certain guidelines, agricultural and livestock production can be compatible with the conservation of these steppe species that are so sensitive to habitat change.

In today’s episode we meet Jaume Massot, a farmer from the small village of Aspa who has worked all his life on rainfed agriculture.

On his plots of almond, olive and cereal trees in the Mas de Melons  Nature Reserve, Jaume is committed to responsible management of his land, which has a direct impact on the conservation of steppe birds. With proper management of fertilisers, elimination of pesticides in his crop treatments, and leaving refuge areas for species such as the sandgrouse or Dupont’s lark, Jaume and other farmers who carry out the same practices demonstrate their desire to conserve these species so closely associated with fallow land and traditional dry farming. Once again, they prove that agricultural production and species conservation can be compatible.