Unidad de naturaleza, animales, fauna iberica, fauna latinoamericana, produccion documentales, servicios de produccion, servicios integrales produccion
Unidad de naturaleza, animales, fauna iberica, fauna latinoamericana, produccion documentales, servicios de produccion, servicios integrales produccion
Udena, Unidad de Naturaleza, Natural History Unit
  • Exclusive interview with ANA LEIVA, director of Spain’s Biodiversity Foundation
  • 14/11/2010
  • Mrs. Ana Leiba started upon her political path as Agricultural and Rural Development Councellor of the government of La Rioja in 1990. She then became a representative of the House of Commons for this same region. She was also vice president of the Agricultural Commission, and for two years held the position of Secretary of State for Regional Cooperation in the Public Administration department. She currently holds the position of Director of the Biodiversity Foundation, supported by the Environment and Rural and Marine Environment department of the Spanish government.




    In the almost twelve years of the Biodiversity Foundation’s existence, some very important goals have been reached, including the merging with the Foundation of National Parks in 2006. Spain is one of the countries of Europe with the largest area of protected space. What is the importance and realistic position of Spain’s natural riches within the European framework?

    Spain is home to a very representative example of the existing biodiveristy on the planet. In fact, the mediterranean region makes up one of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots, and, therefore, a relevant area of conservation on a worldwide scale. Spain’s territory contains 8000 vascular plants, representing more than 80% of all of those within Europe, 50% of European fauna species, and almost 50% of the habitats considered as prioritised in the Habitats Directive.

    Our country is, therefore, an important biodiversity reserve for Europe. We are aware of the value of this heritage, and of the responsibility its conservation brings with it. Our prospects for development depend on our capacity to preserve the healthy state of the ecosystems and the reserves which they supply, whose value triples global GDP. But we also believe that the conservation of nature, approached correctly, can create a very important vehicle to generate employment and wealth.

    To that effect, under the recent Spanish Presidency of the European Union, the Spanish government has made a most notable effort to drive the conservation of biodiversity in the political agenda, and to define a new approach which sets out the guidelines for medium and long term action for all the member states. In January 2010, the Minister for the Environment and Rural and Marine Environment, with the collaboration of the Biodiversity Foundation, brought together around 500 European experts and managers in Madrid at the conference ‘Goal and vision post 2010 in terms of biodiversity: The role of the protected spaces and ecological networks of Europe’, to open a European debate and promote ambitious and achieveable goals. The conference in Madrid started off the ‘Cibeles Priorities’, a collection of recommendations that form together a long term approach to halt the loss of biodiversity and the deterioration of the ecosystems’ reserves. On the inciative of the Spanish government, this approach was incorporated in the ‘Conclusions regarding biodiversity post 2010’, adopted by the European Union’s Council of Ministers for the Environment on the 15th March 2010.

    The ‘Conclusions regarding biodiversity post 2010’ establish an ambitious intermediate objective to stop, in 2020, the loss of biodiversity and the deterioration of the ecosystems’ reserves, recognising their contribution to economic prosperity and the wellbeing of the people. What's more, they focus on a long term approach in order to protect biodiversity and to value and restore these reserves in 2050. In this same context, the Council of Ministers has urged the European Commission to present this year, following the 10th Conference of the Parties in the Agreement over Biological Biodiversity, celebrated in Nagoya (Japan) and in collaboration with member states, a European Union Strategy for Biodiversity post 2010.

    We are working very intensively to advance in the right direction. Starting from the Biodiversity Foundation, we will keep on working in accordance with the high concern that the Spanish government grants towards the conservation of nature’s heritage, and of biodiversity.


    Your professional path has allowed you to get closer to the people from the countryside. These days, the growth of large towns is causing interest in Spain’s rural areas to diminish. Could this situation affect our ecosystems or spell out problems for the sustenance of the country’s flora and fauna?

    In Spain, the rural environment represents 90% of the land, contains 35% of the population, and amasses practically all of the natural resources, as well as a significant part of our cultural heritage. Aware of this scenario, our interest in natural spaces has only increased. Improving the quality of life in the rural environment is a basic requisite to stabalise population and maintain a usage of the land which guarantees protection, both for it and its conservation.

    Our vision is that the development of the rural environment and the conservation of nature can be considered as complemetary and mutually dependent objectives: the conservation of natural heritage and of biodiversity in the rural environment contributes positively to the sustainable development of those activities linked to the use of natural resources, such as agriculture, breeding of livestock, hunting or woodland management, amongst others.

    If we are unable to stabalise the population in rural zones, if we are unable to ensure that people who traditionallly have enjoyed those resources as a way of life also act as their main protectors, it will be very difficult for us to succeed in preserving the conditions which allow this ongoing background of natural resources. Therefore, we have established the sustainable development of the rural environment as one of our prioritised courses of action.

    We are collaborating with the social fabric of the rural zones to apply models of management and sustainable use of their resources, and to place value on their natural heritage. Along with other means, we also do this through the Empleaverde Programme, co-financed by the European Social Fund, supporting projects such as that of The Vías Verdes (Public footpaths) Foundation, to consolidate the sustainable use of natural and environmental resources through the development of nature conservation activities, sustainable tourism, and leisure in the public footpath setting; or that of the Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente Foundation (“Run@emprende”) for the establishment of new sustainable economic activities both in the rural domain and in areas of convergence of the Natura Network 2000 and other protected spaces.


    Spain is linked to Latin America not only on a linguistic level but on a cultural level too. Furthermore, the natural riches of both places are remarkable. The Biodiversity Foundation develops more than 400 annual projects directed at preserving natural heritage and biodiversity. What importance do the collaboration and support projects earn for the Foundation, as a Spanish entity, regarding the sustenance of Latin American biodiversity?

    We believe that environmental challenges require global action. To this end, cooperation towards development is necessary as a vehicle to reduce poverty and reverse the deterioration of ecosystems. Latin America is a priority area in our working focus. The international cooperation projects in which we collaborate there are aimed at reducing poverty, strengthening local institutions and supporting the trading of expertise and technology, promoting the sustainable use of  resources in indigenous communities, encouraging ecotourism and all those deeds based on international agreements regarding our resources.

    The Biodiversity Foundation has carried out more than 30 projects in 20 Latin American countries in recent years. They highlight initiatives such as those of the sustainable development of the Atlantic Forest of Alto Parana, within the indigenous and countryside environment of the rural farm ‘Los Lapachos’ (Paraguay), or that of Sustainable Development in Iguazu National Park (Argentina).

    Might I also mention our support for various of the Spanish Agency for Cooperation towards Development (AECID)’ s exploits within the Conifer Programme XXI framework, and other bodies’ initiatives, such as that of the Help in Action Foundation for the protection of the marine turtle and diversification of sustainable ways of life in the Jiquiliso Bay, Usulutan, in El Salvador, or the Chelonia Association programme for the conservation and management of the Orinoco Crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius) in the Oriental Plains of Columbia, or the Watu Indigenous Action project for the protection of isolated populations, and management support for the Cordillera Azul National Park in Peru.

    Likewise, we promote the achievement of debate forums between experts, technicians and managers, like the Iberoamerican Sustainable Development Meeting (EIMA 7), organised last year in Brazil for the CONOMA Foundation, or the Iberoamerican Biosphere Reserves Conference which UNESCO will be putting into place in Mexico in November 2010.


    Last year, due to World Biodiversity Day, the Foundation paid homage to the world of images with photographers such as Joel Sartore and Andoni Canela. In this tribute, the importance of the image as a medium of environmental awareness was recognised. What future prospects have nature programmes in Spain got, as a tool for raising awareness, in your belief?

    Here at the Biodiversity Foundation we are aware of the value of the task of journalists, cinema and film directors and photographers in transferring to society a reflexion of our model of development and various habits and dependencies with which we have to break if we really aim to conserve the beauty, function and health of nature, which are also our beauty, function and health.

    Who doesn’t remember what once was learnt thanks to Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente? Our memories carry indelible trails of what we have seen, of what we have witnessed first hand or thanks to the work of intrepid professionals.

    We highlight such commitment of professionals who offer their skill, their hope and their hard work to the conservation and sustainable use of natural heritage and biodiversity through the Biodiversity Foundation Awards (whose current announcement is open until the middle of September 2010) and in daily work, with joint projects, supporting them in their new efforts.

    We have contributed to the fulfilment of high quality series covered by Televisión Española, the release in Spain of the film ‘Earth’ and also ‘Oceans’, to mention only those highest impact cases; but we also collaborate with national producers who cover the investigation of seasonal migration footprints or the forests’ virtues, and with directors such as Eduardo Chapero-Jackson, who last year signed a most remarkable short feature science fiction film called ‘The End’, which warned about the violence which would devastate a world without water.

    In this International Biodiversity Year, we contribute our tuppence to raising awareness that suggests United Nations with the ‘Biodiario’, an informative daily space produced by Luis Miguel Domínguez, an informant who follows the in the footsteps  of the great Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente, and who broadcasts Televisión Española’s ‘La 2’.

    Without doubt, an effort to inform society is still necessary to shift the value and wealth of the natural capital which we still have the privilege to enjoy in Spain, and to measure which dilemma are affecting future availability of this capital. I insist, here is where the value of the image as a medium for raising environmental sensitivity and awareness proves fundamental. And, in turn, informing society is the right instrument to bring about united action and a large scale which could affect those causes of environmental destruction which, together, we can halt.