Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport is located at the mouth of the river Llobregat, a particular location that gives it special environmental value. The privileged surroundings, amid various protected natural spaces in the Natura 2000 Network, make it an airport that protects the natural heritage with a sustainable balance between ecological targets of the area and those linked to proper airport management.
Various environmental protection statuses have been declared for this delta system, including the Llobregat Delta ZEC (Special Area of Conservation) and the Llobregat ZEPA (Special Protection Area for Birds). Spread from north to south along the coastline of El Prat de Llobregat and Viladecans municipalities, humid habitats of community interest (coastal lagoons) alternate with forest zones (dunes with Pinus pinea and/or Pinus pinaster forests). Both are considered priority habitats at the European level.
In El Prat de Llobregat’s coastal zone, which separates the Airport from the sea, we can find L’Illa, an artificial lagoon built by Aena to increase the number of humid zones in the protected area, rewilding these degraded areas that once served as campsites. This new lagoon connects the natural spaces closest to the mouth of the river Llobregat with the Can Camins pine grove. This is one of the protected areas that stands out for its rich tree thickets and, in particular, the communities of native orchids spread around the forest.
The La Roberta lagoon can be found further south, which Aena also constructed in order to increase the number of humid zones along the coastline. It turned out to be a beautiful spot for aquatic birds in the airport surroundings. The birds coexist with the other species in the flood zone around it, which has been rewilded by planting aquatic plants.
The Remolar lagoon is in the municipal district of Viladecans and goes inland along the La Vidaleta canal and the grounds of the wetlands of Les Filipines. This natural spaces extends southwards with a strip of pine trees that follow the coast with the Pineda de Les Filipinas and the Pineda de la Murtra, where there were holiday facilities previously that were acquired by Aena to boost the natural spaces.
To enhance the balance between airport activity and these valuable natural spaces, Aena conducts conservation and rewilding work in its surroundings on the lands acquired by Aena. Forestry work is done in the pine forests to eliminate the plots of the old tourist resorts by removing invasive species introduced when landscaping them. To ensure the areas are safe, the perimeter is cleared to prevent fires, paths are cleaned up and trails are created.
Furthermore, in order to facilitate regeneration and improve the health of the pine forest, pine trees affected by pine shoot beetle (Tomicus spp) are cut down, as are the palm trees where red palm weevils (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus) are detected. Healthy trunks that are collected during pruning are used to create mushroom farming areas that foster decomposer species biodiversity. Particular care is taken with the first line of trees in the pine forest which, with its particular form shaped by the natural effect of the salt front, are indispensable for proper conservation of the whole, as they protect the other pine trees from the effects of the sea and weather, and also help stabilise and secure the coastline land.
Aena regularly conducts censuses of the numerous species of birds living in the vicinity of the airport and encourages nesting by installing nesting boxes for passerine birds that work as natural pest control. Along these same lines of ecological improvements, the airport’s environmental services inspects and controls the presence of exotic fauna that can threaten local species. This fauna monitoring is also carried out in the aquatic areas to prevent the proliferation of carp or American turtles.
As for the Delta’s water issues, the Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport maintains the outflow channels in the Delta and on the coast in good condition. Work is also conducted to both extract water in coastal wells to combat the intrusion of salt into the Llobregat delta aquifers and transfer water from the airport channels to the lagoons, with the objective of maintaining optimal water depth levels. Periodic analyses of water conditions are also carried out.
These natural spaces can be enjoyed in spaces open to the public, from where the pine forests and wetlands can be seen, along with the species of animals that have made these habitats their home. Particular highlights are the L’Illa lookout point, which gives fantastic views over the lagoon and the Pineda de Can Camins, with the airport in the background; the La Roberta lookout point, located at the end of El Prat de Llobregat seaside path, where aquatic animals can be seen close up; and the path accessible in the Remolar-Filipines Natural Space, where a pleasant stroll can be enjoyed along the La Vidala channel.
If you want to get a closer look at the natural areas surrounding the airport, find out more about the guided tours offered by the Consorci per a la Protecció i la Gestió dels Espais Naturals del Delta del Llobregat.
Common birds in the natural spaces at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport
If you are keen on ornithology or want to find out about the birds that have their habitat in the natural spaces of the airport, you can find information on these links: