The Serra da Gardunha has high biodiversity, a very wide range of vegetation, reaches an altitude 1227m and has geological characteristics with a great deal of diversity. All these conditions produce a range of very different habitats, thereby enabling the development and differentiation of the fauna.
For each species observed, the conservation status was taken into account using the categories defined in the IUCN Red Book of Vertebrates of Portugal, and the prevailing laws applying to the animal species, including Community directives on Birds 79 / 409/CEE 2 April 1979 and Habitats 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992, which were transposed into national law by Decree-Law No 140/99 of 24 April, the Conventions of Berne, CITES and Bonn.
There were many species, of all classes making up the fauna of Serra da Gardunha, from Invertebrates to Mammals. However, only the main classes which have greatest relevance- particularly Herpetofauna (Amphibians and Reptiles), Birds and Mammals - were studied.
The Serra da Gardunha has very favorable habitat for Amphibians, as it includes relatively well-preserved water lines, with good vegetation cover and more or less pollution-free bogs, ponds, deciduous forests, grazing fields and humidity, among other things.
To date, 13 Amphibian species have been identified, two of which are endemic in the Iberian Peninsula - the Chioglossa lusitanica (Salamandra-lusitanica), a species protected under the Habitats Directive, and Rana iberica (Iberian Frog).
Frog Midwife SOURCE: Adesgar (Nicolau, 2005)
Two types of tree frog exist in Gardunha, the Hyla arborea (Rela-common) and Hyla meridionalis (Rela southern). Because Anurans are small in size, they can easily breed with another when they co-exist. During the various night field surveys, toads were also observed, Bufo Bufo (Sapo-common), Bufo calamita (Frog-hall) and Alytes obstetricans (Sapo-common-midwife).
This frog has a special characteristic, when the female makes the posture, the male, after fertilizing the eggs, coils a cord with approximately 80 eggs in its’ hind legs. This is responsible for the development of good posture, and to maintain a proper humidity.
Whilst on the subject of frogs, we observed three species, Rana iberica (Iberian-Frog), Discoglossus galganoi (Frog-muzzle-pointed) and the most abundant species, Rana perezi (Frog-green). The Iberian or brown frog is a species endemic to the Northwest Iberian Peninsula, typical of mountain areas, and closely associated with water courses that have abundant riparian vegetation or wet meadowland.
We should not omit the presence of urodeles. The Salamanders present include Chioglossa lusitanica (Salamander-lusitanica), Pleurodeles waltl (Salamandra-with-ribs-out) and Salamandra salamandra (Salamandra-gold striped). The Salamander-lusitanica has a feature very common in lizards and rare in urodeles, namely a defense mechanism involving the ability to lose its tail, that is, when threatened; it can release its tail and continues to move away in order to distract its predator, after which, the tail regenerates itself. Within the Tritons, we observed the Triturus boscai (Orange-bellied Triton) and Triturus marmoratus (Bosca’s newt).
The south side of Serra da Gardunha has rocky outcrops with a wide variety of formations, while its northern part is more forested (oak, pine and chestnut trees) and provides a more suitable habitat for Reptiles. For some of the species, water is essential for sustainance and, in some cases, reproduction.
Map 12 shows the species of Reptiles to which Lacerta schreiberi (Water Lizard) belongs in the Habitats Directive, and that it is an Iberian endemic.
Members of the terrapin family Emydidae observed included Mauremys leprosa (Mediterranean terrapin) found in a reservoir and basking in the sand.
Three types of lizard inhabit Gardunha, although one is devoid of limbs and has the appearance of a snake, Anguis fragilis (Glass Cobra or licranço), Lacerta lepida (Sardão) and Lacerta schreiberi (Water Lizard).
The male lizard has a characteristic ability to acquire an intense blue coloration in its throat and along the sides of its head. This only occurs during the breeding season, and is white for the rest of the year. This is a gender-specific morphological adaptation in this species as females are aalways greenish in color.
Water Lizard SOURCE: Adesgar (Nicolau, 2005)
The Sardão is the largest lizard of the Iberian Peninsula. It can reach 260mm in length, and is the prey of many birds.
We also observed two other species of lizard, Podarcis hispanica (Lagartixa-Iberian) and Psammodromus algirus (Lagartixa-to-kill).
With regard to snakes, four types exist here, Elaphe scalaris (Ladder Cobra), Malpolon monspessulanus (Ratcatcher-Cobra), Natrix natrix (Grass snake) and Natrix maura (Viperous Cobra). These two snakes live primarily in aquatic habitats.
The Ratcatcher Cobra is the largest found in the Iberian Peninsula, does not usually exceed 2m in length and has venom-injecting teeth in the back of its upper jaw. Their prey are paralyzed by it. Their bite is not dangerous to humans.
The Vipera latastei (Viper-Cornuda) is the only adder that can be found at the highest points of Sierra Gardunha, according to popular saying. It is a fanged snake and has innoculating poisonous teeth at the front of its upper jaw. The poison is proteolytic, and is potentially hazardous to humans.
Of all classes, there is little doubt this is the most well- represented in the Serra da Gardunha, with over 80 species of Birds recorded. The Passeriformes constitute the largest fraction, followed by Falconiformes.
Because of the topography of the Sierra Gardunha region, there are many Birds of prey, both day and night hunters. Amongst the diurnal species, two Birds are protected in Annex I of the Birds Directive 79/409/EEC: these are Hieraaetus pennatus (Calçcada Eagle) and Circus pygargus (Pern-hunter), however the presence of Buteo buteo (Round winged Eagle) and Milvus migrans (Mocho-d’orelhas) were also recorded. Around the lighthouse, on night field studies, nocturnal birds were also observed, including Otus scops (Owl d'orelhas), Athene noctua (Mocho-galego) and Caprimulgus europaeus (Gray Noitibó).
But by far the largest proportion of Avifauna represented are the Passiformes, some of which are very common and are recogniseable by both their song and physiognomy. Would anyone who has seen a Gaio hide its acorns or heard a cuckoo or an oriole song recognise this as typical?
Gaio SOURCE: Adesgar (Nicolau, 2005)
The coast of Castelo Novo is quite rugged, with high cliffs, and forms the local site preferred by species like crows, whilst their brush mosaics consist of trees, heath, broom, etc ... you can find species like Cartaxo, and Game species such as the common partridge. It is quite common in the plains to see storks building their nests at the top of trees, and heron looking for food near the river, while in the middle of the woods if we are careful, we can observe Tit-mice and blues, either the real or the rabilongo and the Pisco-de-red-breast and -throat.
To date only 12 species of Mammals have been recorded. Most of them were seen during daylight hours or at the roadside after being hit, but their presence has been recorded by virtue of the traces or footprints they have left. The smallest include Erinaceus europaeus (Urchin) and Sciurus vulgaris (Red squirrels) who live on cones and acorns. Occasionally, Mustela nivalis (Weasel), Genetta genetta (Genet) and Meles Meles (Badger) have been reported.
Badger SOURCE: Adesgar (Nicolau 2006)
However the most common mammalian fauna of Serra da Gardunha are the Oryctolagus cuniculus (Tail rabbit), Vulpes vulpes (Fox) and Sus scrofa (Wild boar). Fallow deer (Capreolus capreolus) are also present in Gardunha, having been introduced some years ago.
Species for which there is no type of information is assigned to the IUCN category NA.
Species with the IUCN category NE were not observed in the field, although there were existing references to them in the literature.
Species with the IUCN category DD are those for which there is not enough information, either field data or from literature, to assess the risk of extinction which are therefore considered not threatened.
We should not neglect species with an IUCN category NT (Near Threatened): this is not a threat category, but may become so in the near future.
Endangered species are those that have the category VU and why we must have more interest in the species compared with LC.
After analysis of Figure 1,which shows the percentages of animal species allocated to each of the IUCN categories at the regional level, one can see that the categories DA, NE and LC are those that are more represented, totaling 96% of species, while that only 3% of species are threatened or near threatened (VU and NT).
Figure 1 SOURCE: ADESG (Nicolau, 2006)
This result is very similar categories of results of the same species distributed at national level, where the species with the IUCN category LC out (Figure 2).
Chart 2 SOURCE: Adesgar (Nicolau, 2006)
Making a comparison between data obtained for the Serra da Gardunha and data at the national level, it appears that the majority of species present in Gardunha do not have a national level threat status, because 87% of species have LC as their IUCN category.
Indeed, while nationally there are only 8% of species considered threatened with a high degree of extinction, this is the category VU is that the regional level, only 2% have the same level of threat.
Figure 3 shows that the only species possessing the IUCN category VU, i.e. threatened, are classes of amphibians and reptiles, while the only species in category NT is an amphibian.
Gráfico 3 FONTE: Adesgar (Nicolau, 2006)
The IUCN category DA is strongly represented in all grades, particularly in the class of birds. The other categories represent a smaller proportion of each class.
In conclusion, in the Serra da Gardunha, only two species of animals are considered endangered with a category VU, one amphibian, Chioglossa lusitanica (salamander-lusitanica) and a reptile, the Schreiberi lacerta (lizard-in-water) and one that may be ( category of "near threatened" NT), the Rana iberica (Iberian-frog). For this reason, we should take into account the preservation and conservation of habitats for these species, particularly water resources, which are essential to them, and limit those factors that may influence or modify these resources (pollution, use of agro-chemicals, etc. ...). This is only possible through the application of good planning and good management of natural resources.
However, we should not be neglecting the fact that although most species are not endangered, we should protect and preserve their natural habitat, because if we do not, one day they will all become vulnerable or endangered or extinct.