Land of the lost lynx

Portugal is rich in wildlife and landscapes, with many important ecosystems including extensive cork oak (montado) forests, maquis shrublands, grasslands, sand dunes and rocky cliffs as well as bog, mire and fen marshes in estuary and lagoon systems.

Mainland Portugal is home to important reservoirs for biodiversity in Europe including many birds of prey, while its island territories (the Madeira Archipelago and the Azores Archipelago), located in the Atlantic Ocean, are home to unique and globally significant biodiversity thanks to the location, climate and volcanic origins of these two archipelagos.

Overall, around 3,600 plant species are found in Portugal, along with 69 terrestrial mammal, 313 bird (of which around 35% are threatened), 17 amphibian and 34 reptile species.

However, Portugal’s wildlife is suffering from serious habitat loss due to a combination of factors including pollution and other impacts from human activities such as irrigation and drainage as well as intensive agriculture and forestry, all of which degrade and fragment habitats and threaten the species that rely on the country’s unique ecosystems.

Portugal facts
Country in Eurasia

Size (land & water):

92,090 km²

Population (2016 est.):

10,833,816

GDP per capita (2016 est.):

US$28,500

Portugal is located in Western Europe. It is bordered by Spain and the Atlantic Ocean.

35%

of Portugal is forested.

300

Some of the cork oaks in Portugal’s montado forests are over three centuries old.

Our work to protect Portugal’s biodiversity

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) works to protect Portugal’s threatened habitat and species in partnership with Liga Para a Protecção Da Natureza (LPN), one of the country’s leading conservation organisations.

A key part of this work has centred on the conservation of the Iberian lynx – the world’s rarest cat species. Once common throughout Spain and Portugal, the species has declined dramatically due to habitat loss and the population collapse suffered by wild rabbits (their main prey) following disease outbreaks.

Our strategy since 2004 has been to work with local stakeholders to secure and manage land across southern Portugal, in order to provide habitat and prey for the Iberian lynx. In 2010 the project was expanded to include conservation activities on behalf of the Eurasian black vulture, an important species that shares lynx habitat. Land management agreements have since been negotiated with landowners protecting some 20,000 hectares of habitat for these species, and the project is now looking to secure additional areas and establish a mobile response unit to help lynx and black vultures establish territories in southern Portugal.

Happily, conservation efforts are beginning to pay off, with the numbers of Iberian lynx increasing from an estimated low of 150 individuals in 2003 to 483 individuals in 2016 in Spain and Portugal. The activities of FFI and our partner – including securing habitat, strengthening rabbit populations and building positive relationships with local people in Portugal – have made a significant contribution to this success.