Artikutza, an element for the sustainability of San Sebastian

Arturo Elosegi, Doctor in Biology and Professor of Ecology, highlights the difference between the way Artikutza used to look like 100 years ago and the way it looks today. A hundred years ago, miners, charcoal makers and shepherds used to walk through Artikutza, the river was polluted and the forest was overexploited. The situation in Artikutza has changed considerably. Today Artikutza is one of the best-preserved places in the Basque Country and, in this sense, it emphasises the commitment that San Sebastian City Council made in its day and continues to make.

Given the current climate emergency situation, Artikutza becomes more and more important for all that it contributes and can contribute to the fight against climate change. This being the case, Arturo emphasises the need to have quality old-growth forests.

From the research carried out, Arturo highlights the positive evolution that Artikutza has registered. In this sense, he believes that this should fill us with hope because, if we really want to, it is possible to recover other places to the same extent. He adds: «If we want to guarantee quality water in the long term, Artikutza shows us the way forward». Arturo also stresses the importance of analysing the state of the ecosystems around the water; research on Artikutza is of general interest. When it comes to assessing the state of other rivers, Artikutza can help us define the conditions that can be achieved. With regard to the rivers, he believes that the most important measure is to start removing the existing small dams or weirs, as they prevent the movement of fish and other species.

One of Artikutza’s hidden gems is the water vole or Pyrenean desman. This species has been preserved in Artikutza, but its population is not in great condition as it has no connection with any other population of desmans in the Urumea basin. Consequently, to ensure the future of this species, it is necessary to work locally but also on the surroundings to guarantee contact between populations.

Another aspect to be taken into account is the treatment of dead wood in natural rivers. The prevailing tendency is to remove barriers and clean up riverbeds to prevent overflows and other problems, but the study carried out in Añarbe shows the benefits of this. When the trees in the riverside forest die, they fall into the riverbed and naturally create wooden dams and similar structures. These are very important because they create habitats and increase the functioning of the ecosystems. Artikutza is also a model to follow in this respect.

Finally, he discusses the future of Artikutza, focusing on five aspects: placing nature conservation at the highest level, removing livestock from the forest, monitoring biodiversity, carrying out more studies to ensure correct management of the forest, and analysing its evolution.

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