Micro Reserve at Moinhos do Dão

What is a Micro Reserve? A small area of land where an effort is made to conserve and restore ecosystems and support biodiversity.

The Micro Reserve concept came about while doing fire prevention and nature restoration work on our south facing land across the river. With the help of interns and volunteers and the tools (Pullerbears) we were able to buy through the 2017 fire prevention campaign, we started experimenting and learning how to speed up the natural process towards a native and more fire resistant open forest ecosystem.

Most nature conservation and restoration projects involve large areas of protected land and are labeled (for instance) as a National Park or Reserve. For the conservation of species and ecosystems the scale of the protected area is important which is why it is mostly projects that cover large areas that get an official and protected status. Besides these official conservation areas there are also many privately or collectively (commons or non-profit) owned small pieces of land where people are doing their best to restore or conserve nature. These efforts might not all be run by ecologists but most of them are based in common sense and some level of ecoliteracy and support local biodiversity.

Such is the case at Moinhos do Dão ~ Eco Quinta. This quinta covers only 3.5 hectares but includes various ecosystems and microclimates and all the biodiversity* that comes with them. Ours is not the only quinta commitment to supporting local biodiversity and we believe that all the little bits help and together they can make a big difference. That is why we started calling the land where we do our restoration and conservation work a Micro Reserve and we started thinking about how to multiply the idea. More about that in the chapter: Learning and sharing: the Mirco Reserve as a Pilot Project.

A few very inspiring examples of promoting small scale nature conservation are the ‘We are the ark’ initiative, Montis (active here in Portugal) and the large scale approach of European Rewilding Network.

Juvenile Midwife Toad.
Resident King Fisher.

* Ecosystems and biodiversity at Moinhos do Dão.

The south-side of the quinta consists of a shaded and cool oak chestnut woodland which is home to squirrels, woodpeckers, many kids of mushrooms and mosses. The Dão river runs through the middle and consists of an area we call ‘the river forest’ where ash, alder and ferns abound and where we see otters, cormorants, king fishers, herons and many many kinds of dragon flies. On the north side of the land there is a hot and dry hillside which burned several times and here the river margin is invaded by mimosa. Endemic flora and fauna are having a harder time here but native trees are coming back, the hillside is a home for many small birds and we have seen 3 different kinds of praying mantis.

Also included in the mix are the food, herb, flower gardens and terraces at the cultivated heart of the quinta. This area also plays a role as it, for instance, supports many pollinators and a variety of amphibians and reptiles live around the stones of the buildings. In this diverse landscape Moinhos do Dão is committed to doing the best we can to conserve and restore nature on and around the quinta.