Lagoa de Santo André and Lagoa de Sancha

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Lagoa de Santo André. Photo: © Melaniebund, Wikimedia commons


Lagoa de Santo André and Lagoa da Sancha were designated as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) under the Ramsar Convention on 08-05-1996.

More about the site

The Natural Reserve includes two coastal lagoons – the lagoons of Santo André and Sancha – and a small freshwater pond system formed in the dune depressions. The salinity values of the lagoons change widely, most influenced by occasional freshwater inputs and cycles of temporary communication to the sea. Intense human occupation in some areas at Santo André. Climate temperate with Atlantic and strong Mediterranean influences. Extensive reed beds (Phragmites) in some areas, gradually merging into agricultural areas and pine forest mixed with other species farther inland. Characteristic shrubby vegetation in the dry areas on the sand dunes separating the lagoon from the sea.

Thanks to the diversity of biotopes, this reserve has a high diversity in species, including 54 fish, 12 amphibians, 15 reptiles, 29 mammals, 271 birds, more or less 344 aquatic invertebrates and 205 butterflies.

The fish list of Santo André lagoon includes the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) and a loach (Cobitis paludica) endemic of the Iberian Peninsula and rare in Portugal.

Santo André Lagoon is one of the most important wetlands for birds in Portugal, especially during late summer / early autumn, thanks to the presence of refuges when other areas in the country are dry. The area is important for little bittern (Ixobrychus minutus), Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), grey heron (Ardea cinerea), little egret (Egretta garzetta), black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), western marsh-harrier (Circus aeruginosus), kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), little tern (Sternula albifrons), red-necked nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis), Savi’s warbler (Locustella luscinioides) and Eurasian reed-warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), which is the reserve’s symbol. Sancha Lagoon was in the past a refuge to red-crested pochard (Netta rufina) and purple heron (Ardea purpurea), but it has a poorer nesting bird’s diversity.

592 species of vascular plants. On sand dunes the marram grass (Ammophila arenaria) is dominant. On mature dunes the shrubs include a juniper (Juniperus turbinata) and Portuguese crowberry (Corema album).The grey dunes have a dense vegetation with prickly juniper (Juniperus navicularis), a gorse (Ulex australis) and a santolina endemic to the southwest coast of Portugal (Santolina impressa). There are other endemic plants, including a restharrow (Ononis hackelii syn O. maweana), three thymes (Thymus carnosus, T. camphorathus and T. capitellatus), a thrift (Armeria rouyana) and a rupturewort (Herniaria maritima).

Traditional fishing in the Santo André lagoon with a permanent settlement of local fishermen; summer recreation concentrated around the seashore areas at Santo André; agriculture and cattle raising in pastureland; leisure/tourism and nature tourism activities.

Gastronomy: the highlights are the dishes based on fish, caught in Santo André’s lagoon, the most characteristic being the stews of eels and fried eels, which are served in the local restaurants. As for desserts, a highlight is alcomonias, typical of the region, made with pine nuts and honey.

Another activity with significant expression in the region is the artificial opening of St. André lagoon to the sea. Although not a traditional festival, it attracts inhabitants of the region and beyond, symbolically marking the beginning of the spring.

In the villages adjacent to the Reserve, other events occur with ethnographic importance, which are not directly related with the cultural and natural elements of the Reserve. Some examples are the Fairs and Traditional Festivals such as the Baths of São Romão, in Santo André Costa, on 9 August.

The main info-point is the National Center for Environmental Education and Nature Conservation / Monte do Paio, a multipurpose space that welcomes visitors, sells promotional materials, and where are developed activities designed to improve awareness about this natural reserve; five walking paths; and the Monte do Outeirão Ringing Station (opened in 2004).

Each year, an environmental education project takes place in the National Center for Environmental Education and Nature Conservation / Monte do Paio, involving around 3,000 elementary and pre-school students from local schools. This project is based on the promotion of environmental education activities in outdoor spaces of the Reserve and exploring some natural and biodiversity values present in this protected area.

Opening of the lagoon to the sea; fencing of the “total protection areas of the nature reserve”; establishment of an area permanently flooded with fresh water especially for wildlife; control and management of the most harmful invasive species, at least in the most sensitive areas of this wetland; monitoring of the evolution of the reed beds in grazing areas; control of some areas for visitation (pathways conditioning); butterfly monitoring action in one of the pathways of the protected area, which occurs once a week from march to October (for the European Butterfly Monitoring Scheme); monitoring of bird migration (census of breeding and wintering bird population); establishment of a ringing station.

Disciplining fishing in the lagoon; eliminating the main sources of water pollution from the Lagoon; maintaining dune habitats and their functions.

The last management plan was legally approved by Resolution of the Council of Ministers nº. 117/2007 (23 August).

The area is also classified as Lagoas de Santo André e da Sancha Nature Reserve and under the Natura 2000 network as a site of Community Importance, Comporta-Galé (PTCON0034) and Special Protection Area – Lagoa de Santo André (PTZPE0013) and Lagoa da Sancha (PTZPE0014).


Latest update on February 2021