River Turia


River Júcar


Mediterranean Sea




natural channel of the Albufera


salt marshes


salt water lagoon


fresh water lagoon




boundary of l'Albufera Park



Rice cultivation in the

Albufera - a short history

Rice cultivation in the Albufera near Valencia is a theme that falls under the broader theme "cultural landscapes". In this broader theme, I show, through photos and text, what people do with the landscape they live in and its effects on the landscape. The consequences of human activity in the landscape do not necessarily have to be negative or positive on the landscape in question. The documentaries are meant to be recordings, telling and showing what happens and how something functions.


The Albufera is an area located between the mouth of the river Túria, directly south of Valencia, and the mountain range of Cullera. The natural park consists of a freshwater basin, wetlands, mostly rice fields, north and south of the basin, and along it, on the east side, a strip of land with dunes, forest and marshes, separating the lake and wetlands from the Mediterranean Sea. The Albufera, which is Valencian for lagoon, is named after the freshwater lagoon in the centre of the area. The name Albufera was given by the Moors and comes from the Arabic word al-buharya, meaning "small sea". The lake is the largest freshwater basin in Spain.


The lagoon originated about 6,000 years ago and is separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a long stretch of dunes, forest and sandy beach. Until the 17th century, it was connected to the Mediterranean and filled with salt water. Through the deposition of sediments, from the rivers Xúquer, Túria and several streams, the inland lake shrank over the centuries and turned into marshland. In the Middle Ages, this marshland began to be used for growing rice. Rice cultivation has an important influence on the ecological system in the Albufera. The landscape changes greatly seasonally, determining how people, plants and animals use this area. In autumn and winter, the rice fields are largely under water, in spring the rice fields are dry without plants or vegetated with native plants, and in summer time the rice fields are overgrown with rice plants.


King James I became the owner of the Albufera, including the lake, from 1238 and prepared it as royal heritage. He started using the water wells, handed out privileges and regulated fishing. In 1761, King Charles III declared the Albufera and its surroundings a protected area and set standards for the use of the Albufera with the aim of preserving the area's wealth of flora and fauna.


In the eighteenth century, the fishing community of the municipality of Valencia created the fishing institutions of Silla, Catarroja and El Palmar, which still exist today and define and organise the management of fishing in the Albufera.


In 1865, the Spanish royal house gave the ownership rights of Park Albufera to the Spanish state and in 1927 the park was bought by the Valencia City Council. To enable the construction of a parador (luxury state hotel) and a golf course, Valencia City Council transferred Park Albufera to the Ministry of Information and Tourism in 1962. Plans were ready for a large-scale urbanised area in the dune area near El Saler (Devesa El Saler) with residential towers, an airport, sports and education centres and luxury hotels. Such extensive development would largely destroy the ecological system of the Albufera. In 1968, construction began on residential towers, the golf course and few hotels, which are still present. When large parts of the population realised that a unique natural area would be lost, a large protest was started and most of the building plans were not implemented and large parts of nature were restored.


The first democratically elected municipal council after the Franco era declared the dunes and the Albufera a public area for the population. In the year 1993, the area was finally declared a protected natural park.

The cycle of rice cultivation runs throughout the year and I have divided it into four parts:


The winter period from November to February: most paddy fields are flooded or saturated with water. The soil is churned up, mixing the plant residues of the past harvest with the soil.


Spring from March to May: during this period, the soil is dry and ploughed and levelled. Then the paddy fields are filled with water and rice is sown.


The summer period from May to September: weeds are removed and young rice plants are planted in empty places where no rice plants have grown from the seed.


The harvest period from September to October: the rice grains are ripe and the rice is harvested using combine harvesters.


In the photo series below, I show pictures from all four periods. Not only of the rice fields, but also of the coast, the lake and the dune areas in the Albufera. Because the photos in the summer period have not yet been taken and the photos that have been made are not all ready yet for presentation, photos will still be added in the photo series.