Category Archives: Biospheres (MAB) in Spain

Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve

  • Region: País Vasco
  • Province: Bizkaia
  • Declared a Biosphere Reserve: 1984
  • Protected area: 21,775 hectares plus 269 hectares marine reserve
  • Towns and villages: Ajangiz, Arratzu, Arrieta, Bermeo, Busturia, Elantxobe, Ereño, Errigoiti, Foru, GautegizArteaga, Gernika-Lumo, Ibarrangelu, Kortezubi, Mendata, Morga, Mundaka, Munitibar, Murueta, Muxika, Nabarniz, Sukarrieta, Amorebieta-Etxano.

Points of interest

The Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve is located around the estuary of Urdaibai which is a natural area formed at the mouth of the river Oca. It is home to a wide range of different ecosystems and landscapes, the most important being the Cantabrian holm oak woods, the Atlantic countryside, the coastline and the marshes. The marshes are probably the most visited and constitute an important wetland in the Atlantic Basque Country, due to their size and their excellent state of conservation. They provide an essential resting ground for birds during the migratory and wintering periods.

The area contains various protected zones
  • One Special Bird Protection Zone (Zona de Especial Protección para las Aves (ZEPA)
  • One Conservation area (Zona de Espacial Conservación (ZEC)
  • Three RAMSAR Wetland Reserves (Zona Húmeda de Importancia Internacional (Convenio de Ramsar)

In the summer of 2021 the area became famous internationally via its osprey webcam project run by the Urdaibai Bird Center when it was noted that of the three eggs layed the first chick to hatch was an albino, totally white and with red eyes. (The first ever recorded.) After the other two chicks hatched it was clear that something was wrong and sadly the albino died a few days later. It seemed that the chick was blind or partially blind and could not compete with the two other siblings for food.

Later the two remaining chicks also died after a storm caused hipothermia with the parent not having enough experience to keep them warm enough overnight. (see the topic over at the Iberia Nature Forum – https://iberianatureforum.com/forums/topic/albino-osprey-in-urdaibai-biosphere-reserve/)

This is a popular area for birdwatching (Up to 250 bird species can be seen here throughout the year) as the estuary and surrounding wetlands are a very valuable habitat for birdlife being a resting area for migratory birds, as well as for nesting, sedentary, wintering or accidental birdlife (A visit to the Urdaibai Bird Center is obligatory – See below)

Find a hotel close to the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve

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Promotional video for the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve


Information and tourist offices

The Urdaibai Bird Center

If you are in the area then the best (obligatory) place to visit is the Urdaibai Bird Center which is a state of the art museum and observation point from which visitors can enjoy the world of birds and their migratory journeys. Once a fish canning factory, the center is located in the heart of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve and houses an audio-guided exhibition and an observation platform equipped with telescopes.

Located in the municipality of Gautegiz Arteaga, the Center is about 4.5 km away from Gernika-Lumo, and stands on the right bank of the river Oka, on the edge of the marshes. If you are driving from Gernika, take the road heading towards Lekeitio until you reach the Kortezubi roundabout. After about 700 m, turn left when you see the signpost directing you to the centre car park..

Find out a lot more on the website for the Urdaibai Bird Center here: http://www.birdcenter.org

The official website for the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve is here: https://turismo.euskadi.eus/es/top10/espacios-naturales/reserva-de-la-biosfera-de-urdaibai/aa30-12376/es/


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Biospheres in Spain

The Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme – Biospheres in Spain run by UNESCO is an intergovernmental programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for enhancing the relationship between people and their environments. It combines the natural and social sciences with a view to improving human livelihoods and safeguarding natural and managed ecosystems, thus promoting innovative approaches to economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate and environmentally sustainable.

The World Network of Biosphere Reserves currently has 714 sites in 129 countries all over the world. Spain now has a total of 52 biosphere reserves, confirming its leadership as the country with the largest number of these protected spaces in the world. The Spanish Network of Biosphere Reserves now occupies more than 6 million hectares, or 12% of the national territory, in which close to 2 million people live.

In Spain the biosphere reserves can have multiple protected areas within very large areas including towns, villages and natural areas such as Natural Parks (Parque Natural), Marine Reserves (Reserva Marina del Estado), Special Bird Protection Zones (Zona de Especial Protección para las Aves (ZEPA), Conservation areas (Zona de Espacial Conservación (ZEC), Mediterranean Protection Zones Zona (Especialmente Protegida de Importancia para el Mediterráneo (ZEPIM), RAMSAR Wetland Reserves (Zona Húmeda de Importancia Internacional (Convenio de Ramsar) and Geoparks (Geoparque Mundial de UNESCO)

Below is the list of biosphere reserves in Spain, each one with a link to the relevant protected area information pages published here at Wildside Holidays. Remember that many of these areas have been previously declared as Natural or National parks before being incorporated into the much larger zones (hence two declaration dates for some biospheres, the first being the Natural Park declaration date).

Biosphere reserves in Andalucia

Biosphere reserves in Asturias

Biosphere reserves in Aragón

Ordesa – Viñamala – Huesca – 1977, 2013

Biosphere reserves in Castilla y Leon

  • Babia – León – 2004
  • El Alto Bernesga – León – 2005
  • Los Argüellos León – 2005
  • Los Valles de Omaña y Luna – León – 2005, 2019
  • Las Sierras de Béjar y Francia – León – 2006
  • Los Ancares Leoneses – León – 2006
  • Picos de Europa – 2003
  • Valle de Laciana – León – Castilla y León – 2003
  • Transfronteriza Meseta Ibérica – Zamora y Salamanca – (Castilla y León/España and Portugal) – 2015
  • Real Sitio de San Idelfonso y El Espinar – Segovia – 2013

Biosphere reserves in Castilla la Mancha

Biosphere reserves in Cantabria

Biosphere reserves in Cataluña

Biosphere reserves in Extremadura

Biosphere reserves in the Balearic islands

Biosphere reserves in the Canary islands

Biosphere reserves in Galicia

  • Area de Allariz – Orense – 2005
  • Los Ancares Lucenses y Montes de Cervantes, Navia y Becerrea – 2006
  • Mariñas Coruñesas e Terras de Mandeo – A Coruña – 2013
  • Terras de Miño – Lugo – Galicia – 2002
  • Rio Eo, Oscos y Terras de Burón – Lugo y Asturias – (Galicia/Asturias) – 2007
  • Transfronteriza Géres-Xurés – Orense – (Galicia-España and Portugal) – 2009

Biosphere reserves in La Rioja

  • Valles de Leza, Jubera, Cidacas y Alhama – 2003

Biosphere reserves in Madrid

Biosphere reserves in Navarra

Biosphere reserves in País Vasco

Biosphere reserves in Valencian Community

Alto Turia – Cuenca, Valencia 2019
Valle del Cabriel – Albacete, Cuenca, Teruel, Valencia – 2019

Biosphere reserves Spain and Morocco

  • Intercontinental del Mediterraneo – Morroco and Spain (Aguas intermedias) 2006

The official website detailing bio reserves in Spain is here: http://rerb.oapn.es/red-espanola-de-reservas-de-la-biosfera/reservas-de-la-biosfera-espanolas/listado


Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.