Category Archives: Biospheres (MAB) in Spain

Spain has several biosphere reserves designated by the UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB). These are areas that aim to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with the sustainable use of natural resources and the involvement of local communities.

One example is the Doñana Biosphere Reserve. Located in southwestern Spain, which encompasses a mosaic of ecosystems, including marshlands, dunes, beaches, and forests. It is an important breeding site for many bird species, such as flamingos and herons, and serves as a crucial stopover for migratory birds. The reserve is also home to endangered species, such as the Iberian lynx and the Spanish imperial eagle.

Another example is the Sierra Nevada Biosphere Reserve, located in southern Spain, which includes a high-altitude mountain range and several ecosystems, from Mediterranean forests to alpine meadows. It is recognized for its biodiversity, with many endemic plant and animal species, and its cultural heritage, with the presence of traditional land use practices, such as transhumance.

Biospheres (MAB) in Spain are important areas for conservation, research, education, and sustainable development, contributing to the well-being of both nature and people.

Los Ancares Lucenses y Montes de Cervantes – Navia y Becerrea biosphere reserve

  • Region: Galicia (Lugo)
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2006
  • protected area: Almost 54,000 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Cervantes, Navia de Suarna, Becerreá, Paradela, Quiezán, A Pobra, Rao, Son, Murias, San Román, Donis, San Pedro, Vilanova, Doiras, Cela, Noceda, Pintinidoira, Campa da Braña.

Points of Interest

Los Ancares Lucenses y Montes de Cervantes – Navia y Becerrea biosphere reserve is a unique mosaic of natural habitats. It is an Atlantic area of ​​high and medium mountains in which the presence of important forest and woodlands stand out dominated by oaks, birch and chestnut accompanied by hazelnuts, holm oaks, rowan, maples, yews and holly. Scrub areas are also widely represented, in which dry heaths and mountain meadows play an important role in the conservation of biodiversity. It borders with Los Ancares Leoneses biosphere reserve in neighbouring Castilla y León.

This variety of habitats existing in the area is home to an abundant diversity of flora and fauna. In terms of flora, endangered species such as Lycopodiella inundata or Zygodon conoideus stand out, as well as taxa of community interest such as Festuca elegans, Festuca summilusitanica, Narcissus pseudonarcissus subsp. nobilis or Narcissus asturiensis.

In the fauna groups, among the invertebrates, the presence of the crayfish (Austropotambius pallipes) stands out.

This is Cantabrian brown bear (Ursus arctos) and Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) territory and the very rare (almost extinct) capercaille (Tetrao urogallus) is also present in small numbers.

Other areas within the limits of this biosphere:
  • Place of Community Importance (SCI): Os Ancares-Courel, Cruzul-Agüeira.
  • Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA): Ancares.
  • Special Protection Area for Natural Values ​​(ZEPVN): Os Ancares-Courel, Cruzul-Agüeira, Ancares.
  • National Hunting Reserve.
  • Brown Bear Protection Zone.

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Information / visitor centres

Centro de Interpretación y Gestión de la Reserva Nacional de Caza dos Ancares (Campa da Braña)

The official website for this biosphere reserve: http://osancareslucenses.deputacionlugo.org/es/


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Marismas de Odiel Biosphere Reserve

  • Declared a Biosphere: 1984
  • Protected area: 7,185 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Aljaraque, Gibraleón, Huelva, Punta Umbría, Mazagon

A relatively small protected area situated at the mouth of the river Odiel, between the towns of Huelva, Gibraleón, Aljaraque and Punta Umbría, the Marismas de Odiel Biosphere Reserve is an important wetland for both resident and migratory birdlife.

The two main nature reserves of the salt marshes of which both are notable for the degree of preservation of their ecosystems are El Burro with 597 hectares and the Isla de Enmedio with 480 hectares. The other areas to look out for are La Cascajera, El Almendral, Salinas de Bacuta, El Acebuchal, Calatilla de Bacuta and of course the beach of Playa del Espigón.

The botanic garden close to mazagón is well worth a visit. (See information below)

The Marismas de Odiel Biosphere Reserve also acts as a buffer protection zone for the Doñana Natural and National Parks

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Flora

In the sandy ecosystems of the wetland areas tamarix (Tamarix canariensis) is dominant along with juniper (Juniperus phoenicea), kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus), cistus (Cistus salvifolius) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis).

In the salt marshes, Spartina marítima and Salicornia ramosissima are present as are Arthrocnemum macrostachyum and Spartina densiflora.

The marshy vegetation is made up mostly of rushes (Juncus acutus and Juncus maritimus), bullrushes (Thypha dominguensis) and tamarisk (Tamarix canariensis).

Fauna

The Odiel marshes are an important resting place for migratory birds and the area and also holds almost 30 % of the European population of spoonbills. Grey heron (Ardea cinerea), purple heron (Ardea purpurea) and marsh harrier (Circus aeroginosus) can also be seen in the area

During winter, many aquatic birds gather here, especially a large number of flamingos, that number in the thousands. Occasionally black stork (Ciconia nigra), crane (Grus grus) can be seen.

There is a good population of chameleon (in the sandy parts of the Saltes islands) and the rare Iberian lynx is present though rarely seen.

Information centres

Anastasio Senra Visitor Centre

The Anastasio Senra visitor centre is located in the Marismas del Odiel nature area known as Calatilla.

There is an exhibition on display both inside and around the building offering a detailed explanation of this extensive system of tidal marshes associated to the mouths of the Tinto and Odiel rivers. The exhibition shows the importance of these wetlands for the survival of a number of species of birds whose migratory routes include a stopover in this site.

Address: Carretera del Dique Juan Carlos I, km. 3, 21071, Huelva

Jardín Botánico Dunas del Odiel

In the Dunas del Odiel Botanical Garden you can learn about the species and plant communities characteristic of the Andalusian Atlantic coast. It is located between Huelva and Mazagón inside the Lagunas de Palos y las Madres Natural Area. (Address: Palos de la Frontera. Carretera N-442 Huelva-Mazagón, km 13.7)

The garden covers around 8 hectares of land dedicated to the conservation of the flora, fauna of the area and environmental education. There are various paths to walk and all the plants are labelled with Spanish common names and scientific names. there is also a small reception area with information about the 20 to 30-kilometer stretch between the mouth of the Guadiana in Huelva and the cliffs of Barbate in Cádiz.

A short video showing the botanic garden


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Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve

  • Region: Morroco and Spain (Andalucia (Cádiz and Málaga))
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2006
  • Protected area: Almost 900,000 hectares (terrestrial) and 17.976,82 hectares (marine)
  • Towns and villages: 108 (63 in Cádiz and Málaga and 45 in Tetuán, Larache, Tánger and Chefchauen).

Points of interest

The Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve runs between southern Europe and North Africa and is dominated by a string of mountain ranges forming an open arch to the Mediterranean Sea (the Strait of Gibraltar) which in turn divides the mountain range known as the Bético-Rifeño system into two sections.

The uniqueness of this natural and socio-cultural crossroads makes this the first intercontinental biosphere reserve declared by UNESCO which was jointly proposed by the Ministry of the Environment of the Junta de Andalucía and the High Commissioner for Water and Forests of the Kingdom of Morocco.

Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve
The Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve is located in sourthern Spain and northern Morocco

In Spain

Containing some of the most outstanding natural spaces in the eastern part of the province of Cádiz and the western part of Malaga, It is also the first of its kind to feature a sea within its boundaries.

It also includes two previously declared Biosphere Reserves in Andalusia: the Sierra de Grazalema natural park and the Sierra de las Nieves national park. The Alcornocales and the Estrecho Nature Reserves; the natural spaces of Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja, Sierra Crestellina, Desfiladero de los Gaitanes and Playas de los Lances beaches; and the natural monuments of the Duna de Bolonia sand dunes, Pinsapo de las Escaleretas fir forest and the Cañón de las Buitreras.

The reserve presents a rich and varied fauna, with some threatened or endangered species and the role of the Strait of Gibraltar stands out as a vitally important flyway for European and African migrating and resident birds.

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In Morocco

The Moroccan section of the intercontinental biosphere reserve is located in the region of Djbala on the Tingitane Peninsula, adjacent to the Strait of Gibraltar. It is bordered by the Gharb plain and the hills of Hafs to the west, the Rif Central to the east, the Mediterranean coastline to the north, and the western Prerif to the south.

The region is very mountainous and marked by two major crests: the Numidian chain and the mid-ocean limestone ridge. Extensive depressions are found in the crests, including the Chefchaouen furrow, which covers the central portion of the region.

The highest peak is Jebel Lakraa with a height of 2,159 metres. Included in the reserve are the Talassemtane National Park and sites such as Koudiet Taifour, Lagune de Smir, Jbel Bouhachem and Jbel Moussa.

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Talassemtane National Park

The Talassemtane national park was created in 2004 in order to conserve the last of Morocco’s threatened fir forests and also contains other plant species endemic to this Spanish/Maghrebi biodiversity hotspot such as the endangered Atlas cedar and Andalusian Belladonna Atropa baetica. (over 1380 plant species have been recorded here, 47 of which are endemic to Morocco).

The Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve is located in sourthern Spain and northern Morocco
The water falls of akchour in the National park of Talassemtane

The park’s proximity to the tourist destination of Chefchaouen makes it a popular hiking destination with walks such as the Bridge of God and the villages of El Kalaá and Akchour. The park’s elevation ranges from 350 meters to 1,050 meters.

The AllTrails website has some good advice on walking and hiking in this area: https://www.alltrails.com/parks/morocco/tangier-tetouan/talassemtane-national-park

Further reading


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Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve

  • Region: Galicia (la Coruña)
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2013
  • Protected area: 114.359,57 hectares (terrestrial) and 2.866,45 hectares (marine)
  • Main Towns: Abegondo, Aranga, Arteixo, Bergondo, Betanzos, Cambre, Carral, Coirós, Culleredo, Curtis, Irixoa, Miño, Oleiros, Oza- Cesuras, Paderne, Sada y Sobrado.

Points of interest

Located on the Cantabrian-Atlantic coast of Galicia, the Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve is a mix of sea and mountain landscapes with cliffs, islands, coastal plains, beaches, dunes, estuaries, marshes and lagoons and includes 109 km of Atlantic coastline. There is a great natural wealth and biodiversity in this area that has coexisted with traditional and cultural practices of fishing and livestock farming.

In the mountainous area, the courses of the Mandeo and Mero rivers flow and intermingle amongst a variety of landscapes and riverside woodlands of alder and oak where paleotropical ferns, considered to be true living fossils can be found.

The core zones of the Costa de Dexo, Costa da Morte, Betanzos-Mandeo and the Abegondo-Cecebre’s reservoir play an important role in terms of conservation of the area and were already included in the Red Natura 2000 project. The Costa de Dexo in ​​the municipality of Oleiros runs along the marine strip between the Mera lighthouse and the port of Lorbé and includes all the islands and islets near the coast. This coastal strip is one of the few well-preserved natural spaces on the entire Costa Ártabra and is protected as a national natural monument. Other important coastal areas are the Costa de la Muerte and Betanzos-Mandeo.

The Costa de Dexo, part of the natura 2000 network and a protected national monument
The Costa de Dexo, part of the natura 2000 network and a protected national monument

The Camino de Santiago passes through the entire area via the Camino Inglés and the Camino Norte whilst the important Roman road “Per Loca Marítima” historically connected Astorga to Oporto.

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This short video gives an excellent overview of the Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve and I realy like the music that goes along with it! 🙂


Information / visitor centres

Centro de interpretación Chelo

The main interpretation centre for the Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve is easy to find located in the town of Chelo. There are permenent exhibitions covering the fauna and flora of the area along with ethnographic, cultural and historical information.

Museo Aula do Ma

The “Costa de Dexo” Natural Monument occupies the north coast of Oleiros town and the old lighthouse keeper’s house is home to the museum and interpretation centre “Aula do Mar

The Crendes and Piadela bird observatories.

The Abegondo-Cecebre reservoir, formed by the union of the Mero and Barcés rivers, was built between 1975-76 to cover the supply of drinking water to the municipalities of La Coruña, Arteixo, Bergondo, Cambre, Culleredo, Oleiros and Sada. Since March 2014, it has been part of the network of protected areas of the European Union (Red Natura 2000) as a Special Conservation Area (ZEC) and, within the Biosphere Reserve, it is one of those that form the core area. The reservoir attracts birds such as osprey, black kite, great crested grebe, great egret, green sandpiper, grey wagtail, Iberian chiffchaff along with various ducks, gulls and great cormorant all of which can be viewed from the Crendes and Piadela Bird observatories.

The official website for the Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve: http://marinasbetanzos.gal/en/


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