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Preserving Spain’s Natural Paradises: Unveiling the Threats to National Parks

In the wake of a groundbreaking agreement between the Junta de Andalucía and the Spanish Government concerning the renowned Doñana National Park, a stark reality surfaces for all 16 of Spain’s ecological gems.

Despite a substantial multi million-Euro investment in Doñana, the remaining national parks in Spain grapple with a spectrum of challenges, spanning from drought and unbridled tourism to wildfires and the encroachment of invasive species.

Drought’s Stranglehold
Preserving Spain's Natural Paradises: Unveiling the Threats to National Parks
Reservoirs and lakes in Spain are at their lowest levels for decades due to drought and uncontrolled water extraction for agriculture and human consumption.

Entering its 13th year of recording its lowest water levels, Las Tablas de Daimiel is in the throes of a crisis. The overexploitation of the aquifer, a lifeline for the Western Manchega Plain over the past 30,000 years, persists despite the Doñana agreement’s 1.4 billion government investment. Drought remains a formidable adversary, casting a shadow over the sustainability of these vital natural havens.

Tourism Surge
Preserving Spain's Natural Paradises: Unveiling the Threats to National Parks
Many nature tourist “hotspots” suffer from over promotion by park authorities as a way to control where members of the public go using the misguided theory that other parts of the protected area are left alone.

An unstoppable surge in tourism, exemplified by the 14 million visitors to national parks last year, poses another formidable threat. While iconic parks like Teide, Sierra de Guadarrama, and Sierra de Grazalema draw masses, the summer influx negatively impacts these ecosystems. The constant pressure from visitors raises concerns about the potential endangerment of the very natural beauty they come to admire.

Fire’s Menace
The Sierra de Culebra forest fires of 2022
2022 forest fires in the Sierra de Culebra

Fires emerge as a significant peril, exacerbated this year by extreme weather conditions that ravaged 200 hectares in the Caldera de Taburiente and a thousand square meters in the Teide Natural Park. Coupled with this challenge is the proliferation of invasive species, ranging from horses and cats in Garajonay to wild boars and deer in Cabañeros and Monfragüe. The encroachment of these species, coupled with the threat of exotic plants, places Spain’s National Parks’ biodiversity at imminent risk, necessitating urgent measures to safeguard these precious natural treasures.

Irreplaceable treasures
Cañadas del Teide

In confronting these multifaceted threats, it is imperative to acknowledge the fragility of Spain’s national parks. The Doñana agreement serves as a promising step, yet more concerted efforts are needed. As custodians of these natural paradises, it is our collective responsibility to implement immediate and sustainable measures, ensuring the longevity and vitality of Spain’s National Parks. Let us act now to preserve the unparalleled beauty and ecological richness that defines these irreplaceable treasures.

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