Natural Parks in Spain
Natural Parks in Spain Spain has one of the oldest networks of natural parks in the world. They cover almost 380,000 hectares of the national territory; Spain's natural parks are a model for the whole of
Natural Parks in Spain
Spain has one of the oldest networks of natural parks in the world. They cover almost 380,000 hectares of the national territory; Spain’s natural parks are a model for the whole of Europe. Keep on reading this post and learn what these parks are and what you can find in them.
Natural parks in Spain
Spain has the privilege of having the second oldest national park in the world, following that of Yellowstone in the USA. It has been joined by 14 more since its inception in the course of more than 100 years. This has served to consolidate the protection of the natural space, which due to human intervention has been reduced. Actually, rather than entertain, these parks are focused on preserving.
Nowadays, Spain has 15 national parks officially recognized as national parks. A sixteenth is being considered in the year 2019, and it is quite likely that it will be granted the title of the national park soon. 10 of these parks are located on the mainland of Spain. The rest of them are in the island territories.
Natural parks or national parks?
The parks mentioned so far are not the only spaces that can be considered natural parks. National parks have the specific characteristic of having constitutional recognition by the state. This means that the Spanish state will directly administer and maintain them. They are non-profit and open to the public.
On the other hand, natural parks tend to have a wider range of jurisdictions. Natural parks are managed by regional and provincial governments with fewer protections and legal recognitions. There are many more of these ones in the Spanish territory. Almost all national parks started out as nature parks.
However, what determines the transition from the natural park to national park generally depends on the protection required by the territory. National parks generally contain endemic flora and fauna species that need particular protection. In addition, national parks can have important natural resources for the population.
The most important natural parks in Spain
A brief clarification of the difference between a natural park and a national park was necessary to explain the selection criteria of this article. In this list, you will find the most important natural parks in Spain. The maximum level of importance of a natural park can be seen as a national park. Therefore, national parks are included in this list.
The most important natural parks in Spain are:
Sierra Nevada Park
Sierra Nevada Park is the largest nature reserve in Spain. It has 70000 hectares of protected territory distributed between the provinces of Granada and Almeria, the majority being in Granada. This makes it the most important natural park in the autonomous community of Andalusia and the entire south of the peninsula.
As its name states, this park has a considerable accumulation of snowy peaks. Many of these peaks exceed 3000 meters above sea level. In fact, the second-highest peak in Spain is in this park: Mulhacén. This peak is 3479 meters above sea level.
These peaks have important glaciers for the region’s fluvial system. During the summer, they melt due to the heat of the sun feeding the nearby rivers. In winter, on the other hand, part of the glacial mass is recovered, thus, it creates a fluvial feeding cycle. This is why the preservation of these glaciers is so important for the region.
The park’s importance goes beyond its peaks, which certainly attract thousands of mountaineers every year. In the Sierra Nevada Park, there is an important concentration of mountain fauna. Mountain goats and wild cats are among the most iconic in the region. Its particular geographical position allows the existence of unique biological niches in the world.
The Cabañeros natural park is the most important in the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha. It is the largest in the region with more than 39000 hectares of protected territory. It is located between Ciudad Real and Toledo, and it is relatively recent, it was declared a national park in 1995. Before this date, it had been a natural park of the territory for more than 7 years.
Before this institutional recognition, the park was a sparsely populated area. Some peasants lived there, they created improvised huts every night with the help of the flora. That’s where this national park gets its name from. In addition to preserving biodiversity, this park was protected to prevent it from becoming an army firing range.
On the other hand, this park contains a perfect example of the Mediterranean forest and is its greatest attraction. Besides that, it is composed mostly of extensive forested meadows. It is home to several species of interest, such as the Imperial Eagle which is endangered. It also contains important populations of badgers and wild deer.
This park is actually two huge parks that comprise a single protected space. It is comprised of the Doñana National Park on the one hand and the Doñana National Park on the other. The latter is also known as Entorno de Doñana Natural Park and was created in 1989. The national park was recognized as such by the state in 1969.
Both parks are located in Andalusia and are under the subdivision of Huelva, Seville, and Cadiz. In total, both parks cover around 122,000 hectares. It is one of the most important natural spaces in the south of the country, and it is a reserve of incomparable fauna. It attracts more than 30000 visitors each year, and it is a major tourist center for the region.
In addition, the importance of this park for the ecosystem is mostly due to its privileged geographical position. The biome that is sought to preserve with this park is the Marsh. These spaces are comprised of shallow wetlands where high grasses grow. The fauna is concentrated both in the weeds and in the bodies of water.
The greatest attraction of the park and its importance for biodiversity is the number of birds found there. Doñana Park is right in the middle of two continents and is part of one of the most important migratory corridors. As a result, you can find up to 200,000 birds depending on the time of year. It is a very important stop for bird watchers.
Sierra de Guadarrama Park
This park is the most recent in Spanish history. It was declared a national park in 2013. It is the most visited national park of the entire peninsula as it is near the capital. Its surface is located between Madrid and Segovia, it has more than 30000 hectares of protected territory. Part of the mountain range is also in the territory of Seville and León.
It was decreed to protect the space of the Sierra de Guadarrama, a mountainous formation in the center of the country. This mountain range has numerous peaks with permanent glacial formations. In addition to these biomes, you can also find coniferous forests and quercine forests. It is an important attraction for mountaineers in the region.
Due to its great extension and its diversity of ecosystems, this park shelters a great variety of wild fauna. It is so diverse that more than 40% of the country’s animal diversity can be found there. In terms of fauna, the immense coniferous forests present a great variety of variants and species.
The Monfragüe National Park is the most important in the province of Extremadura. It has more than 17,000 hectares of protected territory, and it was decreed a national park in 2007. It is the only national park in the province, and it is located in the subdivision of Cárceres. In spite of not being the most visited park in all the parks in the country, it is still very important.
It is another park that preserves high mountain biomes, although it does not have snowy peaks like the other parks. In addition, it contains areas of the Mediterranean forest and it is an important river point. The park is crossed by the Tagus and Tietar rivers, and part of its conservation depends on the Monfragüe. Its name comes from the Latin term mons forum which means thick forest.
A particular variety of ecosystems can be found in the park. The high mountain, the forest, and the river provide an important reserve of flora and fauna. Several species of vultures live here, in addition to hosting populations of river otters.
It also has an ancestral ruined structure called the Castle of Monfragüe. This castle is a tower built in 800 by the Arabs who conquered the area. After several centuries it was conquered by the Portuguese. Today, it is part of the Spanish territory.
Picos de Europa Park
The Picos de Europa national park is perhaps the most recognized one in Spain like the Sierra Nevada. This park has more than 60000 hectares divided between the provinces of Asturia, Leon, and Cantabria. It includes the mountainous formation of the Cantabrian mountain range and is an important nucleus of ecological preservation in the Iberian region.
It was the first national park in Spain and all of Europe, and the second in the world. This was decreed by King Alfonso XIII in 1918. Since then it has spread twice as far, covering an ever-larger territory. The first extension was in 1995 and the most recent in 2014. These extensions quadrupled the protected territory of the park.
This park is the most important European reserve of the Atlantic forest biome, and besides, it contains important glacial formations. In this park, there are also limestone massifs all over Europe which can reach up to 2500 meters. It is a very important hydrographic source for the region, and it is the third most visited park in the country.
It is also the largest wildlife reserve on the peninsula, comprising more than 80% of the variety of Iberian amphibians. In the same way, more than 80% of terrestrial mammal species can be observed. Despite being a national park, it is the only one in Europe where hunting is allowed. This has caused arduous polemics that have endured until the present.
In terms of flora, it contains an impressive diversity of high mountain vegetation. They also have coniferous forests and Mediterranean forests in the lower parts. A great variety of orchids, holm oaks and arbutus can be appreciated. It is the only linden forest in Europe, being almost unique in the world.
Teide Park is the most visited national park in Spain. It has more than 4 million visitors a year and it is an icon of ecotourism in Europe. It has more than 18,000 hectares of protected land. In 2007, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its geographical uniqueness.
It was decreed as a national park in 1954 and it is the third one to be created in Spain. Besides, it is also the first, largest and oldest park of the Canary Islands. It is located in Tenerife which is one of the highest islands in the world. This is a determining factor for the geographical particularities of this park.
The park takes its name from its central landmark, Teide Volcano. This volcano is the largest in Spain and one of the largest in Europe. It is also the highest point in the entire Iberian Peninsula with more than 3700 meters above sea level. This volcano hasn’t erupted in over 100 years, and it’s pretty safe today.
The park’s terrain is arid rocky due to its volcanic origin. However, you can appreciate a great variety of reptiles that live among the rocks. The vegetation is scarce and hard, but equally, it is varied and fascinating. Perhaps, it is the most unique ecosystem in all of Spain and it is visited by numerous geological researchers.
Natural Parks in Spain
You can see a great diversity of birds throughout Spain. However, you will find the best and most exotic variety in these parks that we have mentioned. You can’t miss visiting these parks to get to know the biggest and most interesting birds in Spain.
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