by Robert Bovington
Spain has a rich scenic diversity and vast areas of the country remain wild, rugged and sparsely populated. Not only that, but large parts of the country are protected. Within Europe, Spain leads the way in the conservation of its heritage. There are many categories of protection including National Parks, Natural Parks and Biosphere Reserves.
A Biosphere Reserve is an international conservation designation given by UNESCO. To achieve this status it must not only be ecologically diverse but must demonstrate a balanced relationship between humans and the environment.
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves is the collection of all 482 biosphere reserves in 102 countries (as of mid-2005).
Spain has a proportionately higher number of biosphere reserves compared with other European countries with thirty-three.
These include the spectacular Ordesa National Park in the Pyrenees, the lowland wilderness of the Doñana National Park in western Andalucía, the beautiful Sierra de Grazalema and the snow-capped heights of the Picos de Europa in Cantabria.
|Sierra de Grazalema|
There are two biosphere reserves close to my heart and close to where I live – the Sierra Nevada and the Cabo de Gata-Nijar.
The Sierra Nevada contains the Iberian Peninsula’s highest mountains. They are the spectacular backdrop to the magnificent city of Granada and the Alhambra Palace and their southern slopes are sprinkled with the little white villages of the Alpujarras.
|Sierra Nevada nr Puerta de Ragua|
Just a few miles from Almería, is the pristine coastline of the Cabo de Gata-Nijar natural park. High temperatures and the lowest rainfall in the Iberian Peninsula have created a large semi-desert area but, despite its aridity, it is a nature lover’s delight. Its rich ecological diversity led to the park being designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1997.
|Cabo de Gata – Las Salinas|