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      Biosphere Reserve Information



  General Description   Los Argüellos Biosphere Reserve designated in 2005 is one of three new units of a large-scale Biosphere Reserve that will encompass the entire Gran Cantabrica mountain range. The project aims to provide an “umbrella” enabling coordination of land uses to ensure conservation of large rare mammals while favouring quality ecotourism and responsible industry. The singularity of Los Argüellos, besides hosting several endemic plant and animal species, is based in having a landscape of great aesthetic value with elements of scientific interest: several of the caves in the area have a remarkable biodiversity, and the ravines and karst formations help understanding the geomorphological and geological processes of the Cantabrian Mountain range. The peculiarity of this biogeographic province results from the influence that the sea exerts on the Cantabrian Mountain range. It is the only case in Europe where a mountainous system is located so close to the sea and presents characteristics of a mountainous ecosystem at such relatively low altitude.

Los Argüellos is located in the northern centre of the León Province, including the municipalities of Vegacervera, Cármenes and Valdelugueros. The region has interesting geomorphological characteristics with numerous caves such as Valporquero, Llamazares and Barredo. Next to these, and also modelled by the action of rivers, spectacular narrow passages appear, as well as the famous ravines of Vegacervera and Valdeteja. In this reduced space, the existence of numerous caves and crevices has allowed for the coexistence of 15 of the 26 species of bats existing in the Iberian Peninsula. There is a good representation of birds of prey and two species specific to the Cantabrian mountains: the grey partridge (Perdix perdix) and the broom hare (Lepus castroviejoi). It is a critical area for the brown bear (Ursus arctos), one of the most threatened species of mammals of the Peninsula, for whose survival the union of the two existing Cantabrian populations is fundamental. Los Argüellos would play an important role in this possible union since the territory is situated between the two populations.

Los Argüellos is a representative example of a Cantabrian mountain ecosystem. The limited resources of the area have been taken advantage of wisely by the population from centuries back through a series of different forms of human intervention, forming this way a singular landscape. There are different wooded formations - beech, birch forests and oak groves, as well as grasslands and pasturelands formed on the old arboreal territories. The permanent population of 1,201 people are based in the two main valleys in the transition area where the human activities also are concentrated, with settlements, livestock raising, mining activities and grazing land. Livestock raising is one of the main activities that also maintain the landscape in these transition areas, where the grazing meadows represent a traditional element of great interest.

The territory is involved in environmental and city-planning processes. The environmental planning concerns several parts of the territory while the city-planning process is individual for each of the three municipalities. It is expected that the Biosphere Reserve will establish a program that links all these planning instruments.
  Major ecosystem type   Temperate broadleaf forests or woodlands; Mixed mountain and highland systems
  Major habitats & land cover types   Tree formations; rocky areas; pasture land-matorral; meadows; coniferous reforestation areas; piornales; towns and settelements; humid areas.
  Location   42°58’5"N; 5°29’42"W (Central point)
42°52’20" to 43°3’24"N; 5°20’12" to 5°38’46"W
  Area (hectares)    
  Total   33,260
  Core area(s)   5,900.2
  Buffer zone(s)   24,853.3
  Transition area(s) when given   2,506.5
  Altitude (metres above sea level)   +1,040 to +2,189
  Year designated   2005
  Administrative authorities   Entidad Gestora de la Reserva de Los Argüellos (association constituted by the City councils, with participation of the Junta de Castilla and León, universitites and other interest groups
  Brief description   The core areas integrate those areas that have the greater values from different points of view: fundamentally for their physiography, geomorphology, flora and fauna, and landscape. The buffer zones surround the core areas, serving as protection against the more intensive human practices in the transition areas, where the human settlements are located and the most intensive practices are taking place.

Investigation projects destined to improve the knowledge on botanical and faunal aspects, in order to provide a suitable management of natural resources. Project on the analysis of the different zones in relation to flora and vegetation of the southern slope of the Cantabrian mountain range. Detailed study on high-mountain pasturelands and the roads accessing these areas.
  Specific variables...    
  Abiotic   Abiotic factors, geology, geomorphology, glaciology, groundwater, habitat, hydrology, modelling, speleology, topography.
  Biodiversity   Afforestation/Reforestation, alien/invasive/exotic/introduced species, amphibians, biodiversity, biogeography, biology, birds, conservation, endemic species, fauna, fishes, flora, genetic resources, invertebrates/insects/spiders, mammals, mountain and highland systems, natural medicinal products, natural resources, plants, population genetics/population dynamics, rare/endangered/threatened species, reptiles, vegetation studies/plant cover, wetlands.
  Socio-economic   Agriculture/Production systems, cultural aspects, demography, fishery/fisheries, forestry, human migration/population exodus, hunting, indigenous people, livestock and related impacts/overgrazing, mining, pastoralism/pastoralists/grazing, resource use, small business initiatives, social/socio-economic aspects, tourism.
  Integrated monitoring   Institutional and legal aspects, planning and zoning measures/zonation, rural systems, sustainable development/sustainable use.
  Contact address   Gonzalo González
(Alcalde de Cármenes)
Avda. Suero de Quiñones, 32, bajo
24002 León
  Telephone   (34.987) 073203
  Fax   (34.987) 073203

Last updated: 06/06/2006

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