Meseta Ibérica

© UNESCO/AECT ZASNET
Meseta Iberica Transboundary Biosphere Reserve

The Meseta Ibérica Transboundary Biosphere Reserve is located along the northern border of Spain and Portugal. It includes a wide variety of landscapes, orographic elements and different soil uses. Altitudes in this area vary from 100 metres to 2,000 metres above sea level. The area contains many flagship species, some of which have been the subject of conservation projects, such as the black stork (Ciconia nigra), Egyptian vulture (Neophron pernocpterus), Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata), Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo), European otter (Lutra lutra), and Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus).


The area includes built heritage dating back to Roman times and the Middle Ages. The remains of forts, castles and walled enclosures in localities bear witness to frequent wars between Spanish and Portuguese kingdoms during the Middle Ages. This area also boasts a unique cultural heritage manifested in the architecture, customs, traditions and folklore.

Designation Date: 2015
Administrative Authorities: ZASNET (European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation ZASNET).
Surface area (terrestrial and marine): 1,132,606 ha
Core area(s): 106,934 ha
Buffer area(s): 636,654 ha
Transition area(s): 389,018 ha

Location
Latitude:
41°31'48.68"N
Longitude: 6°40'39.41"W
Midpoint: 41°31'48.68"N - 6°40'39.41"W

Ecological Characteristics

© UNESCO/ AECT ZASNET
Egyptian vulture (Neophron pernocpterus)

The biosphere reserve is located in the north-west of Spain/north-east of Portugal. It has an average altitude of 823 metres, but there are large variations throughout, and altitudes in the area vary from 100 m to 2,000 m above sea level. The biosphere reserve is well irrigated, with a number of dams and reservoirs, and with more than 3,400 million cubic meters, the region contains the third highest water storage capacity in Spain, second only to the Province of Badajoz and the Province of Cáceres. On the Portuguese side, the area allows a wide diversity of landscapes, and the district is known for its climatic differences (nine months of winter and three of heat) and its rugged geomorphology.

Diversity is the watchword when it comes to the biodiversity of the Meseta Ibérica Biosphere Reserve. The most abundant forests are formed by the Pyrenean oak or Turkey oak. Some interesting spots of holly and yew can also be found, while the birch and alder are abundant along the banks of the rivers that decend from the tops down to the different lagoons located inside the biosphere reserve. Higher up in altitude, the forest is replaced by a thicket of escabonales, cambronales and heaths.

The Meseta Ibérica is among the most important areas for wildlife at national and European level. A very significant part of the whole Spanish and Portuguese terrestrial fauna is represented here, counting about 250 species of vertebrates and recognizing a high richness and diversity of invertebrates also. Many of the species represented are endangered. The area contains many flagship species, some of which have been the subject of conservation projects, such as the black stork (Ciconia nigra), Egyptian vulture (Neophron pernocpterus), Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata), Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo), European otter (Lutra lutra), and Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus), Bocage's wall lizard (Podarcis bocagei) and Seoane's viper (Vipera seoanei). 

 

Socio-Economic Characteristics

© UNESCO/AECT ZASNET

The total population living in the biosphere reserve is about 302,627 inhabitants, of which the majority are Spanish, and the rest are either Portuguese or foreign immigrants. The region is marked by social and economic problems such as an ageing population, demographic decline, high unemployment and industrial decline. The vast majority of the local population works in the service sector, where tourism for example is very well developed across the region. Another important economic activity is agricuture, which employs many native inhabitants who engage in large-scale industrial farming.

The biosphere reserve promotes economic and human development in an environmentally sustainable manner, combining the objectives of conservation with development through the promotion of a green economy. This development objective is achieved in the context of innovation, with the intention to apply the knowledge of a pilot region for sustainable development. Renewable energy is a major element for the economic development of the biosphere reserve and an important point of insertion of its role in the fight against climate change. The region includes a park of wind and hydroelectric production of great importance. For example, the area of the biosphere reserve includes the largest production capacity of hydropower renewable energy in Portugal. The Baixo Sabor (172 MW) and Foz Tua (259 MW), under construction, will greatly increase the capacity of renewable energy production.

This area also contains a rich cultural heritage dating back primarily to two historical periods : the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages. It is specifically in the Middle Ages when the area was more important because of the frequent wars that occurred between the Kingdoms of Spain and Portugal, where the border areas were used for protection and enjoyed great relevance. Dating back to the Middle Ages, the biosphere reserve contains many fortresses, castles and other historic buildings found in places such as San Felices de los Gallegos in Salamanca, with an outstanding walled enclosure equipped with towers and defensive bastions, enclosing a defined urban community during the 15th and 16th centuries.


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                                                                                                               Last update August 2015

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