Los Ancares Leoneses

©Wikimedia Commons/ José Antonio Gil Martínez
Los Ancares Leoneses Biosphere Reserve, Spain

The Los Ancares Leoneses Biosphere Reserve is located in the extreme northeast of the province of Leon. The reserve is named after the major river Ancares which flows through the area. Other extensive rivers within the region are the Bua, Burbia and Valcare. The biosphere reserve belongs to two major hydrographic basins, namely the Cuenca Norte and Cuenca del Mino. Three sub-regions can be found within the reserve: Valle de Ancares, Valle de Fornela and Alto Burbia. The boundaries of the reserve are marked by three mountains – la Sierra del Caurel in the west, la Sierra de los Ancares in the northeast and Cordillera Cantabrinca in the north. The highest peaks are found in the northeastern and southwestern parts of the reserve: Cuina (1,998 metres), Miravalles (1,996 metres), El Mostellar (1,924 metres) and Penarrubia (1,826 metres).

Designation Date: 2006
Administrative Authorities: Entidad Gestora, La Junta de Castilla y Leon, and Entidades Locales Menores de Los Ancares.
Surface area (terrestrial): 56,786 ha
Core area(s): 16,056 ha
Buffer area(s): 31,364 ha
Transition area(s): 9,366 ha

Latitude: 42°55'51,5492’’N – 42°34'54,8814’’N
Longitude: 6°33'43,4653’’W – 6°54'9,81’’W

Ecological Characteristics

©Wikimedia Commons/ David Perez
Los Ancares Leoneses Biosphere Reserve, Spain

The major ecosystem types in the biosphere reserve are Atlantic mountains. Other habitat types include heathlands, meadows and bush lands. Characteristic flora species are Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine) and Castanea sativa (Sweet chestnut). Moreover, coniferous and deciduous forests can be found throughout the reserve, their location depending on the mountain level and the influences of the Atlantic and Mediterranean climate.

Sorex minutus (Pygmy shrew), Myotis daubentonii (Daubenton’s bat) and

Passer domesticus (house sparrow) are common fauna species, while Neophron percnocterus (Egyptian vulture) and Circus pygargus (Montagu’s harrier) belong to the most endangered species in all of Spain. The Los Ancares Leoneses Biosphere Reserve is not only home to endemic fauna species, for example, Lepus castroviejoi (broom hare) and Perdix perdix (a special type of grey partridge), but also to endangered animals, such as Ursus arctos (brown bear).

Socio-Economic Characteristics

©Wikimedia Commons/ William Melson (Smithsonian Institution)
Los Ancares Leoneses Biosphere Reserve, Spain

The Los Ancares Leoneses Biosphere Reserve used to be a barely inhabited and isolated area that only had minimal communication with other villages. In consequence, the area gained a mysterious reputation among outsiders. Today, about 7,111 people inhabit the area on a permanent basis (2005 figures), while around 9,395 visit Los Ancares Leoneses seasonally (2001 figures). The nearest major town is Ponferrada, and the main economic activities are livestock, tourism, mining and forestry.

The sustainable use of natural resources is of great importance in the reserve. The local people also celebrate traditional festivals with decorated costumes, one of the most important being the anniversary of ‘Magdalena’, the lady of Trascastro and the Virgin of Fombasalla. Several sacred sites, such as La Cruz del Castro, are located within the reserve. Many myths and traditional beliefs still influence the  lifestyle of inhabitants. For example, a strong odour of wax or frankincense indicates the presence of a moribund family member within the house. After the death and burial of this family member, the sound of a drum roll, called the ‘Tambor da Morte’, is said to signify the departure of the spirit. The inhabitants of the reserve have also preserved particular expressions and jargons, and the certain pronunciation of common words, which derive from Galician, Spanish and Asturian origins.


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                                                                                                   Last update: April 2014

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