The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has approved the declaration of three new biosphere reserves in Spain: the Cabriel Valley Biosphere Reserve (Aragon/Castile-La Mancha/Region of Valencia), the Alto Turia Biosphere Reserve (Castile-La Mancha/Region of Valencia) and the La Siberia Biosphere Reserve (Extremadura).
This was decided by the maximum governing body of the Man and the Biosphere Programme of UNESCO, which held the 31st session of the International Coordinating Council in Paris, of which Spain is a member.
The declaration of these new biosphere reserves amounts to a national commitment to conservation, biological diversity, traditional harnessing of resources and the local customs of each territory, contributing to the improvement of the quality of life of native populations and compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.
With these three new incorporations, Spain now has a total of 52 biosphere reserves, confirming its leadership as the country with the largest number of these protected spaces in the world. The Spanish Network of Biosphere Reserves now occupies more than 6 million hectares, or 12% of the national territory, in which close to 2 million people live.
The Independent National Park Authority (Spanish acronym: (OAPN), dependent on the Ministry for the Ecological Transition, is responsible for coordinating the activities that make up the Spanish contribution to the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme in the field of conservation of natural and cultural heritage, sustainable development, training, and, in particular, the promotion of the concept of Biosphere Reserve.
Three new reserves
The new Valle del Cabriel Biosphere Reserve covers a total of 421,765 hectares and extends through the territory influenced by the River Cabriel and its tributaries, in the regions of Castile-La Mancha, Aragon and Valencia. With a population of more than 27,000 inhabitants, most people in the region make a living out of agriculture, above all from wine production, almond tree farming, olives and the sowing of cereals.
The Alto Turia Biosphere Reserve covers a surface area of 67,080 hectares and can be found at the midstream of the course of the River Turia, between Castile-La Mancha and the Region of Valencia. With a population of 4,296 year-round inhabitants and some 6,500 seasonal visitors, the region is primarily engaged in the secondary sector, above all to construction and small industries. The aim of naming it a reserve is to develop local trade, taking into account the recognised quality of local products as an example of sustainable development.
Lastly, the La Siberia Biosphere Reserve covers an area of 155,717 hectares and is located to the north-east of the province of Badajoz, in the midst of a major hydrographic network that is formed in the Guadiana river basin. This region presents great biological diversity and includes extensive plains and forest formations.
The declaration of these three reserves, requested by the inhabitants of each territory, seeks to contribute to their socio-economic development and to drive job creation, establish a settled population and combat the most pressing problems in these regions, such as depopulation.
Together with these declarations, the UNESCO meeting in Paris also declared another 17 reserves from around the world. With these incorporations, the Network of Biosphere Reserves is now made up of 726 spaces distributed around 123 countries.
Specifically, Spain has eight island reserves (seven in the Canary Islands and one in Minorca), eight of which contain wetlands, waterways and coastal areas, and two of which host drylands. As regards mountain reserves, three are located in high mountain areas, 13 in the Cantabrian Mountains and another 11 in Mediterranean middle mountain regions. The network is completed with the four cross border Biosphere Reserves declared in Spain: three with Portugal (Gerés-Xurés, the Meseta Ibérica and Tajo-Tejo) and one with Morocco (Intercontinental Biosphere Reserve of the Mediterranean).
Extensions and rezoning of existing reserves
The UNESCO meeting also approved the extension of the Cuencas Altas
of the Rivers Manzanares, Lozoya and Guadarrama (Region of Madrid),
which will be increased from 46,778 hectares to 105,654. The new surface
area includes 17 complete municipal districts, with a population of
99,228 inhabitants, and land in another 10 municipal districts, with
more than 3,600 inhabitants.
The extension of the Minorca Biosphere Reserve (Balearic Islands) was also increased, from 71,191 hectares to 514,191.
In addition, the rezoning as a Biosphere Reserve has been approved of the valleys of Omaña and Luna (Castile and Leon), to adapt it to prevailing regional and national legislation, as well as the new protection figures. The reserve remains the same size, but its centre is increased from 15,754 hectares to 17,653.
‘Michelle Bastisse’ Award for reserve management 2019
During the meeting in Paris, UNESCO presented the ‘Michelle Batisse 2019’ Award to the President of the Mariñas Coruñesas y Terras do Mandeo Biosphere Reserves, José Antonio Santiso, for the project entitled ‘Food Plan for the Biosphere Reserve 2014-2020’.
This space has seven products under the brand of ‘Spanish Biosphere Reserves’, an OAPN initiative to support the socio-economic framework of these territories to encourage the consumption of local produce, highlighting their qualities and promoting small distribution channels.