Location in Spain:
Declared a Biosphere Reserve by Unesco, Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park is a special protection area for birds. It covers 51,695 hectares and is among the areas of greatest ecological importance in the south of the peninsula and therefore of great significance for Spain as a whole.
Grazalema natural park is located in the north east of the province of Cadiz and in the north west of Malaga, at an altitude ranging from 250 to 1,654 metres above sea level and has the highest rainfall in the Iberian Peninsula, with an annual average of over 2,000 litres per square metre. This heavy rainfall and the limestone terrain have created a limestone landscape rich in slopes, grottoes, caves and winding gorges.
The central part of Sierra de Grazalema, between the towns of Grazalema, Benamahoma and Zahara de la Sierra, and called Sierra del Pinar, is an important forest of Spanish firs, considered a vegetational relic of the tertiary period. Here you can find the famous Garganta Verde. Its main activities are centred on woodcutting and cattle farming (in some cases using wild stock). Industrial activities include the manufacture of woolen shawls and leather products; other sources of income are tourism, hunting and recreational fishing.
Initial eco-development experiments and other development initiatives have been carried out here. Human presence in the area dates back to the Palaeolithic period and today, one of the main objectives in its management is to strike a balance between human activity and the natural environment.
Flora of Grazalema natural park
The finest Spanish pine grove in the country, a vegetational relic of the tertiary period, a veritable living fossil which only grows at altitudes of over 1,000 metres, is to be found in what is known as the Sierra del Pinar (Pine Grove Mountain Range). The rest of the Park’s vegetation, clearly Mediterranean in type, includes large areas of holm-oak woods. Cork oak, gall oak and pine groves are also to be found. Carob trees, wild olives and barberries also feature, along with riverside woods and thick scrub.
Fauna of Grazalema natural park
One of the largest nesting colonies of tawny vultures in Europe is to be found here. Several species of eagle can be seen: the golden eagle, Hieraetus fasciatus, Aquila heliaca, Hieratus pennatus and Circaetus gallicus. Other birds such as the goshawk, the Egyptian vulture and owls also inhabit the Park. One of Europe’s largest bat colonies can be found here. Mammals include genets, wild boar, stags and deer.
Towards the south Sierra de Grazalema flows into yet another natural park: los Alcornocales.