GEOGRAPHY – FAUNA & FLORA

 

imgresiberian_lynx_72There are roughly 8,000 species of FLORA to be found in Spain. In the south, where vegetation is more subtropical in nature, there are agave, cacti and palms, and near Elche in Alicante there are the only date plants in Europe. Spain is  home to a number of large birds of prey, such as the Imperial Eagle, the Short-toed Eagle and the large Bearded Vulture in the upper Pyrenees.  Spain also has the largest population of Black Vultures in the world. Spain also has no shortage of large MAMMALS; the brown bear, wolf, otter, the red deer , the rare Spanish ibex ,wild boar and the lynx as well as populations of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Fauna:

Spain has more varieties of wildlife than any other country in Europe;  it is home to some of the rarest species on the planet. It’s differing climatic zones  are the reason for the immense diversity of it’s fauna, embracing European, Mediterranean and African species , as well as alpine fauna in the high mountain regions. 

The Iberian wolf

Canis_Lupus_SignatusZOOM-151x300The Iberian Wolf  lives in small packs. It is considered to be beneficial because it has kept the population of wild boar under control. It is different from the more common Eurasian wolf with its’ slighter frame, white marks on the upper lips, the dark marks on the tail and a pair of dark marks in its front legs. Until the 1900s it inhabited most of the Iberian Peninsula.

However the Franco government  introduced  culling during the 1950s and 1960s with the aim to eradicate the wolf from Spain.This all but wiped out the population leaving only the North Western  part of the country, where there is still a sizeable population in the Sierra de la Culebra, and some isolated areas of the Sierra Morena. They are one of the last remaining refuges of the European wolf. The population is slowly recovering from its 1970 low of 400-500 odd individuals. There is now thought to be over 3,000.

The fox is probably the most common Spanish carnivore, its numbers estimated at 500,000-1,000,000 individuals.

 

 

The Spanish ibex (Capra pyrenaica) The Spanish ibex is a rare species of a mountain goat.

SPANISH IBEX

SPANISH IBEX

 

They are strong mountainous  animals characterized by their large and flexible hooves and short legs. These physical adaptations allow them to be able to run and leap on bare, rocky, rough, and steep slopes. This gives them an advantage over potential predators that possibly cannot reach them because of the terrain.

 

 

Red Deer Spanish red deer are considerably smaller than their Central European counterparts.  The red deer once occupied the whole of the Peninsula , but by the end of the 19th century hunting had reduced its distribution to the Sierra Morena, Montes de Toledo, Sierra de San Pedro and Las Villuercas. Consequent reintroductions by game estates have hugely re-extended their range. On occasions, these reintroductions, in an attempt to maximise profits of this prized piece, have led to incredibly dense deer populations and consequently severe degradation of forests such as in Saja in Cantabría. Wolves are its principal predator in Zamora , Somiedo and Riaño. Not threatened. See more wildlife in Spain.

Wild Boar The ancestor of the domestic pig is fairly common in many regions in Spain. They don’t have sweat glands so look for muddy puddles to wallow in to cool down and for this reason the wild boar is rarely seen in the drier, arid areas.

WILD BOAR

WILD BOAR

With the exception of the wolf the wild boar has no natural predators in Spain. The Spanish people look upon these pigs as sport, meat and an occasional nuisance, pretty much in that order. Some 60,000 are killed by man each year during the hunting season. Except in the wolf areas of Northern Spain, the wild boar has no natural predators in Spain, and is in clear expansion, as a result of abandonment of the countryside and recovery of forest. This is despite game hunting of some 60,000-100,000 animals a year.

The Iberian lynx  The Iberian lynx, (Lynx pardinus), is a critically endangered species .  It looks like a big cat. animals characterized by their large and flexible hooves and short legs. These physical adaptations allow them to be able to run and leap on bare, rocky, rough, and steep slopes. This gives them an advantage over potential predators that possibly cannot reach them because of the terrain.

IBERIAN LYNX

IBERIAN LYNX

A specialist predator of  rabbits  the Iberian lynx has been unable  to significantly change its’ diet and, as a result, its population has declined sharply after its main prey was decimated by two diseases in the 20th century. It has also been affected by the loss of scrub land, its main habitat, to human development. It is now one of the most endangered cat species in the world.The Iberian Lynx inhabits the open forests and thickets. It is similar in appearance  to  the Eurasian Lynx but about half it’s size. Whilst Spain and Portugal are the two West European countries with the greatest population of wild cats, these populations are threatened because of  breeding with feral cats and the loss of habitat.

  Brown Bear (Oso pardo cantábrico)

BROWN BEAR (Oso pardo cantábrico)

BROWN BEAR (Oso pardo cantábrico)

Believed to have originated in Asia, the Brown bear  spread across the Northern hemisphere, colonising much of the Eurasian land mass as well as North America. The Cantabrian brown bear, another endangered species is thought to be a distinct subspecies of the European brown bear; and is known in Spain  as the Oso pardo cantábrico and, more locally, in Asturias as Osu. It is timid and will avoid human contact whenever possible. The Cantabrian brown bear can live for around 25-30 years in the wild. Population figures reported in 2007 suggested that the bears live in two pockets covering about 6000 sq. km but separated by about 30 km. In the Western enclave between 100-110 bears live and between 20-30 bears in the Eastern  but  genetic studies conducted by the  Redes Natural Park have indicated that there has has been recent interbreeding between the two populations.

 

Birds of Spain

phoca_thumb_m_Indigo-FlowerpiercerSpain is such a rich breeding ground for so many species Buitres-carroñeros-300x211including,Golden Aquila chrysaetos, Bonelli’s Hieraaetus fasciatus, Booted H.pennatus and Short-toed Circaetus gallicus Eagles, Griffon Gyps fulvus and Egyptian Neophron percnopterusVultures, Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, Lesser phoca_thumb_m_Purple-bibbed-Whitetip-2Kestrel Falco naumanni, Eagle Owl Bubo bubo, White-rumped Apus caffer, Alpine A.melba and Pallid A.pallidus Swifts, Blue Rock ThrushMonticola solitarius, Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis, Wheatear Oenanthe leucura, Redstart Pheonicurus ochruros, Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia, Rock Bunting Emberiza cia and Crossbill Loxia curvirostra. Spain is also an important stopping-off point for flocks of migratory birds on their journey to and from Europe and Africa. Some of the most notable are duck, flamingo, heron, crane and bustard, as well as numerous species of birds of prey including eagles, bearded vultures, hawks, owls and goshawks.

Reptiles There are countless lizards and snakes, e.g. the Montpelier snake and the Lataste’s viper.

Bats

Bechstein Bat

Bechstein Bat

Bats are numerous in Spain where there thought to be 25  different species of bat. Interestingly t he coats of arms of many cities in eastern Spain including Valencia, Palma de Mallorca and Fraga have the bat over the shield as do many smaller towns, like Catarroja and Novallas.

 

 

Whales Dolphins & Sharks If you  want to see a whale or a dolphin up close then the Bay of Biscay is the place for you.

WHALE

WHALE

This is a true meeting point for whales and dolphins. Many of these delightful mammals can be seen around the coasts of Spain. Striped, Common and Bottlenose dolphins are the most frequent sightings, though long-finned Pilot whales, Fin whales, Sperm whales and Orcas also frequent many of Spain’s coastal waters. In the Bay of Biscay, one might also find Minke whales and Risso’s dolphins. A popular whale watching spot is the Bay of Algeciras near Gibraltar.  Sharks are found in the Mediterranean. Monk Seals are seen in Spanish waters and are highly protected against hunting. Sharks are found in the Mediterranean.

Fish and other sea creatures: Spain is home to a wealth of different varieties of fish, and Spain’s rivers and lakes boast an abundance of species such as trout, tench and barbel. Jellyfish are found in all coastal areas as are Sea Urchins and Sting Rays and Weever.

Flora

WILD IRIS

WILD IRIS

TOURNEFORTI

TOURNEFORTI

SPAIN HAS DIVERSE REGIONS RANGING FROM A WET TERRAIN IN THE NORTH TO HOT ARID LANDS IN THE SOUTH.

The mostly hot  and dry climatic regions of Spain is the reason for generally sparse vegetation yet there are roughly 8,000 species of FLORA to be found. Spain has a greater variety of natural vegetation than any other European country.
There are numerous Mosses and Liver Works; Heathers and Heather-Gorses; mushrooms and an array of flowers with stunning and vibrant colours .  In the south, where vegetation is more subtropical in nature, there are agave,cacti and palms, and near Elche in Alicante there are the only date plants in Europe.
Plantas Tuberas

Plantas Tuberas

 

 

Plantas-Megaforbios

Plantas-Megaforbios

In the wetter areas of the north there are deciduous trees (including oak, chestnut, elm, beech, and poplar), as well as varieties of pine.  In the humid areas of the north there are deciduous trees (including oak, chestnut, elm, beech, and poplar), as well as varieties of pine. Pine, juniper, and other evergreens, particularly the ilex and cork oak, and drought-resistant shrubs predominate in the dry southern region. Much of the Meseta  of Andalucía has steppe vegetation. The Canaries, named for the wild dogs ( canariae   insulae ) once found there, support both Mediterranean and African flora.

Hongos Amanitaceae

Hongos Amanitaceae