Nature protection and biodiversity - State and impacts (Spain)

SOER 2010 Common environmental theme (Deprecated)
This is an old version, kept for reference only.

Go to latest version
This page was archived on 21 Mar 2015 with reason: A new version has been published
SOER Common environmental theme from Spain
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 11 May 2020

Spain has two clearly defined types of protected natural area: Protected Areas –PA (designated under Law 42/2007, on Natural Heritage and Biodiversity) and protection granted by inclusion in the Natura 2000 network. Spain's protected natural areas also include those covered by international instruments, such as Wetlands of International Importance (designated under the Ramsar Convention) and Biosphere Reserves. In 2009, the country had 1 519 Protected Areas (PAs) covering a total of 6 174 788 ha (terrestrial and marine). As a result, in 2009, protected areas accounted for 11.7 % of Spain's total land area.

Protected areas 2009

Moreover, 27.6 % of Spain's land area was protected either as a designated PA or by inclusion in the Natura 2000 network. It should be noted that a significant part of the land area designated as PAs also forms part of the Natura 2000 network and that, consequently, adding the two totals together does not produce the total area protected by both.

Protected area map

In 2009, Spain had 1 435 SCIs covering a total area of 12 623 056 ha (11 606 347 terrestrial ha and 1 016 708 marine ha). These accounted for 24.94 % of the country's total land area. Also 594 SPAs covered an area of 10 334 304 ha (10 063 831 terrestrial and 270 473 marine ha). These accounted for 20.92 % of the country's land area.

Among Spain's protected areas, its National Parks (NPs) are particularly important and conservation of these natural areas of high ecological and cultural value has been declared an issue of national interest. Spain currently has 14 NPs and also perform significant educational and leisure functions (in 2008 the National Parks Network's 347,030 ha received over 10.2 million visitors and in 2009 this amount was 9.9 million visitor).

At present, Spain has 40 Biosphere Reserves, one of which is shared with Morocco and another with Portugal and give Spain the world's third-highest number of such reserves after the United States and the Russian Federation. By 2009, Spain had 68 Ramsar sites covering an area of 284 921 64. 

A major problem in natural areas is forest fires. Some years, the impact can be particularly damaging, as was the case in 1994 when 437 635 ha caught fire. Over the period 1990–2009, there was an average of 18,247 forest fires per year. Fortunately, the average area affected per forest fire is decreasing, demonstrating that preventive and fire-fighting measures are becoming increasingly effective. Over the period 1995–2009, 93 human lives were lost to forest fires.

Forest fires

 If terrestrial mammals are excluded from the data, only 10–35 % of Spain's endangered taxa are listed in the country's Catalogue of Endangered Species. In the case of vascular flora, the percentage is particularly low (10 %). The figures for fish and amphibians (25 % and 18 %, respectively) are also low given the conservation needs of these groups, which contain a large number of endemisms. Birds and reptiles account for approximately one third of the taxa catalogued as endangered, while for mammals the percentage of catalogued endangered species stands at a more satisfactory 76 %. These figures reveal that a greater proportion of taxonomic groups containing emblematic species (mammals and birds) has been catalogued than of other less visible ones, such as vascular plants and amphibians.

Trends in bird populations provide an indicator of the state of ecosystems and biodiversity, as birds are highly sensitive to changes in their habitats. These data therefore provide a means of analysing the state of conservation of the habitats in which they live. In the last decade there has been an increase in populations related to forest ecosystem, stability in urban bird populations, in those associated with aquatic and the migratory species, and a decline in the populations related to agricultural resources. Trends observed over the last decade are summarised in the graph.

Trends in bird population

The publication ’Environmental Profile of Spain, 2009‘ provides more information on natural areas, forest ecosystems (area and damage) species (threatened, invasive and the population trends of common birds) and environmental monitoring. There are more information about other topics of interest such as drought, erosion processes and desertification.





The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

Filed under: SOER2010, biodiversity
Document Actions