The Parque Nacional de Doñana is among one of the most important wetland reserves of Europe. It is a major destination for migrating birds. It is well-known internationally because of its ecological treasures. It has become a key centre of conservationism of the world.
Doñana is renowned for its enormous bird species, including permanent residents, winter visitors from central Europe, and north and summer visitors from Africa. It has numerous types of colourful colonies of flamingo and geese. Also, it has the largest colonies of Spanish imperial eagles around the whole world. This park comprises three distinct ecosystems: the Mediterranean scrublands, the Marianas, and the mobile coastal dunes with beaches.
History of The Parque Nacional de Doñana
The Donana National Park is a natural biodiversity reserve in Andalusia. It is located in Southern Spain, in the provinces of Cádiz, Huelva, and Seville. It covers about 543 km2 (209.65 sq mi), of which 135 km2 (52.12 sq mi) are protected. In 1969, it was established as a nature reserve when the World Wildlife Fund joined the Spanish government and purchased a portion of marshes for protection.
A permanent threat to the Doñana's ecosystem is the ricefields and other agricultural projects north of El Rocío. The run-off waters of these fields sluice pesticides into the Marianas. So, the environmentalists cite too much legal and illegal water extraction for agriculture needs.
The Parque Nacional de Doñana supports an incredible variety of vegetation in a variety of habitats. Inland, there are large expanses of stone pines and Mediterranean scrublands, with narrow-leaved cistus heather, rosemary, mastic tree, glasswort, cistus scrub, red lavender, and thyme.
In addition, there are junipers and forests of cork oaks, known as "las pajamas." They hold an enormous quantity of birds that nest in them. Among the flowering plants, the most important plants are irises, lavender, gladioli, tree heaths, and rock roses. In the spring season, the marshlands are fully covered with the blanket of flowers.
Flora of the transdunes
The ecosystem of the mobile dunes is also known as transdunes. They are formed by the prevailing southwest wind, which is almost nonexistent elsewhere in the Iberian Peninsula. The harshness of such ecosystems is evident in the adaptations that are made by some plant species to special conditions. In addition, the soil and dunes are not consistent here.
This National Park is a vast wilderness supporting an unimaginable wealth of fauna; 125 species of birds, 125 migratory bird species, 17 reptiles, nine amphibians, and six fish species. Besides, there is a rich diversity of mammals, a total of 28 species. Among 28, some species are in danger of extinction. Such species include the Egyptian mongoose and the lynx. Otters, badgers, and rabbits are also found here.
The game becomes plentiful with fallow deer, wild boar, and red deer.
Among the native fish species are eels, and introduced species are the pike or gambusia and carp. Also, you could find some sturgeon species in the past because they are extinct now.
There are found the Spanish pond turtle, loggerhead turtle, leatherback turtle, spur-thighed tortoise, and the European pond turtle in this category.
Among lizards are the ocellated lizard, the Andalusian wall lizard, Iberian worm lizard, Carbonell's wall lizard and Spiny-footed lizard.
Many species of snakes are also found here. Some of the most common are grass snake, Montpellier snake, horseshoe whip snake, Lataste's viper, false smooth snake, viperine snake, and smooth southern snake.
Above 300 species of bird are recorded in The Parque Nacional de Doñana.
They include range-restricted species like marbled teal, Spanish imperial eagle, Red-knobbed coot, and white-headed duck.
Among wetland species are ferruginous duck, red-crested pochard, little and cattle egret, glossy ibis, Eurasian spoonbill, stone-curlew, lesser short-toed lark, western swamphen, night and squacco heron, greater flamingo, Spanish sparrow, hoopoe, and pin-tailed sandgrouse.
This site also attracts many summer migrants, including gull-billed tern, whiskered tern, western olivaceous warbler, greater short-toed lark, European roller, purple heron, Savi's warbler, booted eagle, little bittern, short-toed eagle, and rufous scrub robin.
Thirty-eight mammal species have been recorded in this national park. It includes 12 bat species, common genet, red deer, the European rabbit, wildcat, European polecat, Eurasian otter, Mediterranean pine vole, wood mouse, Iberian lynx, European hedgehog, greater white-toothed shrew, red fox, European badger, wild boar, garden dormouse, southwestern water vole and black rat and Egyptian mongoose.
In the Parque Nacional de Doñana, there are two indigenous horses: themarsh horse and the Retuertas horse. The Retuertas horse is among one of the oldest European breeds. This breed dates to perhaps 1000 BC and the only species living in the wild and is isolated from other populations.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, a group of feral dromedaries wandered this area. They may have got away from a herd introduced from the Canary Islands in 1829 by the Marquis de Molina as beasts of burden in the 1950s, there were only eight individuals left, and poachers threatened these.
The sideway of the park is off-limits to independent walkers. However, there are footpaths, often with bird hides, leading from the following visitors' centres: El Acebuche, La Rosina, and El Palacio del Acebrón. You can walk alongside the park core on the Playa de Castilla just near Matalascañas.
The Sendero Laguna del Jaral Medano del Asperillo
Coming from Matalascañas, there is a car park on the left with an information board and map. It is a challenging circular, 5.6km trail that crosses dunes and pine woods and will take around 3½ hours. It has superb views of the sea.
Sendero Cuesta del Maneli is a circular trail through the dunes and pine woodland between the beach and road. Its length is 2.3km and takes almost 1½ hours. It is much easier than that of the Sendero Laguna del Jaral Medano del Asperillo. To get there, turn off at the A494 Matalascañas-Mazagón road and at Km 38 there is a car parking and information board.