Andalucia wants important Doñana wetland back on the Green List

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Doñana Green List

Following the controversy over the dramatic decline of nature in El Coto de Doñana in western Andalucia, the regional government is starting a process to return the national park to the international Green List of natural spaces.

To achieve this, the management of the regional Ministry of Natural Spaces held the first technical meeting with the International Union for Conservation of Nature this month. In 2014, the Junta de Andalucía succeeded in including the National Parks of Doñana /Huelva) and Sierra Nevada (provinces of Granada and Almería) in the Green List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They were the only Spanish natural spaces that finally gained access to this prestigious international quality mark.

Assessment of Doñana and Sierra Nevada State

In both cases, this organisation started an evaluation after the period specified in the rules had expired. The result was the suspension of the Park Doñana in 2023 because it did not meet the criteria. A detailed analysis of the Sierra Nevada will be completed in the coming weeks and is likely to be more favourable. The regional government has already received a letter with a preliminary favourable report on the state of nature in this southern Spanish mountain range. However, the IUCN still needs to ratify the report for the judgment to be final.

Doñana off the list

In Doñana’s case, the scenario is different. In June 2022, the IUCN notified the Junta de Andalucía that Doñana’s entry into the Green List was suspended. That situation was only made public more than a year later, at the end of 2023. Major factors responsible for the suspension were first and foremost the drought that put an end to many wetlands. Second, the use of water from the Doñana aquifer for illegal irrigation. Furthermore, the bill of the Junta (PP and Vox) for the expansion of irrigation around Doñana was an important argument for giving a negative opinion. This proposal ultimately ended up in a drawer after fierce protests up to the European Commission by environmental organisations and after the agreement between the Junta and the Spanish government. It was signed in November 2023.

Part agreement

The scenario in these months has changed. Firstly, because the Doñana agreement between the Government of Spain and the Junta de Andalucía marks a turning point for the future of agriculture in the surrounding area. This includes a support plan to eliminate irrigation and renaturalise surfaces or opt for rain-dependent crops, in addition to a program of actions worth €1.4 billion.

Cogesa Expats

Secondly, through the purchase of the Veta La Palma area by the Junta de Andalucía. This operation aims to expand the park by 7,600 hectares with exclusive environmental use and to guarantee water for the birds. Third, by freezing the irrigation project bill signed by PP and Vox. And finally, due to the recent rains, the water level of the park has recovered somewhat. Although, according to an analysis by the Doñana Biological Station, it is still in a “critical” situation.


Technical work will begin in May to try to return Doñana to the Green List. Subsequently, the Andalucian Ministry’s aim is for IUCN delegates to visit Doñana to monitor on site the protection and evolution in recent years. Such a visit did not take place during the previous review. That was precisely one of the reasons for the Junta de Andalucía’s dissatisfaction with this international organisation.


The IUCN has already said that the doors are open for Doñana to return to the Green List if the requirements are met. There is optimism at the Junta de Andalucía regarding this process. “The interaction with the institution is good. And our aspiration is that Doñana has all possible protection statuses and also all possible international recognitions. The IUCN is not an enemy of the Junta de Andalucía, on the contrary. And we trust that the measures we are taking will lead us to a different scenario,” said the Minister of Sustainability, Environment, Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Water, Ramón Fernández-Pacheco.

The importance of Doñana

Doñana National Park is one of the most important nature reserves in Europe. The park includes a great diversity of landscapes, such as swamps, shallow streams, sand dunes and forests. The wealth of bird species in Doñana is especially unique. Numerous migratory birds visit this area every year during their migration between Europe and Africa. The area is also a crucial habitat for endangered and rare animal species, such as the Iberian lynx and the Spanish Imperial Eagle.

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