Expansion of Sierra Nevada Biosphere Reserve nears

by admin
Sierra Nevada, Andalucia

The expansion and rezoning of the Sierra Nevada Biosphere Reserve has received a lot of attention from the Andalucian government in recent months. More than 60 municipalities in Almería and Granada are involved in this process and five villages in the province of Almería have already given their approval.

The Sierra Nevada Biosphere Reserve currently includes the nature and national park and extends over the provinces of Granada and Almería in Andalucia. The goal of the biosphere reserve’s expansion is to incorporate the entire municipalities that are currently part of the biosphere reserve into this protected area. The regional Ministry of Sustainability, Environment, and Water is working hard to advance this process according to UNESCO’s recommendations. This topic has been extensively discussed and explained over the past eighteen months within the Council of Participation of the Natural Area and during meetings with the involved municipalities.

Five villages agree

Manuel de la Torre, the delegate for sustainability, has expressed his gratitude to the first municipalities that have approved the expansion of the biosphere reserve. These are Alhabia, Alboloduy, Beires, Laujar de Andarax, and Rágol. “I want to thank their mayors for their vision for the future and their ability to communicate with residents about the benefits of being a biosphere reserve,” said De la Torre.

Information campaigns and local involvement

Last month, all the mayors of the 23 municipalities in the province that are part of the biosphere reserve could organise informative and participatory meetings. Furthermore, Bayárcal was the first municipality to accept this invitation, which was highly appreciated by De la Torre. During the meeting, residents and council members could ask questions about the expansion of the biosphere reserve and what such an expansion concretely entails. The distinction between the Sierra Nevada Natural Area and the biosphere reserve was clarified, emphasising that UNESCO’s biosphere reserves focus on sustainable development on a regional scale.

Residents’ concerns

During the meeting, residents expressed concerns about hunting, investments in irrigation systems, forest management, and administrative procedures. De la Torre explained that these concerns relate to the regulations of the nature and national park. They are not directly related to the biosphere reserve. Being part of the biosphere reserve can actually help in obtaining funding for necessary projects.

Municipalities’ demands

The mayors demand adequate information for landowners and residents about the legal and administrative consequences of the proposed expansion. They advocate for equal opportunities through measures that promote economic and social development and combat depopulation and poverty. Additionally, they call for the protection of essential public services and the participation of the local population in decision-making processes.

Economic valuation and environmental restoration

The municipalities also seek a fair valuation of the environmental services provided by the ecosystems of Sierra Nevada. These include water retention, soil protection, and climate regulation, with economic compensation mechanisms. Finally, they urge investments in the restoration of degraded ecosystems, including reforestation, erosion control, and fire prevention.


The deadline for submitting the expansion and rezoning of the Sierra Nevada Biosphere Reserve is June 30. From July 2024 to September 2025, the proposal will be evaluated by the Spanish MaB program. It will then be submitted to the International Coordinating Council, which will announce the first results in June 2025.

Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Nevada is the largest national park in Spain, covering an area of 862 square kilometres. This area is significant for both its natural beauty and cultural heritage, with ancient Roman and Arab monuments. The area is home to approximately 2,100 plant species, around 70 of which are endemic. Many animal species find their habitat here, such as the Iberian ibex and other animals like the stone marten, snow vole, fox, and weasel. Bird enthusiasts can enjoy species like the golden eagle and peregrine falcon.

For adventurers and nature lovers, the park offers numerous activities such as hiking, cycling, mountain climbing, paragliding, horse riding, and wildlife observation. There are various mountain huts available for hikers and climbers, and the peaks of Mulhacén and Pico Veleta are relatively easy to reach.

The Sierra Nevada National Park was designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1986, highlighting the ecological value of this area. It is a Natura 2000 site and lies within the slightly larger Sierra Nevada Natural Park. The diversity and richness of the flora and fauna make it a special place for both scientific research and recreation. The current plans for expansion and rezoning offer economic opportunities for local communities through sustainable tourism and scientific initiatives.

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