Ecosystems

Doñana Natural Area is considered one of the most important protected natural areas of Europe. Crucial crossroads for bird migration routes between Africa and Europe, is also the last refuge for many endangered species.

Consisting of a spectacular landscape of flat land, there are two major ecosystems, Mediterranean pine woods and scrubland growing in sandy soil and the vast salt marshes, a flood plain formed by impermeable clays with a high seasonal water regime.

Marshes. These freshwater plains that dry up in summer, are a meeting point for numerous waterfowl that use them for feeding and breeding.

Mediterranean forest. Doñana’s scrub survives thanks to one of the largest aquifers in Spain. Several species of rockroses, rosemary, native palms and mastic tree offer shelter to mammals, including the Iberian Lynx itself.

Stone Pine. The majority of existing forests in Doñana are formed by this species, which also has significant economic due to the collection of its nuts.

Wildlife

Doñana is undoubtedly the most biodiverse natural area in Europe, being the group of birds the most important and numerous. Over 300 species inhabit this territory, of which nearly 130 breed regularly here. Most are aquatic birds and therefore their preferred areas in the park are the extensive mudflats. Doñana also support some 37 species of mammals, including the Iberian lynx, 21 species of reptiles, 11 amphibians and 20 species of freshwater fish. Nor can we forget the thousands of invertebrates (insects, annelids, arachnids …) many of them still uncatalogued.

The Iberian lynx. It is the king of Doñana. It is considered the world’s most endangered wild cat. Currently you can only get to see them in Sierra de Andujar (Jaén) and here in Doñana, where the last remaining populations are on flat land at sea level.

The Spanish Imperial Eagle. Another emblem of Doñana, is nearly as threatened as the lynx. Only around 10 pairs live in our park, one of its last refuges.

The Spur-thighed tortoise. This is a cute endangered reptile that find in the sands of Doñana one of its last refugees in Europe. They vegetarian and can live up to nearly a hundred years.

History

Within the Doñana Natural Site, the most important and tigthly protected area is the National Park. Already in ancient times these lands were known for their natural wealth. Hunting place for the royalty and nobility, it wasn’t until the 1960’s when after a series of scientific expeditions the protection issue for Doñana is taken seriously.

The National Park was created in 1969 and subsequently expanded in 1978. Declared a World Heritage Site among numerous other awards, today is considered an irreplaceable natural treasure. More than 100,000 protected hectares on which many species depend on.

Doñana inhabitants. Historical texts confirm the presence in Doñana of Tartessos, Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs. Back in the thirteenth century there are chronicles that mention this land as a preferred hunting site for Spanish royalty.

The name of Doñana. The term “Doñana”refers to one of its most famous residents: Doña Ana de Mendoza, daughter of Princess Eboli, and married to the seventh Duke of Medina Sidonia; she retired to live in these lands in the sixteenth century.

José Antonio Valverde. Doñana owes its existence to the famous Spanish scientist, who in the 60’s managed to convince the authorities of the time of the importance of preserving these lands. Today one of the Doñana Visitors Centre is named after him.

Doñana

Doñana in images

Location

The region of Doñana is located southwest of the Iberian peninsula between the mouths of the rivers Tinto and Guadalquivir. Extensive pristine beaches lapped by the Atlantic Ocean make up its southern border. Fourting municipalities in the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cadiz contribute its territory.
In Doñana’s county there are more than 100,000 hectareas of protected area within what we call National Park and Natural Park. A peculiar settelment, the village of El Rocío, which sits right next to National Park and serves as a gateway to it is another attraction of the area.

Acknowledgements and contributions

Nature professional photographs. Javier Giménez Martín

Some of the images of the web are courtesy of Javier Giménez Martin, José Ángel Villegas González, Juan Antonio Repiso Molina, Sebastián Valladolid Martín, Juan Bernardo Torre Valle and the Iberian Lynx Breeding Centre of El Acebuche, to who Doñana Reservas thanks for their contribution.