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      Biosphere Reserve Information



  General Description   Alto Bernesga Biosphere Reserve, designated in 2005, is one of three new units of a large-scale Biosphere Reserve that will encompass the entire Gran Cantabrica mountain range. The project aims to provide an “umbrella” enabling coordination of land uses to ensure conservation of large rare mammals while favouring quality ecotourism and responsible industry. Alto Bernesga is situated in the León Province in northern Spain. Its northern limit is a rocky territory of steep slopes and summits with altitudes between 1,100 and 2,189 masl. The Bernesga River is the main river and the most important affluents are the Rodiezmo and Casares Rivers, that give rise to two great cross-sectional valleys with numerous streams and rich floristic diversity. The core area is composed of five areas: Casomera, Chagos, Aralla-Cabornera, Valle del Río Casares and Bernesga. It includes the high rocky massive in the north, rocky areas that host endemic species of flora of the Cordillera Cantábrica and important populations of the Cantabrian chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra parva) and birds of prey such as the golden eagle (Aquila crysaetos). There are beech and birch forests, and oak woods that are protected in the many valleys of the Bernesga River and that provide habitats for species such as the wolf (Canis lupus signatus), bear (Ursus arctos) and capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus). The streams host species of fauna such as the otter (Lutra lutra) and the Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus), and in the lower matorral formations the broom hare (Lepus castroviejoi) finds refuge. The core area also includes endemic forests such as Spanish juniper (Juniperus thurifera) woods. The buffer zone is the largest area and includes activities such as livestock raising and high mountain pastoralism practised in areas denominated brañas. In the brañas there are ancient shelters of great cultural value and a traditional system of pastoralism that favours the maintenance of these pasture lands. The area includes paleontological deposits that represent one of the most important values to conserve in Alto Bernesga, and endemic holm oak (Quercus ilex rotundifolia) growing on limestone. The natural resources of Alto Bernesga have been damaged by the extractive activities of quarries and coal mines, but the abundance of natural values as well as the abandonment of many mines mitigates the impact of the mining activities and have allowed for the conservation of important natural resources. The transition area surrounds all the population centres of the municipalities of Villamanín and Pola de Gordón as well as industrial and extractive activities.

The management of the natural resources and human activities is the responsibility of the local administration, Ayuntamiento of La Pola de Gordón and of Villamanín, and of the Comunidad Autónoma of Castilla and León. The Biosphere Reserve promotes sustainable resource use and human activities in the buffer zone.
  Major ecosystem type   Temperate broadleaf forests or woodlands
  Major habitats & land cover types   Piornales and Matorral pastures with trees (Cytiso cantabrici-Genistetum obtusirameae in the higher areas, Cytiso cantabrici-Genistetum polygaliphyllae in the lower areas); Mountain pastures with or without trees: Eurosiberian orocantabrican pastures with Mediterranean influence (Festuco-Poetalia ligulatae), Eurosiberian cervunales (Nardenalia strictae); base rich pastures (Festuco-Brometea, Brometalia erecti); Low alkaline peat bogs; Oligotrophic Cantabrican beech forests (Luzulo heriquesii-Fageto sigmetum); Endemic forests with Juniperus sabina-thuriferae formations; Holm oak groves (Lithodoro diffusae-Quercetum rotundifoliae); riverine forests: Poplar willow formations (Populo nigrae-Salicetum neotrichae).
  Location   42º45'14" to 43º03'46"N; 5º35'04" to 5º50'53"W
42º55’36"N; 5º40’28"W (Central point)
  Area (hectares)    
  Total   33,442
  Core area(s)   8,637
  Buffer zone(s)   14,764
  Transition area(s) when given   10,041
  Altitude (metres above sea level)   +1,100 to +2,189
  Year designated   2005
  Administrative authorities   D. Francisco Castañón González. Alcalde de La Pola de Gordón (Biosphere Reserve as a whole and core area). D. Oscar Gutiérrez Álvarez. Alcalde de Villamanín (buffer zone and transition area).
  Brief description   The zonation has been established after the analysis of the natural environment, as well as of the different uses and activities that are taking place in the Alto Bernesga,. The core area includes great ecological values dedicated to long-term conservation, allowing only environmentally friendly activities. It is composed of five large areas: Casomera, Chagos, Aralla-Cabornera, Valle del río casares and Bernesga. The buffer zone is the largest area and includes activities such as livestock raising and high-mountain pastoralism. The transition area includes the population centres and their zone of influence, as well as operative mines.

Monitoring of climatic variables at meteorological stations; Temperature and precipitation; Monitoring of waterlevels in the Bernesga and Casares River; Monitoring of forests to prevent fire; Strategy for the conservation of the Cantabrian brown bear (Ursus arctos) in Spain; Measures to damages on cattle caused by attacks of wolves, investigation of the attacks and indemnifications to farmers; Monitoring of fauna; Monitoring of demography, economic factors such as employment.
  Specific variables...    
  Abiotic   Abiotic factors, air temperature, climate, contaminants, erosion, geology, geomorphology, geophysics, habitat, heavy metals, hydrology, pollution, pollutants, soil.
  Biodiversity   Alien/Invasive/Exotic/Introduced species, amphibians, biodiversity, biology, birds, conservation, degraded areas, endemic species, evolutionary studies/palaeoecology/evolution, fauna, fires/fire ecology, fishes, flora, forest systems, freshwater/inland water, fungi, genetic resources, lichens, mammals, mediterranean type/scherophyll, migrating populations/migration, mountain and highland systems, phenology, plants, rare/endangered/threatened species, restoration/rehabilitation/redevelopment, species inventorying/inventory, taxonomy, vegetation studies/plant cover, wildlife.
  Socio-economic   Agroforestry, capacity building, control and monitoring of illegal activities, cottage industry/artisanal industry, cultural aspects, demography, economically important species, firewood cutting/harvesting, fishery/fisheries, human migration/population exodus, hunting, indigenous people, livestock and related impacts/overgrazing, local participation, mining, non-timber forest products/ntfp, pastoralism/pastoralists/grazing, people-nature relations/man/nature, small business initiatives, social/socio-economic aspects, traditional practices/ethnology/traditional knowledge.
  Integrated monitoring   Ecosystem approach, education and public awareness, environmental quality, impact and risk studies/environmental impact, institutional and legal aspects, land tenure, land use/land cover, management issues, rural systems, sustainable development/sustainable use, urban systems/towns/cities, watershed studies/monitoring.
  Contact address   Benedicta Rodríguez
Técnico de Medio Ambiente
Plaza Mayor 1
24600 La Pola de Gordón (León)
  Telephone   (34.987) 58 80 03
  Fax   (34.987) 58 81 32
  E-mail   c.desarrollo@ayto-lapoladogordon.es
  Contact address   Francisco Castañón González
Alcalde de la Pola de Gordón
Ayuntamiento de Pola de Gordón
24600 Pola de Gordón (León)
  Telephone   (34.987) 58 80 03
  Fax   (34.987) 58 81 32
  E-mail   aytopolacarlos@telefonica.net

Last updated: 27/02/2007

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