A model for rural sustainable development
Located among the mountains of Huelva, Seville and Cordoba is the space known as Dehesas de Sierra Morena, declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in the year 2002. This declaration was made possible through the area's agricultural exploitation, as well as its environmental diversity.
Covering a total area of 424,000 hectares, Dehesas de Sierra Morena constitutes the biggest Biosphere Reserve in Spain. Its territory includes three nature reserves in the north of Andalusia, as well as some 8,000 hectares of non-protected land. The nature reserves are: Sierra de Hornachuelos in Cordoba, Sierra Norte in Seville and Sierra de Aracena - Picos de Aroche in Huelva. Sierra de Hornachuelos presents a middle-mountain Mediterranean ecosystem, with varied flora and fauna, although in Vega del Guadalquivir these are richer and more diverse. Chestnut forests predominate in Sierra de Aracena - Picos de Aroche, to the north of the province of Huelva and in Seville, in the midst of Sierra Norte, the scenery is taken up by holm oak forests, while gall oaks cover the wetter lands. However, the most representative feature in the reserve is the dehesa, or pastureland. This natural Mediterranean setting, made of vast pastures dotted with holm and cork oaks, has been the basis of the local economy through agricultural exploitation for centuries. It was precisely the singularity of this pastureland within the context of global agriculture that lead to it being declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, it being a model for sustainability by allowing human development with no adverse influence whatsoever on the conservation of its great biodiversity.
Information for visits
The reserve can be accessed through any of its three Nature Parks: Sierra de Aracena - Picos de Aroche, Sierra Norte de Sevilla and Sierra de Hornachuelos. There are Visitor Centres in Aracena (Huelva), Constantina (Seville) and Hornachuelos (named Huerta del Rey Visitor Centre).
Dehesas de Sierra Morena is home to a great number of plant species, with a predominance of holm oak, cork oak, and several Mediterranean shrub species. In this space we will find numerous Mediterranean animals, such as the Iberian lynx, the wolf, the black stork, the otter, the genet and the dormouse. This area also shelters numerous species of birds of pray, such as the Cinereous vulture, the Spanish imperial eagle, the short-toed eagle, the sparrowhawk, the peregrine falcon and so on.
Its residents have managed to use the reserve's main natural resources in many different activities, such as the extraction of cork from the cork oaks, hunting and the grazing of Iberian pigs and fighting bulls In total, 43 municipalities that belong to three different Andalusian provinces make up the reserve, among which the picturesque towns of Hornachuelos, Aracena, Jabugo and Cazalla de la Sierra must be pointed out.