Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park
Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park (Spanish: Parque Natural de las Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas) is a natural park in the eastern and northeastern part of the province of Jaén, Spain, established in 1986. With an area of 2,099.2 square kilometres (810.5 sq mi), it is the largest protected area in Spain and the second largest in Europe. It was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1983 and also a Special Protection Area for migratory birds in 1987.
The beauty of the countryside and the rich flora and fauna combine with a rich cultural heritage to make the region an important destination for tourism.
Throughout the park are magnificent karstic formations of dolomitic limestone, formed by the dissolving action of water on the soluble stone. Examples include the baroque Cerrada de Elías and Salto de los Órganos in the Borosa River. La Toba has been described as a "haughty staircase to heaven" of pure white travertine, with labyrinthine caves of water along the right bank of the Segura in the hamlet of the same name. Or the Los Anguijones Caves on the right bank of this same river below the Anchuricas Reservoir, like two fantastic giants' abodes
Fauna and Flora
The variety of fauna is also vast. There are 50 species of invertebrates found nowhere else. Among the 30 species of mammals living in the park are great number of deer, Spanish ibex (Capra pyrenaica) and wild boars (Sus scrofa), as well as important populations of mouflon (Ovis aries orientalis), a wild sheep, and fallow deer (dama dama). Except for the Spanish ibex, these were introduced for hunting, and have caused some pressure on the native species. Wolves were also re-introduced in recent decades.
Among the 130 species of birds are the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) and the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), as well as the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) in the process of repopulation.
The rock lizard known as the Spanish algyroides (Algyroides marchi) was discovered there in 1958. The park also has six species of amphibians.
Within these mountain ranges is Spain's largest continuous area of pine forest, with representatives of nearly all pine species found in the Iberian Peninsula, the most abundant being European black pine (Pinus nigra). These species were repopulated long ago and their growth has been aided by abundant rainfall. Beginning 900 metres (3,000 ft) above sea level are forests of Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), accompanied by strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) and mastic (Pistacia lentiscus), more typical of the Mediterranean forests that once stood here.
The park has some of the richest and most varied flora of the Mediterranean basin. More than 2170 species have been catalogued, 34 exclusive to the territory.
Within the park is the Torre del Vinagre Botanical Garden, where representative plants of the region are on public display.