A model of rural sustainable development
Travelling by horse between the mountains north of Huelva, Seville and Córdoba, there is a space known as the Dehesa de Sierra Morena, declared a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 2002. The particular agricultural utilisation of the area, as well as its great natural wealth, brought about this declaration. It is recognised as a stargazing destination by the Starlight Foundation.
With a total area of 424,000 hectares, the Dehesas de Sierra Morena is the largest of all the spaces that form a part of the Spanish Biosphere Reserve Network. Its territory, which also includes another 8,000 hectares of non-protected areas, is comprised of three natural parks north of Andalusia: Sierra de Hornachuelos, in Córdoba; Sierra Norte, in Seville; and Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche, in Huelva. The Sierra de Hornachuelas gives the reserve a mid-mountain Mediterranean ecosystem with a variety of flora and fauna that become denser in the Vega of Guadalquivir region. The chestnut trees form forests that fill the landscape of Sierra of Aracena and Picos de Aroche, north of Huelva Province, and in the Seville sector, in Sierra Norte, there are mainly Holm oak forests and in the more humid areas, Gall oaks flourish. Undoubtedly, the most representative and common image of the reserve is that of the Dehesa. This natural Mediterranean scenery, comprised of extensive pastures populated by Holm and oak forests, has for centuries been the base of the area's economy, due to the proper agricultural use of this space. It is the uniqueness of the Dehesa within the international agriculture context that was one of the factors leading to the declaration of this space as a biosphere reserve. This space embodies a model of sustainable development, fostering human development without any prejudice to the conservation of its great biodiversity.
What you need to know
The inhabitants of this setting have been able to use the major natural resources of the reserve through diverse activities, such as cork extraction from the Cork trees, hunting and shepherding of fighting bulls and Iberian pigs. In total, 43 municipalities belonging to the three Andalusian provinces integrate this space, the main features of which are the colourful villages of Hornachuelos, Aracena, Jabugo and Cazalla de la Sierra.
The Dehesas de Sierra Morena showcases an ample variety of vegetable species, predominantly Holm oaks, Cork trees and several typical Mediterranean species of shrubs and trees. This area is home to numerous species representative of the Mediterranean fauna, such as the Iberian lynx, wolves, black storks, otters, Genet and Dormouse. Also the abundant presence of birds of prey is of worthy mention: Black vulture, Golden and Short-toed eagle, Sparrow hawks, Peregrine falcon, etc.
Information for visits
The reserve may be accessed by any of the three natural parks that comprise it: Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche, Sierra Norte de Sevilla and Sierra de Hornachuelos. There are information offices in Aracena (Huelva), Constantina (Seville) and Hornachuelos (Visitors' Centre “Huerta del Rey”).