Reserva de la Biosfera de Muniellos, Alto Narcea, Degaña e Ibias

Reserva de la Biosfera de Muniellos, Alto Narcea, Degaña e Ibias

The Las Fuentes del Narcea and Ibias Natural Park in Asturias takes its name from the Narcea and Ibias tributaries and rivers that flows through it and covers over 47,500 hectares. The Cantabrian Mountains form its southern border in Cangas del Narcea and the outskirts of the natural park of Somiedo form its eastern border.

The park protects the distinctive ecosystem of the Muniellos area and the varied vegetation within the park. With its high mountain scrub areas, well preserved Muniellos oak forests, one of the largest in Europe down to the flora surrounding the lakes and pastures. The forest also in areas of high humidity offers you the chance to see the many varied mosses and lichens that thrive in this environment.

The main walking route through the Las Fuentes del Narcea and Ibias Natural Park is GR.203 which covers nearly 350 kilometers which are ideal for walking on foot, cycling or on horseback. This circular route links many of the existing paths throughout the park and consists of eleven stages, some of which take you beyond the parks boundaries.

This route starts and finishes at the Interpretation Centre of the park, which is situated in Cangas del Narcea in the grounds of the town’s San Juan Bautista de Coria monastery. The Benedictine monks first used the monastery in the eleventh century and over the next few centuries became a major influence in the area owning many lands within the region and as far as León. The monastery is currently being restored as a National Parador, the third one in the region of Asturias.


Animals & Birds
There are a wide variety of birds and other animals that can be seen in the Las Fuentes del Narcea and Ibias Natural Park with its varied terrains and the forest of Muniellos is an area of Special Protection for birds. The Capercaillie, (Grouse) prefers mountainous areas often with open conifer woodlands where the horizontal branches provide ideal locations for sleeping. These woodlands present an abundance of herbaceous plants, berries and water, which is ideal for its seasonal diet. As ground nesting birds their eggs are the favourite food of the boar, weasels, goshawks and dogs so the mortality of the brood is high.

Two elusive predators in these woods are the goshawk and the sparrowhawk. The dense forest areas of the natural parks provide the perfect environment for their hunting style of sudden dashes from a concealed location. It is ideally suited to both the mountain ranges and the lowlands of the Iberian Peninsula.

The goshawk feeds on a diverse number of other birds and mammals, such as pigeons, woodcocks, crows, hares, rabbits, mink and martens. The sparrowhawk feeds almost exclusively on small birds, sparrows, tits and finches.

Among the larger tributaries otters can be seen swimming and feeding on a variety of frogs, small fish and aquatic creatures, which they catch in their mouths whilst swimming along. Besides man hunting them for their fur their only predators are the largest mammals and eagles. The wild cat, now protected in Spain, hunts for its prey during the evening and at night. Like many small predators the wild cat is a territorial and solitary predator and its diet consists mainly of small rodents, birds and mammals, as well as amphibians and invertebrates.

The deer living in large groups or herds of females and immature males can be seen grazing throughout the park and woodlands eating plat shoots, leaves and twigs. Also among the hillsides of the Cantabrian Mountains you can see the hare that lives amongst the broom and the heath, which covers the hillsides of this region.

The European Oak (Quercus robur) is a prevalent on the Atlantic side of Europe and the Las Fuentes del Narcea and Ibias Natural Park is one of the few Oak forests left in Europe. It thrives in the wet mountain areas of northern Spain. It is a slow growing tree so is not a popular tree in forestry as it can take several hundred years to mature. Amongst the many forests of this park you will find an excellent example of a Beech forest in the Hermus Valley, which has many fine examples of birch and chestnut trees, as well as many other common trees in this Atlantic region of Spain.

The harsh environment of that altitude shapes the large areas of scrub in the high mountains. Its dense brushwood dominates the vegetation with juniper bercinas and blueberries interspersed amongst it. The vegetation of the lower valleys changes to that more reeds fern (Isoetes velatum subsp. Asturicense) and the lake fern Ubale that only grows in Laguna de Arbás. There are also the small yellow water lilies (Nuphar luteum subsp. pumilum) that appear at the edge of the rivers and ponds in this region.


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