The UNESCO “Person and Biosphere” program (“Man and Biosphere” in English) aims to promote sustainable development in the areas of the planet with the greatest natural representation. These places or areas are known as “Biosphere Reserves”, and they form a worldwide network.
The Biosphere Reserves are comprised of different areas, ranging from the zone of greatest environmental interest (Core Zone), the area surrounding this zone (Protection Zone) and the rest of the territory (Transition Zone). Their function is not only the protection of the biodiversity they host, but also economic and human development, research and education.
The Mariñas Coruñesas e Terras do Mandeo Biosphere Reserve is one of the six Biosphere Reserves that Galicia has and that in total represent 25% of the territory of the Autonomous Community.
The “Mariñas Coruñesas e Terras do Mandeo” Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO in 2013, has an area of 116 thousand hectares that houses 49 types of natural habitats declared of interest by the European Union, 12 of them considered as priorities for the conservation. Home to 195,000 people, this territory includes the municipalities of “Abegondo, Aranga, Arteixo, Bergondo, Betanzos, Cambre, Carral, Coirós, Culleredo, Curtis, Irixoa, Miño, Oleiros, Oza-Cesuras, Paderne, Sada and Sobrado”.
“EMBALSE ABEGONDO-CECEBRE AULA DE NATURALEZA DE CRENDES”
The “Abegondo-Cecebre” reservoir, formed by the union of the Mero and Barcés rivers, was built between 1975-76 to cover the supply of drinking water to the municipalities of “La Coruña, Arteixo, Bergondo, Cambre, Culleredo, Oleiros and Sada”.
Since its construction, the sheet of water, its banks and the silts that are exposed when the water level drops in winter, have been filling with life.
The most central and interesting point (especially for birds) is the Crendes Observatory. From here we can move through different points without much effort (“Aula da Naturaleza, dam, tails of the Mero and Barcés”).
The great environmental value achieved by this space has earned it its inclusion in different protection figures (the first as a Natural Area in the General Protection Regime dates from October 1991). Since March 2014, it has been part of the network of protected areas of the European Union (Red Natura 2000) as a Special Conservation Area (ZEC) and, within the Biosphere Reserve, it is one of those that form the core area.
Among the flora we can find reeds, cattails, oaks, chestnut trees, willows, alders and other species that make up habitats of high ecological value and provide shelter and food for the species that live there. The birds, in addition to their showiness, confer great importance on this space, with 89 of the 124 species of interest for conservation being found in this group. Although in fewer numbers, and more unnoticed, we also find amphibians, reptiles, fish, insects and mammals.
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CLASSROOM OF THE NATURE OF “O MUIÑO VELLO (ARTEIXO)”
The “O Muiño Vello” Nature Classroom in “Arteixo” occupies the centennial “Casa-Muiño da Cachada”, rehabilitated and recovered to host temporary exhibitions or environmental-themed events. Educational workshops are also held and it offers a playful space in nature next to the Bidueira stream. In its lower floor it preserves part of the channel with water that crossed it and from which it obtained its matrix strength.
“Arteixo” has a good representation of spaces of environmental interest. Among them, the Barrañán beach stands out, which is part of the Special Protection Zone for Natural Values and the “Costa da Morte” Special Conservation Zone, which encompasses a coastal strip that stretches between Alba (Arteixo) beach and Fisterra. Behind the dunes and their vegetation, a valley opens up that continues along the Sisalde river, which has one of the town hall’s signposted trails.
From Punta Langosteira to the cove of Lourido, the entire Arteixo coast is a splendid place for the observation of seabirds and cetaceans. Cetaceans can be seen throughout the year. We can easily see a great variety of birds such as gannets, seagulls, large and shaggy cormorants, shearwaters, blacks and terns.
The Sisalbe river creates a rich and varied wetland along the Barrañán agra. In it, a reed bed, a small riverside forest and several patches of oak and chestnut trees meet, surrounded by cultivated plots and hedges.
The “Rexedoiro” Reservoir (also known by the name of Sabón), enclosed within a hyperactive industrial estate, is nevertheless a refuge for marsh vegetation and aquatic birds.
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“COSTA DE DEXO AULA DO MAR (OLEIROS)”
The “Costa de Dexo” Natural Monument occupies the north coast of the Oleiros town hall. The old lighthouse keeper’s house currently houses the Aula do Mar. In it we can enjoy a permanent exhibition with the reproduction of a pan, see the old lights of the lighthouse and other exhibition elements of high interest.
It stands out for its high landscaping and geomorphological interest: sea caves, cliffs, islets …, which does not detract from an important representation of fauna and flora, which includes some very remarkable species due to their small number or limited area of distribution.
From a botanical point of view, we can highlight species such as gorse, coastal gorse, grass to fall in love with, heather, angelica or sea parsley, typical of coastal places. As we move away from the coast, many other species of plants appear, less specialized and with a wider distribution, and trees, such as pine and oak.
The caves and crevices in the cliffs are home to various species of birds, such as the yellow-legged gabiota, the small redstart, the crow, peregrine falcon, king swift and the shag.
The coast and its nearby waters bring birds that come to spend the winter on this coast such as the grim gull, the gabion, the laughing gull, etc.
Among the brambles, tpjos and coastal grasses live a whole cast of less visible species, such as rabbits, the long-tailed warbler or the green-black lizard. The most common insects are crickets, mants, the machaon butterfly and the wall butterfly.
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“CENTRO ETNOGRÁFICO DEL RÍO MANDEO (CURTIS)”
This Center offers the visiting public a complete vision of the cultural, ethnographic and natural heritage of the Mandeo River basin through an elaborate interactive exhibition.
It also has a valuable endowment of classrooms, rooms and a laboratory, which, together with the possibility of staying in its hostel, with its own kitchen, allows the celebration of conferences, workshops or camps.
Curtis’ nature shares characteristics of the mosaic of the rural environment and the mosaic of the natural environment and its river beds. The meadows for feeding livestock mostly dedicated to grass and corn for forage alternate with each other, with forest crops and with forest of native species such as holly, laurel, willow, etc.
The hedges function as a habitat that offers shelter to a multitude of animal species adapted to this anthropized environment, from ocellated lizards, to field mice, through weasels, small birds, insects, …
This dominant mosaic has small forests or patches of oak and especially birch. Birch is a valuable species, occupying poor or sloping soils, or colonizing flooded areas, forming monospecific patches. It lives with ash and willow trees in the riverside forests. It enriches the soils and favors the occupation by other species.
The variety of plant formations makes the upper Mandeo basin rich in mushrooms, especially those associated with birch, oak and pine.
Count on wolves to control the explosive expansion of the wild boar and control its increasing damage in agriculture and livestock. The most unique birds in the landscape of patches of birch trees, gorse scrub and mid-mountain heather and riverbanks are the long-tailed warbler, the mighty raven, the Montagu’s harrier or the short-toed eagle.
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“CENTRO DE INTERPRETACIÓN CHELO (COIRÓS”)
This Visitor Center located in Chelo is equipped with an interesting permanent exhibition on environmental values of this natural space.
This river is born in O Marco das Pías in the A Cova da Serpe mountain range and flows into the Betanzos estuary after a journey of about 56 km. The estuary, the lower course and part of the middle course of the Mandeo River, together with part of a tributary of the Zarzo River, the section under the Mendo River and the mouth of the Lambre River make up a protected natural area that is part of the Natura 2000 Network , a European network for the conservation of biodiversity.
Some of the natural habitats of this area are of priority interest for their conservation, among them the riverside forests of alders and ash trees that are well represented on the route.
There are several species included in the Galician catalog of threatened species, such as the March narcissus and relict ferns from the Tertiary such as Woodwardia radicans, which is threatened by cutting down the riverside forests where it lives.
Also noteworthy are the river mussel, the Quimper snail, two endangered mollusks like the salmon. Among the amphibians, the long-tailed salamander stands out, an endemism from the northwest of the peninsula included in the Galician Catalog of threatened species.
The wagtail also cascades the tawny owl, bats, other protected mammals are the Iberian desman or the nutra, which is easy to discover due to its excrement laden with thorns and fish scales.
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“ENIL BRAÑAS DE SADA”
On February 11, 2020, the approval of the Brañas de Sada as a Natural Area of Local Interest (ENIL) was published, increasing the protected area included within the “Mariñas Coruñesas e Terras do Mandeo” Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO in 2013. It is the first urban wetland to become part of one of the Core Zones of the Biosphere Reserve.
“Las Brañas de Sada” is currently a wetland of anthropic origin that became naturalized after the abandonment of its uses.
The geological origin of the Brañas is found in a very common beach-lagoon system on the Galician coast, filling with sediments, originating a new humid formation that in most of Galicia is known as “Braña”.
The vegetation that predominates in the Brañas is the riparian forest, the trade winds, the willows, the arraclanes and to a lesser extent the ash trees predominate. It has the presence of 16 species of autochthonous ferns.
As for the fauna that inhabits the Brañas, in addition to a rich community of aquatic and terrestrial macroinvertebrates, the presence of several species of amphibians stands out, highlighting the leggy branch, reptiles and otters.
There are more than 50 species of birds, they are the most abundant, diverse and relevant group of the Brañas. Among the aquatic ones, the presence of the kingfisher, the wintering populations of common spoon and common teal and the breeding of mallard and common coot stand out.
“Las Brañas” still conserve numerous remains of various weaving factories that for many years manufactured tiles and bricks with the mud that they extracted from the barriers and that after abandonment became naturalized as small lagoons.
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