National Park, Natural Monument, Biosphere Reserve… do you know the difference?

The diversity of landscapes and ecosystems present in Spain has made it necessary to name each one of them in a certain way, not always easy to understand. It must be taken into account that the natural spaces are classified and given a more or less high level of protection depends on multiple factors (landscape, scientific, richness in endemic or protected species …). In addition, in the management, conservation and regulation of these spaces, different organisms, from the Central Administration and the Autonomous Communities, to European institutions and international organizations.

Natural spaces and their classification

At present the Natural Heritage and Biodiversity Law is the framework that regulates conservation standards of the different natural areas of the Spanish geography dividing them into five main categories:

  • National Parks. They are extensive areas, of high ecological and cultural value that have the maximum degree of protection for their general interest and for having some particularity that makes them special: protected and / or endangered species of extension, geological structure, characteristic hydrography … The Picos de Europa, the Atlantic Islands of Galicia, Doñana, Timanfaya in Lanzarote are only some of the National Parks which includes our geography.
  • Natural parks. They usually have a smaller extension and in them the protection of the environment with some exploitation activities, always respectful with the environment and generally related generally to the rural environment and sustainable tourism (rural tourism).

In addition to these areas of special protection, there are other names established to define unique spaces, for example:

  • Marine Protected Areas. Sometimes they are an important part of natural or national parks, but it may be the case of protect a specific coastal area for its biological wealth (animal and plant) or for the uniqueness of the present ecosystem.
  • Nature Reservel. A nature reserve is always smaller than a park with the same classification and focuses on a high value specific zone that also, it turns out especially fragile to any intervention of the human being.
  • Natural monuments and protected landscapes. In both cases, they are very specific and delimited formations or spaces, from a grotto with imposing stalagtites, to the surroundings and landscape of a lake that stands out for its uniqueness.

To this general classification must be added the spaces that each Autonomous Community protects, among which stand out, by extension and degree of protection, the Regional Parks.

At the international level, the maximum protection that a certain territory can have is to be declared Biosphere Reserve, qualification granted by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).