iberian highlands

the southern iberian chain

A rugged mountain chain of high plateaus that carves its way through the Iberian Peninsula of Spain, home to pine, oak and juniper forests that mingle alongside steppe and dramatic river canyons.

Over half of the Rewilding Landscape’s 850,000 hectares lie in protected areas – mainly as Natura 2000 sites. The sparsely populated Iberian Highlands sit at a crossroads of competing climates and dynamic and diverse habitats that have become a sanctuary for a wide range of species, including thriving populations of raptors such as Bonelli’s eagle, peregrine falcon and the eagle owl.


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iberian highlands

The Iberian Highlands spans the two autonomous communities of Castilla-La Mancha and Aragón, where land abandonment and depopulation has been an ongoing trend since the 1960s. This has encouraged the comeback of deer, wild boar, mouflon, small groups of Iberian ibex and an abundance of Egyptian and griffon vultures; but the top predators – the Iberian lynx, Iberian wolf and Brown Bear – remain absent from the slopes.

Livestock farming and hunting continue to have a strong – but decreasing – presence throughout the landscape and nature tourism is an expanding sector throughout the Iberian Highlands. The high levels of biodiversity and low levels of human disturbance provide promising conditions for nature tourism to play a greater role in diversifying and strengthening local economies.

Rewilding vision

For each rewilding landscape Rewilding Europe has developed an inspiring vision that shows their ambition for the next ten years. Together with their local partners they work to make this vision a reality.

Iberian Highlands Spain, Neil Rogers

Rewilding Efforts

Together with partners, Rewilding Europe is creating space for natural processes like forest regeneration, free flowing rivers, herbivory and carnivory to impact ecosystems. Across the continent, the interaction of these processes leads to constantly evolving landscapes rather than fixed habitats – this dynamic is the key to preserving Europe’s rich biodiversity.

The Iberian Highlands has the potential to become a popular nature tourism destination, attracting tourists, wildlife photographers and travel bloggers from across Europe and beyond. Its status as a multifunctional rewilding landscape is attracting widespread media interest locally, nationally and internationally. Interest in the Iberian Highlands is stimulating more awareness and understanding of rewilding across Spain.

Trophic chains are restored thanks to the successful reintroductions of bearded and Cinereous vultures. Iberian lynx have been released and are recolonising and reproducing across the landscape.
The black woodpecker has been reintroduced and has become a tourist attraction, enticing birdwatchers and photographers from far and wide.
Arid areas are feeling the benefits of natural grazing, with kulan improving the conditions for a variety of steppe bird species. Grassland previously scorched by wildfires is being rejuvenated through the grazing of tauros, horses and reintroduced Iberian ibex to create mosaics of structurally varied vegetation.
A network of 14 old-growth forest reserves has been created, totalling 2,000 hectares.  The diversity of flora and the understorey in each forest has been enhanced.
Iberian Highlands Spain, Neil Rogers
Greater Côa Valley frog

TRIPS TO THE iberian highlands

Greater Côa Valley
Signature adventure
coming soon

“It has been wonderful to see semi-wild horses grazing freely.”

Pablo Schapira
Project Director Iberian Highlands

How would you characterise your rewilding landscape?
The Iberian Highlands is a vast forest landscape already protected by two large natural parks and many Natura 2000 sites. The area lies in the middle of the so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with very low human population density and depopulation. Rewilding, in combination with other strategies, can make a difference by offering new opportunities that help people to live from the local resources. These resources include a rich and ancient culture, expanses of native pine, juniper and oak forests, impressive cliffs and rocky areas, open arid areas, a diverse guild of wild herbivores, and the source of major rivers, including the Tagus which stretches for over 50km.

What have the major achievements been in your rewilding landscape to date?
The major achievements have undoubtedly been involving relevant stakeholders in our plans for the Rewilding Landscape, and explaining its value; partnering with a few early adopters to start activities in the area. We have educated people on the need for healthy ecosystems and communicated our sense of pride to work on new commitments to forge stronger connections between nature and the economy and society. It has been wonderful to see semi-wild horses grazing freely and Cinereous vultures soaring in the skies again, as well as implementing initial actions to attract bearded vultures to the area.

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