Evaluation of the Spanish National Park Network’s capacity to shelter vertebrate species

Researchers from UMA and the University of Évora (Portugal) conclude that different vertebrate species are well represented in the Spanish National Park Network. They also note that mountainous parks of northern Spain concentrate the greatest diversity of mammals

Within the framework of a project funded by Organismo Autónomo Parques Nacionales (Spain), researchers from the University of Malaga Raimundo Real and Alba Estrada, together with the researcher A. Márcia Barbosa from the University of Évora (Portugal), evaluated the capacity of the Spanish National Park Network to host favourable areas for different vertebrate species.

Studying the distribution of terrestrial mammals in peninsular Spain, they found that the diversity of mammals was higher inside than outside the National Park Network. In addition, those National Parks with highest species richness and with potentially more favourable areas for the presence of mammals were mountainous National Parks of the north of Spain. However, these high-diversity Parks had less favourable areas in 2015 compared to 2002. “Mammal diversity in the Spanish National Parks should be evaluated again in the mid-long term, when updated distribution data become available, to assess whether or not the tendency of these Parks to have less favourable areas is maintained”, explains Professor Raimundo Real. “This will have important conservation implications for mountainous Parks to maintain high levels of mammal diversity.”

In addition, they studied the degree of representativeness of 37 vertebrate species in the National Park Network. Due to the limited extension of this network, which has 10 Parks in peninsular Spain, all species presented a high value of “Insecurity”, i.e., only a small proportion of their favourable areas are covered by a National Park. However, most of the species are well represented in the network, i.e., the percentage of favourable areas covered by the National Park Network is higher than the percentage of Spain covered by the network (result also supported by a randomization approach). The four species with the highest values ​​of representativeness were endangered species: Pyrenean frog (Rana pyrenaica), spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca), rock ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) and western capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus). On the contrary, the species with lowest representativeness was the great bustard (Otis tarda). “This may be related to the fact that the majority of National Parks in Spain are located in mountainous areas, which constitute unsuitable habitat for steppe birds, such as the bustard”, says Dr. Alba Estrada.

These studies evaluate the National Park Network as a whole, but some conservation implications can be derived for particular species and/or for particular National Parks. For example, the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) or the brown bear (Ursus arctos) have favourable areas in National Parks where they are absent nowadays: Cabañeros and Ordesa, respectively. Thus, these could be places to consider for future reintroductions (if all other reintroduction requirements are met), or these could be places where the species are expected to arrive in a natural way. “Therefore, these National Parks should be aware not only of the species that are present nowadays but also of those that have the potential to be present due to the favourability of the area and that form part of the dark diversity of the Park”, says Raimundo Real.


Link to this news in the UMA website: https://www.uma.es/sala-de-prensa/noticias/demuestran-que-la-diversidad-de-mamiferos-es-mayor-en-los-parques-nacionales-del-norte-de-espana/

Link to the whole article in Current Zoology: https://academic.oup.com/cz/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cz/zoy001/4794778

Link to the whole article in PLOS ONE: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0197496