Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, Aragon, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park is an IUCN Category II National Park situated in the Pyrenees of Huesca province, Aragon, Spain. There has been a National Park in the Ordesa Valley since 1918. Its protected area was enlarged in 1982 to cover the whole region amounting to 156.08 km². It has been included since 1997 by UNESCO in the Biosphere Reserve of Ordesa-Viñamala. In the same year it was included in the cross-border Pyrénées – Mont Perdu World Heritage Site. The park’s territory includes the municipalities of Torla, Broto, Fanlo, Tella-Sin, Puértolas, and Bielsa.

The morphology of the National Park has its origins in the folding and alpine elevation of the Tertiary Era. Subsequent molding by glacial erosion during the Quaternary period gave rise to a series of glacial cirques and valleys such as the Ordesa Valley and the Pineta Valley. The numerous glacial cirques subsequently became boxed inside deep gorges. For example, the Valley and Cirque of Gavarnie, located within the National Park and the Pyrenees National Park within French territory, is a glacial cirque that has the highest waterfall in Europe, with more than 400 meters of vertical fall. There is a glacier on the north face of Monte Perdido, although it has been shrinking. The National Park constitutes a geographic unit. Its orography is dominated by the calcareous massif — the biggest in Europe — of the Three Sisters (Aragonese language: Treserols), whose greatest elevation is Monte Perdido, from which in a more or less radial form descend a series of mountainous crests and glacial valleys. The most important valley is the Ordesa Valley, which is drained by the Arazas River in a southwesterly direction; it was the original area of the National Park. Other important features are the Añisclo Canyon, drained by the Bellós River in a southerly direction, the Escuaín Gorges, drained by the Yaga River in a southeasterly direction, and the Pineta Valley, drained by the Cinca River. Most of the rock of the National Park is limestone. Superimposed on the most evident and old glacial erosion is the karstic transformation of the landscape, with multiple caves, canyons, chasms, etc. The highest areas at elevations above 2,000 m are extremely arid. All precipitation is quickly drained inside the karstic system. By contrast, the bottoms of the valleys are dominated by a lush vegetation of beeches and firs that give way to European black pine at higher elevations.

The most important species of the Park was the bucardo or Pyrenean Ibex, which unfortunately became extinct in January 2000 in spite of the preservation efforts. The Pyrenean Chamois is a type of goat. There are other species such as the marmot, boar and the Pyrenean Desman or water-mole (Galemys pyrenaicus), and great birds like the golden eagle, the griffon vulture, hawks, and the royal owl.

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