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Forests in Andalusia

The dominance of trees, our plant ‘sibblins’ – an invitation to connect with nature.

Forest is an ecosystem where trees predominate. It constitutes the end of the ecological succession and the most complex habitat in terms of structure. Woodland masses of Andalusia are located mainly in the mountains and along the coast, occupying less productive land hardly used for agriculture. Two main factors explain the appearance of Mediterranean terrestrial ecosystems: the presence of extensive livestock and wild fires.

Andalusian forests are much varied, often with a low tree density and abundant bushes and grasslands. The presence of junipers (Juniperus spp) is a prominent element of Mediterranean forests.

In Andalusia, woodlands are very attractive in reason of their biodiversity, although few of them have preserved a natural feature of mixed forest. Two exceptions of extraordinary forests: Dehesa de Camarate in Sierra Nevada and the Genal Valley in the Serranía de Ronda.

It is important to mention dehesas, the wood pastures, a very humanized ecosystem of agro-silvo-pastoral type present especially in Sierra Morena.

Forest masses of Andalusia are dominated by oaks (Quercus spp) and by pines (Pinus spp) complemented by other tree species.

forest of the Genal valley

The Genal valley has a formidable diversity of woodland habitats.

Magic of the forests in Andalusia

Magic of the forests in Andalusia.

Maritime pine forest (Pinus pinaster) and peridotite rock

Natural forest of maritime pines (Pinus pinaster).

Pine forests

  • Black pine (Pinus salzmanii), maritime pine (Pinus pinaster), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and pinsapo (Abies pinsapo) grow in the middle and high mountains and constitute natural relict forests.
  • Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) is adapted to dry conditions and is widely distributed throughout the region.
  • Stone pine (Pinus pinea). Thermophilic species of coastal and low mountain.
Portuguese oak (Quercus faginea)

New foliage of the Portugese oak (Quercus faginea).

Deciduous oak forests

  • Portugese oak (Quercus faginea) needs a mild and humid climate, especially present in the southern hills, usually in mixed forests. This species is strikingly semi-caducifolious.
  • Alpine oak (Quercus faginea alpestris = Quercus alpestris). It forms a curious high altitude pasture meadow in Sierra de Las Nieves above 1,850 m.
  • Andalusian oak (Quercus canariensis). Ibero-magrebian endemism amd Quercus with the highest demand for humidity and mild climate, especially present in the Campo de Gibraltar.
  • Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica). Scarce, usually in mixed forests. Marcescent species that preserves dead leaves during winter.
cork oak (Quercus suber)

The cork oak (Quercus suber) is an extraordinary tree for its corky bark usually harvested over a 7-8 year cycle.

Perennial Oak Forests

  • Holm or evergreen Oak (Quercus ilex = Quercus ballota = Quercus rotundifolia). The Iberian Quercus par excellence adapted to a wide spectrum of weather and soil conditions.
  • Cork oak (Quercus suber). It needs acid soils and more moisture than the oak.

wild olive trees, Olea europaea sylvestris

Wild olive trees (Olea europaea) offer fruiting of small olives in late autumn, abundant and very energetic, which benefits the many wintering passerines (warblers, etc.).

Acebuchales

The wild olive (Olea sylvestris europaea) is a very thermophilic species and present in low-lying areas in Andalusia. It is nowadays restricted to the uncultivated stony slopes and to the edge of the fields.

rivers, Guadiaro, Guadalquivir, Genil, riparian forest, riparian forest, gallery forest

Poplars and willows form dense and tall forests on the banks of the largest rivers in Andalusia.

Riverside forests

These forests grow on the edge of permanent water bodies, mainly rivers, and are limited by soil moisture and not so much by the surrounding climate. Their trees tend to have rapid growth and are deciduous. The riverside forest is by nature a linear habitat on the banks of the rivers but is progressively threatened and reduces its size, especially in fertile lands invaded by agriculture. White poplars (Populus alba) and willow trees (Salix alba, Salix fragilis) are large trees that form dense and tall forests around the largest rivers. They are accompanied by black poplars (Populus nigra), ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior), elms (Ulmus minor) and other small trees such as tamarisks (Tamarix spp), alders (Alnus glutinosa), chasteberries (Vitex agnus castus), sallows (Salix spp), oleanders (Nerium oleander) and other shrubs. In these forests, the abundance and diversity of vines stands out, for example, the wild vine (Vitis vinifera) or the common smilax (Smilax aspera).

The diversity of strictly forest birds is modest in Andalusia, although the presence of the Iberian green woodpecker (Picus sharpei) can be highlighted. However, large emblematic raptors such as black vulture (Aegypius monachus), Iberian imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti), booted eagle (Hieraetus pennatus), and European buzzard (Pernis apivorus) nest mostly in forests. Woodlands are also the refuge of large mammals and forest bats. Among the invertebrates, insects that degrade dead wood (saproxylic) stand out, with numerous examples of very striking beetles from the Cerambycidae and Buprestidae families. To conclude, indicate that the diversity of fungi reaches its maximum values in the forests, especially at Los Alcornocales.

The black pines (P. salzmanii) – old and twisted – of the Sierra de Cazorla are part of my list of Zen landscapes in Andalusia that particularly touched me. All the more so since they are populated by bushcrickets that are excessively discreet because they are nocturnal and arboreal, but occasionally super-abundant. What memories!

Florent Prunier

G3-Guides

Marcescent: term used in botany to describe those leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs, which, after the end of the vegetative period and with the change of foliage color, remain in the tree mostly during the entire cold season (autumn and winter) until practically the exit of the new leaves in the following spring. Trees usually characteristic of this phenomenon are oaks.

forest of the Genal valley

The Genal valley has a formidable diversity of woodland habitats.

Forest is an ecosystem where trees predominate. It constitutes the end of the ecological succession and the most complex habitat in terms of structure. Woodland masses of Andalusia are located mainly in the mountains and along the coast, occupying less productive land hardly used for agriculture. Two main factors explain the appearance of Mediterranean terrestrial ecosystems: the presence of extensive livestock and wild fires.

Andalusian forests are much varied, often with a low tree density and abundant bushes and grasslands. The presence of junipers (Juniperus spp) is a prominent element of Mediterranean forests.

In Andalusia, woodlands are very attractive in reason of their biodiversity, although few of them have preserved a natural feature of mixed forest. Two exceptions of extraordinary forests: Dehesa de Camarate in Sierra Nevada and the Genal Valley in the Serranía de Ronda.

It is important to mention dehesas, the wood pastures, a very humanized ecosystem of agro-silvo-pastoral type present especially in Sierra Morena.

Forest masses of Andalusia are dominated by oaks (Quercus spp) and by pines (Pinus spp) complemented by other tree species.

Maritime pine forest (Pinus pinaster) and peridotite rock

Natural forest of maritime pines (Pinus pinaster).

Pine forests

  • Black pine (Pinus salzmanii), maritime pine (Pinus pinaster), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and pinsapo (Abies pinsapo) grow in the middle and high mountains and constitute natural relict forests.
  • Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) is adapted to dry conditions and is widely distributed throughout the region.
  • Stone pine (Pinus pinea). Thermophilic species of coastal and low mountain.
Portuguese oak (Quercus faginea)

New foliage of the Portugese oak (Quercus faginea).

Deciduous oak forests

  • Alpine oak (Quercus faginea alpestris = Quercus alpestris). It forms a curious high altitude pasture meadow in Sierra de Las Nieves above 1,850 m.
  • Portugese oak (Quercus faginea). The species is marcescent (see note) and needs a mild and humid climate, especially present in the mountains, usually in mixed forests.
  • Andalusian oak (Quercus canariensis). Endemismo ibero-magrebi, is the Quercus with the highest demand for humidity and mild climate, especially present in the Campo de Gibraltar.
  • Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica). Scarce, usually in mixed forests. Marcescent species that preserves dead leaves during winter.
cork oak (Quercus suber)

The cork oak (Quercus suber) is an extraordinary tree for its corky bark usually harvested over a 7-8 year cycle.

Perennial Oak Forests

  • Holm or evergreen Oak (Quercus ilex = Quercus ballota = Quercus rotundifolia). The Iberian Quercus par excellence adapted to a wide spectrum of weather and soil conditions.
  • Cork oak (Quercus suber). It needs acid soils and more moisture than the oak.
wild olive trees, Olea europaea sylvestris

Wild olive trees (Olea europaea) offer fruiting of small olives in late autumn, abundant and very energetic, which benefits the many wintering passerines (warblers, etc.).

Acebuchales

The wild olive (Olea sylvestris europaea) is a very thermophilic species and present in low-lying areas in Andalusia. It is nowadays restricted to the uncultivated stony slopes and to the edge of the fields.

rivers, Guadiaro, Guadalquivir, Genil, riparian forest, riparian forest, gallery forest

Poplars and willows form dense and tall forests on the banks of the largest rivers in Andalusia.

    Riverside forests

    These forests grow on the edge of permanent water bodies, mainly rivers, and are limited by soil moisture and not so much by the surrounding climate. Their trees tend to have rapid growth and are deciduous. The riverside forest is by nature a linear habitat on the banks of the rivers but is progressively threatened and reduces its size, especially in fertile lands invaded by agriculture. White poplars (Populus alba) and willow trees (Salix alba, Salix fragilis) are large trees that form dense and tall forests around the largest rivers. They are accompanied by black poplars (Populus nigra), ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior), elms (Ulmus minor) and other small trees such as tamarisks (Tamarix spp), alders (Alnus glutinosa), chasteberries (Vitex agnus castus), sallows (Salix spp), oleanders (Nerium oleander) and other shrubs. In these forests, the abundance and diversity of vines stands out, for example, the wild vine (Vitis vinifera) or the common smilax (Smilax aspera). 

    Magic of the forests in Andalusia

    Magic of the forests in Andalusia.

    The diversity of strictly forest birds is modest in Andalusia, although the presence of the Iberian green woodpecker (Picus sharpei) can be highlighted. However, large emblematic raptors such as black vulture (Aegypius monachus), Iberian imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti), booted eagle (Hieraetus pennatus), and European buzzard (Pernis apivorus) nest mostly in forests. Woodlands are also the refuge of large mammals and forest bats. Among the invertebrates, insects that degrade dead wood (saproxylic) stand out, with numerous examples of very striking beetles from the Cerambycidae and Buprestidae families. To conclude, indicate that the diversity of fungi reaches its maximum values in the forests, especially at Los Alcornocales.

    The black pines (P. salzmanii) – old and twisted – of the Sierra de Cazorla are part of my list of Zen landscapes in Andalusia that particularly touched me. All the more so since they are populated by bushcrickets that are excessively discreet because they are nocturnal and arboreal, but occasionally super-abundant. What memories!

    Florent Prunier

    G3-Guides

    Marcescent: term used in botany to describe those leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs, which, after the end of the vegetative period and with the change of foliage color, remain in the tree mostly during the entire cold season (autumn and winter) until practically the exit of the new leaves in the following spring. Trees usually characteristic of this phenomenon are oaks.