One of Spain’s greatest contributions at an international level is its incredible biodiversity. Our country is home to 1,858 habitats and almost 400 species, according to the independent nature conservation association WWF. In addition, our country is the European region with the largest net area contributing to Natura 2000, a European ecological network of biodiversity conservation areas.
According to the latest Natura Barometer, produced by the Directorate-General for Environment of the European Union with the help of the European Environment Agency, Spain ranks first in the Natura 2000 Network in terms of total land and marine area of biodiversity conservation areas.
In total, 222,356 square kilometres of Sites of Community Importance (SCIs), i.e. areas that house natural habitat types or species of great value according to the European Union Habitat Directive. And also Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPAs) designated under the Birds Directive.
In terms of figures, 60% of the habitats and 40% of the species protected by European regulations are represented in Spain. In fact, through the Natura 2000 Network we are seeking to promote and increase these areas, through sustainable nature conservation. In other words, it should have a positive impact on the population and the economy of the country, promoting new opportunities for the development of traditional productive and recreational activities that encourage tourism.
Not to mention the benefits for the environment and our health. According to the European Commission, Natura 2000 sites are vital for the absorption of carbon, the maintenance of water quality and protection against floods and droughts. Assets with an estimated value of around €250 billion per year for the EU.
Working towards Agenda 2030
Although there is still a lot of work to do, Spain has long been promoting policies and drawing up new regulations with a common objective: to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations Agenda 2030. Including those related to environmental conservation.
And it is on the right track: according to the Sustainable Development Report 2019, prepared by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), our country ranks 21st out of 162 countries analysed in terms of the milestones it has achieved to meet this global commitment.
The report in question indicates that Spain obtains its best results in SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), two areas closely linked to sustainability policies. With a score of 77.8 out of 100, we are ahead of countries such as the United States, Israel and Russia, and coming closer to countries with top environmental scores, like Canada (77.9 out of 100).
Tourism and nature
Another reason for Spain to promote the protection of its natural habitats is driven by UNESCO: it is the country with the largest number of Biosphere Reserves in the world. In total, 49 natural reserves, including terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems that attract a multitude of nature-loving tourists.
Among the places that have this distinction are the Ancares Leoneses and Lucenses, the islands of Lanzarote, Gomera and Fuerteventura, the Picos de Europa, Montseny and La Mancha Húmeda, among many others throughout the country.
Also to its credit Spain has maintained its position as world leader in the number of blue flag beaches since 1987. There are 566 coasts distinguished by the European Foundation for Environmental Education, in addition to 98 marinas and 5 ports for sustainable boats.
It is a tourist attraction that is worth working for and that must be protected and expanded but not solely to maintain our position as leaders in this area. But also to increase the value and environmental, health and economic benefits that the natural wealth of our country gives us.
- Natura Barometer, EU Directorate-General for Environment
- Sustainable Development Report 2019, SDSN
- Interactive map of the Spanish Network of Biosphere Reserves
- Interactive map of blue flag beaches