Serrania de Ronda

A guide to the area’s habitats

A rather simplistic breakdown of habitats for the area will give you an idea of what the Serranía has to offer the visitor.

1. Montane and Scrub

Predominant habitat. The Penibaetic Range of mountains dips its toes into the Mediterranean on the eastern side of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic to Gibraltar’s western seaboard. It is as dramatic as it is stunning. The Serrania de Ronda and Sierra de Grazalema are situated amidst the limestone peaks. The area’s highest peak is Torrecilla at 1,919 metres. To the southwest of the Serranía the mountains are sandstone. The habitats of the area are varied and include sheer limestone cliffs, pine woods (Pinus sylvestris, P.pinaster), Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo), grasslands, scrub and oak (Quercus rotundifolia, Q.suber) woods. Amongst the flora there are several endemic species.

2. Steppe and Agricultural areas

Generally extensive and undulating, largely treeless and dry areas dominated by grassland habitats. These areas include large proportions of agricultural land. Sheep, cattle and goats graze grassland areas. Many of the agricultural areas are farmed in a traditional way using rotational cropping methods. Agricultural areas are diverse and range from rotational cereals to modern intensive winter wheat production. We also have large areas of fruit production, vineyards and both almond and olive groves. In the east of the range there are large areas given to the production of chestnuts and these woodlands are often mixed with oak such as Quercus rotundifolia.

3. Woodland and Dehesa

The area contains some impressive and extensive mixed woodland. Larger woodland is mostly the cork oak Quercus suber, but often contain other oak species. Oak are an import tree for the area and apart from the production of cork the variety of oak also provide acorns to feed large numbers of black pigs, which are the source of the area’s famed cured jamons. Although there is pine forest these tend to be associated more with higher montane areas. Dehesa is a description for open woodland or more correctly trees scattered over open grasslands and scrub type vegetation. These areas are often grazed by cattle, sheep and goats and can be very productive for birds.

4. Wetland (rivers, pools and reservoirs)

It is probably overstating the term wetland, but the marginal habitats of various rivers, pools and reservoirs do constitute wetland areas in an otherwise dry area. Of course the presence of water in such an arid landscape is an obvious attraction to many breeding species of bird as well as those on migration. Two major river systems the Genal and Guadiaro are constantly with water and a focus for specialist species such as the elusive Western Olivaceous Warbler and other sought after local birds. The reservoir at Zahara is the only large surface area of water in the area and is only rarely of any interest for birdlife. It does however provide a good site for White-rumped Swift!

Note: The Rio Guadiaro is probably the most interesting of our ‘wetland’ areas. It acts as a major highway for spring and autumn migrants. The river enters the Mediterranean near Gibraltar and is an obvious choice of route for many species of passerine and raptor.

The Serranía de Ronda and its surroundings include three major natural parks, Sierra de las Nieves (declared Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1995), Sierra de Grazalema (declared Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1977) and Los Alcornocales a richly wooded park and declared ZEPA reserve (zone of especial protection for the birds).