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Catalonia
Spain > Catalonia

Catalonia

When the author Sebastia Juan Arbo wrote Terres de I'Ebre (1932), little did he know that the title of his novel would end up defining the entire territory lapped by one of the most important rivers on the Iberian Peninsula, the Ebro. This is, therefore, a riverbank territory. And a sea and mountain territory too. Indeed, in a relatively small area, this corner of southern Catalonia unites the landscapes of the floodplain, the mountain environments of the Els Ports Massif (which Pablo Picasso immortalised in around 60 paintings), the colours of the Ebro Delta and around 150km of wild beaches.

This natural richness had already captivated the Iberians and the Romans, who considered the Ebro river as a strategic route for trade because it allowed not only products to be transported from the sea to inland areas of the Peninsula, but also arable land to be watered. Later on, the Moors, Jews and Christians consolidated major enclaves that competed against one another for superiority in a region that acts as a crossroads between Catalonia, the Valencian Country and Aragon.

All of these cultures have left an important legacy, whose influence can still be felt in the area's monuments (cave paintings, Iberian sites, mediaeval castles, cathedrals, Renaissance palaces, Modernista (Catalan Art Nouveau) wineries, trenches from the Spanish Civil War, etc.), gastronomy (which uses the best products from the sea, the river and the land) and popular traditions (which give one of the most unique territories in Catalonia its personality). Consequently, the Terres de I'Ebre are now a peaceful place where tourists can get a glimpse of the influence of history while exploring one of the most important natural areas of the Mediterranean basin.

The Ebro Delta, a Natural Paradise

The exceptional wealth of flora and fauna on the Ebro Delta makes this area situated in the far south of Catalonia an environmental paradise, brimming with colour and life. It was designated a Natural Park in 1983, thus acknowledging its importance as the principal wetland area in Catalonia and underscoring its prominence on an international scale. Indeed, the area stands out for the beauty of its landscape and particularly for its status as one of the most significant aquatic habitats in the western .Mediterranean, alongside the Camargue Regional Nature Park in southern France - situated on the estuary of the Rhone - and the Dohana National Park in Andalusia.

The Ebro Delta, covering some 32,000ha. stretches across the counties of Baix Ebre and Montsia, across the plains of the municipalities of L'Ampolla, Amposta, Deltebre, Sant Jaume d'Enveja and Sant Carles de la Rapita. However, only a quarter of this whole expanse is included in the Ebro Delta Natural Park.

In inland areas of the delta, the prevailing landscape is one of extensive paddy fields that change colour with the seasons. In contrast, large lagoons surrounded by reed swamps prevail along the coastline. All of this is complemented by large expanses of saline soils and kilometre after kilometre of deserted beaches surrounded by 'dunes. Of particular note are the ponds of Les Olles, El Canal Veil, La Platjola, El Garxal, L'Alfacada, La Tancada and L'Encahyissada, as are the restricted-access islands of Buda and Sapinya, the peninsulas of Punta de la Banya and of El Fangar, the scrublands of Casablanca and the subaquatic springs of Baltasar. All of the delta's wetlands form part of the Natura 2000 network. In addition, in areas of greatest importance for bird-nesting, access is controlled in spring and summer to coincide with reproductive periods.

Characteristic flora and fauna

The uniqueness of the vegetation - with over 700 species - makes the delta a paradise for botany enthusiasts. The reed swamps are one of the most characteristic elements of the vegetation. The common reed, the bulrush and blady grass are the most abundant plants of this family. On the banks of tho l.bro, 11юге are riverbank woods where, among others, silver poplars, elms, European alders, poplars and eucalyptus trees grow.

However, the undeniable star of the Ebro Delta is rice. Covering over 21,000ha, paddy fields dominate the landscape of this impressive natural area and represent an ecosystem of major importance for it. The need to be permanently flooded means that these fields act as a temporary marsh where algae, crustaceans and insects become vital elements for birds inhabiting the natural park to feed on. The western march harrier, the little egret, the black-crowned night heron, the Squacco heron, the grey heron, the flamingo, the oystercatcher and the common pratincole are but some of the varied birdlife that can be seen on the delta. Indeed, it is an area of special interest for the reproduction of birds, most of which are migratory. Over 400 species have been documented, a figure that represents 60% of all birds found in Europe.

The aquatic environments stemming from the confluence of the marine environment with the river waters of the delta have given rise to a wide diversity of fish species. In this area, therefore, autochthonous fish species such as the eel, the barb, the carp and the mullet coexist alongside others that have been introduced by humans, such as the Wels catfish and the mosquitofish.

In order to enjoy this natural area, to watch the birds, to go for a bike ride and to discover the history of the Ebro Delta, you can visit the Ecomuseu del Pare Natural, in Deltebre, which gives visitors an insight into the territory's human and natural values. The itinerary is structured around a series of spaces in which the area's typical natural environments are reproduced; these include the river, lagoons, paddy fields and riverbank woods. The itinerary is rounded off with a visit to the aquarium, where the most characteristic fish and amphibian species of the Ebro Delta can be seen.

A visit to the Ecomuseu can be complemented with a stroll around the Casa de Fusta, located near Poblenou del Delta, right in front of the

L'Encanyissada pond. The Casa de Fusta is one of the most emblematic buildings in the area; it was built in the late 1920s by a group of hunters who, attracted by the quantity and variety of birds inhabiting the area, decided to settle on the delta. It has now been turned into the Ebro Delta Natural Park Information Centre, where advice is given on routes, on areas of outstanding interest and on activities that can be done there. Housed in one of the centre's rooms is the Museu Ornitologic, which contains a representative collection of the bird species inhabiting the Ebro Delta. There are nearly 200 examples of 134 different species, all of which attempt to show the specific nature of each delta ecosystem. Furthermore, there are wooden bird-watching huts located at strategic points throughout the Natural Park, thus enabling visitors to take in the magical, colourful and, above all, living nature of the area.

 
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