Paisaje: naturaleza y cultura

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«Pirineos-Monte Perdido»

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This will cross-reference all available documents in our data base related to the UNESCO World Heritage Site

Alpine zone (2,200-3,000 m)

Riverbeds and rocky outcrops

Life manages to thrive in even extremely harsh environments, including in the vast accumulations of scree from the ridges above that have accumulated due to freeze-thaw processes that have caused the rocks to break away.

Seemingly monotonous and lifeless, they are nevertheless home to various species of plants that have adapted to life in this hostile, unstable and dynamic habitat. These plants employ a number of strategies to survive in this environment, among them their numerous roots to help them anchor themselves in the terrain, their extreme elasticity and their high ability to regenerate stems.

In fact, the riverbeds on the Monte Perdido massif are home to the largest number of endemic plants in the central Pyrenees: Crepis pugmaea, Carduus carlinoides, Cirsium glabrum, Saxifraga aizoides, Borderea pyrenaica, Potentilla nivalis, Vicia argentea, Aquilegia pyrenaica, Verónica aragonensis and Campanula speciosa.

Plant communities in habitats clad in snow for long periods

Communities of plants survive at altitudes of between 2,200 and 2,800 m, which lie above the tree line, although scattered Spanish pine trees grow at up to 2,750 m.

The climate at this elevation is extreme throughout the entire year. In summer, the plants suffer from cold and frost at night, followed by high temperatures and exposure to the sun during the day. Given that there is heavy snowfall in such areas and the snow persists for up to ten months, the plants that grow here are adapted to cope with the heavy weight of snow and high levels of moisture in the soil.

Notable among the woody species are the three types of stunted willows (Salix retusa, S. reticulata and S. herbacea) in the Alpine zone and Salix pyrenaica in the sub-Alpine zone.

It is common to find diverse species of moss and lichen growing on the surface of the rocks.

The sub-nival zone is located between 2,800 m and the summit of Monte Perdido at 3,355 m. These are the highest areas and the most extreme in terms of the harshness of the environment. Only pioneering communities are able to grow here amid the cracks and accumulations of stones, among them species of Silene and saxifrages. Plants have a very short lifecycle here as the ground is clear of snow for just a very short period of time.

Plant communities in rocky habitats

Rocky cliffs and lofty crags are among the most common features of the Pyrenees-Monte Perdido World Heritage Site, and in fact this type of habitat is one of the most typical and singular of this sector of the Pyrenean chain of mountains.

Flora of outstanding value, including many endemic species, grows on the surfaces of ridges, rocky areas and walls. Some of these plants have become veritable symbols of the botanical wealth of these mountains, among them the Pyrenean violet (Ramonda myconi) and the Pyrenean encrusted saxifrage (Saxifraga longifolia). There are many other plant species that could also be mentioned, such as the Lonicera pyrenaica, Petrocoptis crassifolia, Jasonia saxatilis, Sarcocapnos enneaphylla and butterwort (Pinguicula longifolia), an insectivorous plant that grows in large numbers on the outcrops of Añisclo and Escuaín where water is to be found.

Plant communities in peat bogs and near springs

In depressions in places where there is not much of a gradient and water is in plentiful supply, plant communities adapted to constant pooling manage to grow. The most characteristic of the species in these environments include purple moor grass (Molinia coerulea), Carex davalliana, Carex fusca and Eriophorum angustifolium.

Watercourses: rivers, streams and mountain torrents

Riverine plants grow along gravel beds alongside rivers and in watercourses subject to seasonal or occasional freshets.
The plants grow in strips parallel to the courses of the rivers, with the various species distributed according to the ability of their roots to tolerate standing water or their ability to withstand the current.
A large number of plants that thrive in damp conditions do well in these environments, such as various species of willow, aspen, poplars, birch and ash.
In the narrowest watercourses with the steepest sides, where there is very little space along the banks for riverine vegetation to grow, hazelnut trees tend to replace the poplars and willows. Other trees that may also grow here include maples, birch, sorb, white-beam, linden and even beech.
Good examples of riverine forest are to be found in the Pineta Valley, around San Nicolás de Bujaruelo and along some stretches of the Arazas River.