Main aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems of Spain

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Before explaining them all one by one, we expose a list by way of summary of the main terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of Spain :

Spanish terrestrial ecosystems

  • High mountain
  • Atlantic Forest
  • Mediterranean Forest
  • Desert
  • Estepa
  • Laurisilva

Spanish aquatic ecosystems

  • Wetlands
  • Rivers
  • Lakes
  • Marine areas
 Major aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems of Spain - The main aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems that exist in Spain

In the terrestrial ecosystems is where most of the living beings live in Spain both animals and plants, that usually develop on the surface of the Earth. In the terrestrial ecosystems there are abundant factors that condition the life that lives in them, for that reason the individuals present characteristics much more varied than in the aquatic ecosystems. Among these factors are the availability of water, light, nutrients or solar radiation.

Thus, the main terrestrial ecosystems of Spain are:

High mountain

High ecosystems mountain we can locate them in the Pyrenees, the Iberian System, the Galaico Massif, the Central System and the Betic and Penitetic Systems. In these areas, temperatures are very cold and humid and rainfall is high, especially in winter, and almost always in the form of snow.

The fauna of these areas is made up of animals that are completely adapted to the cold, such as mountain goat, vipers, rabbits or different kinds of birds such as the vulture Leonardo or the lammergeyer. In terms of vegetation, we find conifers (spruce, pine, etc.) and shrubs such as the dwarf juniper.

Atlantic Forest

This type of ecosystem is located mainly in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. Its climate is usually mild and humid, with moderate temperatures (around 22ºC or 23ºC in summer) and frequent rainfall throughout the year.

Among its fauna are wild boars, owls, wolves, deer, squirrels, foxes, brown bears, owls or otters. Its trees are usually deciduous (beech, oak, ash, chestnut, birch, maple, elm, etc.) and plants such as ferns, mosses, bromeliads or lianas.

Mediterranean Forest

Can be found throughout Spain, except in the north and the Canary Islands. Its climate is characterized by mild winters and very hot summers, with rains in autumn and scarce in summer.

In its fauna there are many hares, rabbits, rodents, deer, fallow deers, eagles or wild boars. The trees are usually evergreen (junipers, cork oaks, oaks, etc.) and plants such as rockrose, mastic, rosemary or thyme.


Can be located in Almeria, eastern part of the Canary Islands, Murcia, areas of Aragon , Albacete or Ciudad Real. Its climate is very hot and with extreme temperatures. Its characteristic fauna are scorpions, lizards, snakes, dormice, crows or eagles. As for plants, thick-leafed plants such as almajos or sartenillas abound, espartos, thistles or brooms.


It is located in Castilla León (Valladolid, Zamora or Palencia), Valle del Ebro, Castillas La Mancha , areas of Extremadura and Andalusia. It has a continental climate and very extreme temperatures between seasons, low rainfall and semi-arid land. In its fauna there are great bustards, larks, hares and harriers. Like vegetation, shortage of trees and presence of plants of small size like herbaceous, espartos, cereals and aromatic like rosemary or thyme.


It is located in certain zones of the Canary Islands. Its temperatures show little variation, with high humidity and the presence of subtropical forests. As fauna, birds, reptiles and amphibians abound. As a flora, the most characteristic are lauraceae such as laurel.

In this other article you can learn more about the What is a terrestrial ecosystem and its characteristics .

Finally, these are ] the main aquatic ecosystems that exist in Spain where there is also a great biodiversity:


Wetlands are areas with soil saturated with water. They are located in the interior of the peninsula as Las Tablas de Daimiel or on the coast as the Doñana Park. It is characterized by the presence of freshwater and saltwater areas, little rain in summer and abundant rainfall in winter and autumn. There are aquatic and terrestrial animals, such as flamingos, cranes, herons, spoonbills, lapwings, storks, eels, frogs or carps.


A river is a watercourse that flows continuously. Flow variations are usually established throughout the year. Zones are also established. In the upper course the slope is more pronounced and the water flows at a higher speed. In these areas mosses and algae adhere to the rocks, as vegetation, and as a fauna, mollusks such as snails and fish. In the middle and lower courses, the current is softer and the water flows at a lower speed, which means there is more biodiversity. On the banks grow trees and shrubs such as poplars, alders, willows, reeds or reed beds, forming riverside forests. Here, most of the animals are at the bottom of the river and feature tritons, toads or frogs.


They are deep and permanent aquatic ecosystems. They usually form due to the accumulation of water in depressions in the ground, such as mountain areas. In our country, most are small lakes and many of glacial origin. The ecosystem is highly conditioned by light and temperature.

For more information about the Freshwater aquatic ecosystems with examples read this other article.

Marine areas

Are areas of transition between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and are in constant evolution and change. In our country, we basically divide it into two zones:

  • Cantabric and Atlantic Coasts: are abrupt zones, with numerous cliffs and rocky bottoms, where algae, corals or molluscs live.
  • Mediterranean Coast: are areas with warmer and saline waters, with beaches that are interrupted by deltas and lagoons. Their bottoms are usually sandy, where the Posidonia slopes predominate.

Learn more about these in this other Green Ecology article about What are the saltwater ecosystems .

 Main aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems of Spain - The aquatic ecosystems of Spain
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