Once again we can be proud to visit this beautiful natural enclave, since Cabo de Gata-Níjar is the first Natural Terrestrial-Maritime Park of Andalusia and the second Spanish Geopark. The extreme climatic conditions of Cabo de Gata together with the volcanic materials (black) and fossil dunes (white) have captivated a large number of photographers, for example.
Let us remember that it has 375 square kilometers of land space and 120 square kilometers of maritime zone. With about 60 kilometers of coastline, it is one of the best preserved examples of unspoiled Mediterranean coastline with minimal human intervention.
At the same time, it represents one of the best examples of Neogene fossil volcanism in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula and allows us to walk through an open-air museum dotted with calderas and volcanic domes, columnar disjunctions, lava flows, beaches and fossil reefs, etc. . that allow us to reconstruct the recent history of the Mediterranean.
Thus, the ecological importance of the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park is found in its origin, of volcanic nature, semi-arid climate, extreme wind and wave conditions that select habitats of great interest with highly specialized animal and plant species: Mediterranean steppe, dune formations, salt flats, coastal cliffs and seagrass meadows (posidonia).
It has an impressive geological and natural setting that has resulted in an area worthy of numerous international recognitions such as Biosphere Reserve, Wetland of international importance (RAMSAR), Special Protection Area for Birds, Mediterranean Area of Special Interest, Place of Community Interest and, finally, European and Global Geopark by UNESCO.
What is a Geopark ?: Let's get familiar with the concept.
A protected territory ...
A European Geopark is a territory that includes a certain geological heritage and a sustainable territorial development strategy.
... with a great geological heritage ...
A European Geopark must comprise a certain number of geological sites of particular importance based on their scientific quality, rarity, aesthetic appearance or educational value. Most of the sites present in the territory of a European Geopark must be part of the Geological Heritage, but their interest can also be archaeological, ecological, geotouristic or cultural.
… Which is used to support sustainable development.
The googical sites in a European Geopark must be linked within a network and benefit from protection and management measures in order to promote and develop educational, geotouristic and local development activities.
So, a Geopark is a geographic area where geological heritage is part of a holistic concept that includes conservation, education and sustainable development.
Non-geological features are an integral part of the Geopark, especially when their relationship to the landscape and geology can be demonstrated to the visitor. For this reason it is necessary to include these sites of ecological, archaeological, historical or cultural interest. In many societies natural, cultural and social history are intimately linked and therefore cannot be separated.
Geoparks are part of a network that:
1. Preserve its geological heritage for present and future generations.
2. Educates and teaches the general public about geological sciences and its relationship with environmental issues.
3. Ensures sustainable socio-economic and cultural development.
4. It fosters multicultural cooperation for heritage and the conservation and maintenance of geological and cultural diversity, using participatory schemes.
5. Encourage investigation when appropriate.
6. Actively contributes to the life of the Network through joint initiatives (communications, publications, information exchange, twinning, participation in meetings, etc.)
GEOLOGICAL HERITAGE AND GEODVERSITY OF THE NATURAL PARK;
TECHNICAL DATA OF INTEREST:
- MAP AND GEOLOGICAL CUT.
In the Maritime Terrestrial Natural Park of Cabo de Gata - Níjar, two absolutely different geological landscapes are differentiated that broadly coincide with its two major physiographic units: the volcanic mountain range of Cabo and the coastal plain of the Bay of Almería, both of which an exceptional geological value.
- THE SIERRA DE CABO DE GATA: VOLCANOES AND REEFS.
The Sierra del Cabo de Gata is the most important volcanic formation in the entire Iberian Peninsula, located a few kilometers from the capital
The Cabo de Gata Volcanic Complex belongs geologically to the inner zone of the Betic Cordilleras and constitutes a small part emerged from an extensive magmatic area that encompasses the Alboran Sea, up to Melilla and that timidly outcrops on the Alboran Island. It is made up of volcanic rocks from two different stages of volcanic activity, one from approximately 14 to 10 million years ago and the other from 9 to 7.5 million years ago.
One of the main characteristics of this complex is that its formation took place due to processes of submarine magma emissions, when the coast ended in the current Sierra Alhamilla. The coastline was then close to the Sierra de Filabres, and the sea invaded the current depressions of Vera, Tabernas, Sorbas, Níjar and Almería.
The magma rose to the surface generating numerous volcanic buildings, mostly submarine, favored by the weakness of some large tectonic accidents, such as the gigantic Carboneras or Serrata fault. These volcanic buildings are, in many cases, recognizable in the landscape of Cabo de Gata, since they are still the elevated, more or less conical hills of the area: Los Frailes, Mesa de Roldan, Cerro de los Lobos, La Tórtola, etc. . Brecciated volcanic rocks are very abundant (formed by fragments of different composition or appearance) that are the result of various volcanic processes: differential cooling of different parts of the lava flow, explosions, fiery clouds, avalanches on the slopes of volcanoes, etc. .
In a changing global climate, the region went through warmer and colder times. Some volcanic buildings emerged as islands, forming an extensive archipelago. In a warm, tropical sea (above 20ºC), coral reefs developed as atolls or coastal reefs. These fossil coral reefs, such as those of Purchena, Cariatiz, Níjar, Mesa de Roldan, etc., are among the best examples that exist in the world.
In addition, the circulation of seawater through the rocks and the heat released by the magma allowed the formation of hot fluids (hydrothermal) that generated exclusive mineral deposits, such as the gold of Rodalquilar. The Park is home to two important archaeological-industrial complexes of a mining nature: the Rodalquilar mining facilities and the Aguamarga mineral jetty.
Among the most abundant components, corresponding to different episodes, the pyroxene andesites, dacites, rhyolites and tuffs stand out. Likewise, various volcanic minerals appear, such as quartz (agates, amethysts, etc.), blood jasper, hornblende or obsidian, a black crystal of magmatic origin and rocks such as bentonite, caused by the degradation of certain materials of origin. volcanic and whose extraction is currently the main mining activity in space.
This peculiar geological configuration made possible, in the current Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, the formation of one of the most unique fossil Volcanic Complexes in Europe. A geological landscape of capricious forms, with a particular color, in which red, ocher and black tones dominate, which does not shy away from showing an extensive range of volcanic rocks, with different types of composition, textures and structures. A natural museum, in short, of enormous educational and scientific interest.
- THE BAY OF ALMERÍA: DUNES, ALBUFERAS AND FOSSIL BEACHES.
The geological record of the coastal plain of the Bay of Almería in the Park also houses a heritage of incalculable educational and scientific value, since it reveals the history of the Mediterranean coast in the last 200,000 years (ancient Quaternary), the evolution of variations of the sea level, its climate and its ecology.
At the mouth of the Rambla de las Amoladeras, for example, one of the best records of fossil quaternary beaches in the western Mediterranean is preserved, with four staggered levels of ages between more than 250,000 and 95,000 years, with the presence of fossil fauna (Strombus bubonius) that testifies to the existence on this coast of ancient warm subtropical seas.
On the rocks and littoral deposits it is possible to recognize some excellent examples of dune formations, both fossil and current. The sands of marine origin are transported inland accumulating in rampant dunes or in the shape of a crescent (barjanes) that, together with the deposits of ancient beaches, generate coastal arrows that cause the closure of interior lagoons. One of the best Mediterranean examples of active lagoon systems is that of Cabo de Gata, adapted by man to meet their needs for obtaining salt as Mediterranean saline.
The Cabo de Gata Volcanic Complex is the largest element of all the volcanic manifestations of southeastern Spain. It continues widely under the Alboran Sea, and has been brought to its current position by the operation of the Carboneras - Serrata Fault.
Most of the volcanism in the Alboran Basin is currently submerged. Some of the larger volcanic buildings were able to grow enough to reach the surface, forming islands of volcanic origin surrounded by marine sedimentary platforms, which we mentioned earlier.
The age of the Cabo de Gata Volcanic Complex is known from the study of the fossils present in the sedimentary rocks associated with volcanic elements and from the dating with isotopes in the volcanic rocks. Volcanic activity developed over a long period ranging from about 14-15 to about 7.5 million years. During that interval the volcanic activity occurred in several cycles. The best known and best conserved volcanic elements are the most recent, produced between 9 and 7.5 million years ago.
Thus, we must not forget that rocks speak and that they can tell us the history of those places that we now inhabit. The Park is more enjoyed when, when walking through its corners, you are aware that instead of a sandy cliff you are stepping on a fossil dune or that those mountains that watch over us are actually sleeping volcanoes that one day they drew on a whim with their lava, the shape of this beautiful enclave.