Cabo de Gata Níjar Natural Park Almería
Cabo de Gata Nijar Natural Park – Almeria
The Cabo de Gata Nijar Natural Park was created in 1987, the first maritime-land Natural Reserve in Andalusia that includes one of the most beautiful coastlines in the Mediterranean. In Cabo de Gata you can admire a stretch of coastline marked out by cliffs, small and deserted coves, vast beaches and even reefs.
The dry weather conditions in Cabo de Gata are similar to those in large areas of North Africa or the Middle East, which identifies this place as the driest spot in Western Europe. Despite this and its apparent desert aspect it contains very peculiar forms of plant and animal life that have adapted to extreme conditions of aridity.
This is the only protected natural area of Andalusia, in its surface is including a nautical mile around the coast, which represents 12,200 hectares of protected marine environment. It contains three municipalities within its boundaries (Almería – Carboneras and Níjar), with a population exceeding 100,000 inhabitants.
It has volcanic mountain areas, sometimes so close to the coast that you can observe very spectacular cliffs between white sand beaches. The names given to many of them are a reflection of the multitude of historical events that have happened in the course of many centuries: La Playa de los Muertos, the one of Los Genoveses, …
A Volcanic Paradise
The Cabo de Gata-Níjar Maritime-Terrestrial Natural Park is a territory in which important natural values are combined with a rich historical and cultural heritage.
The singularities of this Park derive, on the one hand, from its maritime-terrestrial dimension, with the best preserved 50 kilometers of cliff coast on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, and on the other, from its semi-arid character, being one of the protected areas in Europe. of sub-desert and steppe vocation.
It highlights the enormous wealth, fragility and originality of its ecosystems. The most valuable elements of the flora and fauna are the endemisms (exclusive species) of the Cabo de Gata Níjar Natural Park, among which the Cape Dragonfly (Anthirrhinum Charidemi), the Cape Mullein (Verbascum Charidemi) and the Moray Gorse stand out. (Ulex Canescens) among plant species and the Trumpeter Finch and Dupont’s Skylark among animal species.
The millenary imprint of human intervention is evident in many places in the Cabo de Gata Níjar Natural Park; deposits of lead and gold, Roman salting factories, watchtowers and coastal fortresses to defend against Barbary pirates and popular architecture linked to the culture of water.
For your enjoyment, the Department of the Environment puts at your disposal a series of facilities and services for public use such as trails, environmental education facilities, informative facilities, viewpoints, etc.
Majada Redonda Volcanic Caldera
In the period between 15 and 16 million years ago, the Cabo de Gata Volcanic Complex was formed, which constitutes the emerged part of an extensive submerged magmatic area that extends through the Alborán Sea area.
The Volcanic Complex that we find in the Cabo de Gata Níjar Natural Park is an authentic natural museum of enormous educational and scientific interest, since here we can observe very diverse and interesting geological formations on the ground, such as the volcanic calderas.
But what is a volcanic caldera and how is it formed? It is a large crater formed by the subsidence of the land in the eruption of a volcano. This fact occurs when volcanic emissions are very large and explosive, launching tens of tons of magma to the earth’s surface. When such a large volume of magma is extracted from a magma chamber, the ground collapses, forming a huge depression that is what we call a caldera. Sometimes, after the formation of a caldera, the magmatic chamber receives new contributions from deeper areas and the interior of the caldera can rise again, in a phenomenon called resurgence.
If you look at the huge walls that surround it, they are almost completely joined, forming a perfect crater, and you are inside one of these impressive formations: the Caldera de Majada Redonda.
You will be able to observe that there are remains of plantations of fodder species and some fruit crops. And this is due to the fact that, in an area as arid as Cabo de Gata, the population has sharpened its ingenuity when it comes to obtaining water, and has used this enormous volcanic cone as a funnel that collects rainwater and concentrated in its lowest part, where we find the crops.
Cabo de Gata Volcanic Complex
Volcanic rocks constitute the substratum of the Cabo de Gata Nijar Natural Park. They extend under the Mediterranean Sea, so they are only a small emerged part of what we could see under its waters.
The Alboran Sea is located on the boundary that separates the European and African plates. These plates, called lithospheric plates, are like large pieces into which the Earth’s crust is divided, just as a soccer ball is divided into pieces of skin separated by seams. These plate zones are very active geologically due to the immense amounts of energy that are released due to the movements between them. This fundamentally is the origin of volcanism and earthquakes that, even today, make this area one of the most seismically active in the Iberian Peninsula.
The Volcanic Complex of the Cabo de Gata Níjar Natural Park was formed in a period that began 16 million years ago and ended 7.5 million years ago within a time that geologists know as the Miocene.
Volcanic activity occurred in several cycles, although two fundamentally stand out, producing between them a period of inactivity characterized by the deposit of sediments at the bottom of the marine basin.
The first and oldest of the two volcanic cycles began about 16 million years ago and lasted until 10 million years ago, a period during which different episodes of magmatic emissions would take place which, due to their duration, formed most of today’s rocks. Natural Park; the second cycle, which spanned from 9 to 7.5 million years ago, produced fewer volumes of magma.
The geological formations that belong to the first cycle were not even formed where we currently see them, but rather far from their current position and submerged under the Alboran Sea. Only those that belong to the second volcanic episode were formed in the position in which we find them today or in places very close to it.
Initially the volcanoes would occupy most of the seabed, so the volcanic rocks were formed in underwater conditions. While the emissions of this first cycle were taking place, the whole of the earth’s crust located under the Alboran Sea was slowly moving northeast as a result of a complex system of faults, within which the great Carboneras fault is the most important.
Later, during the second cycle, some volcanic buildings emerge, giving rise to a series of islands that constituted an archipelago with associated reef systems. The elevation of the continent, the relative drop in sea level, the accumulation of sediments, and the erosion of the whole end up showing us its current appearance. This erosion, in its slow work, manages to erase the volcanic cones from the landscape and reveals the spectacular landscape that we can admire today.
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